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For Grades 5-8 , week of June 17, 2019

1. One-on-One

As a comedian and actress on the TV show “Parks and Recreation,” Jenny Slate has appeared before thousands of people. This week, she will appear before a school graduation class that has one student. You read that right: One. Thirteen-year-old Gwen Lynch is the sole graduate this year from the one-room elementary school on Cuttyhunk Island in the state of Massachusetts. The island, which is located next door to the famous tourist town of Martha’s Vineyard, has a year-round population of only 12 people. But it still runs a school in a building built in 1873. Slate, who used to be a cast member on “Saturday Night Live,” has a connection to Cuttyhunk. She’s a native of Massachusetts and her boyfriend runs the Cuttyhunk Island Writers’ Residency program. The graduate Gwen is thrilled to be getting star treatment on her big day June 17. “It’s awesome. I’m so excited!” she told the New York Times. Next year she will attend a boarding school in the state of New Hampshire. She hopes to become a mechanical engineer. Schools often ask famous people to speak at graduation. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a famous person you think would be a good graduation speaker. Write a paragraph explaining why you think this person would be a good choice. Then write a short letter to the celebrity, telling him/her why coming to your school would be worthwhile. Discuss your choices as a class.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

2. Feel the Magic

The Vans company is best known for its skateboarding shoes, but this month it has introduced products that are a bit more magical. Vans has jumped into the wizarding world with a Harry Potter collection featuring shoes, clothing and accessories inspired by J.K. Rowling’s famous books. The items in the collection feature the colors and themes of the four houses students are “sorted” into at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry— Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. There also will be shoes covered in a newsprint pattern as a shout-out to the wizarding newspaper, The Daily Prophet. Companies often create products that tie in to popular books, movies, TV shows or music stars. In the newspaper or online, find and study ads or stories about such products. Pick one and write a consumer column for the newspaper analyzing the appeal of the product and who you think will like it most.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

3. Volcano Reborn?

Volcanoes form when hot, liquid rock called magma forces its way through the outer layer of the Earth’s crust. This usually happens when pressure builds up on the magma due to shifts in the rock plates within the Earth or other changes. Volcanoes can be active, inactive (dormant) or extinct. An extinct volcano is one that has not had an eruption in 10,000 years, but that may not mean it is completely dead. In the nation of Russia scientists say a volcano that was believed to be extinct is showing signs of life that could lead to an eruption. The Bolshaya Udina volcano in the far eastern part of Russia on the Asian continent has been generating “seismic activity” that could mean an eruption is coming. It could happen “at any moment,” a Russian volcano expert told CNN News. Volcano eruptions are a natural event that can have great impact on the surrounding area. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about other natural events that can affect people and the environment. Use what you read to create a multi-media presentation on the cause and impact of this natural event.

Common Core State Standards: Integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

4. Crack That Safe!

Tourist attractions come in many forms. In a town in the Canadian province of Alberta, a hotel safe that nobody could open has attracted — and intrigued — visitors for more than 40 years. But now the Vermilion Heritage Museum has lost its unusual attraction. A visitor from nearby Fort McMurray tried his hand at opening the safe — and succeeded on the first try! How did visitor Stephen Mills do it? He claimed no special skill, only that he noticed that the numbers on the safe’s dial went from zero to 60, so he went with a combination of 20-40-60. And what was inside? Unfortunately for the museum, not much. Instead of historic items that would be a “time capsule” from another era, the safe contained a lot of dust and a few random pieces of paper. One of the papers was from a waitress’s pad. It was an order for a mushroom burger. Tourist attractions can be serious or silly, natural or manmade. Many different things can be tourist attractions. In the newspaper or online, find and study a story or photo of an attraction in your community or state that tourists would want to visit. Use what you read or see to design an ad for the newspaper to get people to visit this place. Give your ad an eye-catching headline. Share with the class.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

5. Bug Ballet

In many communities, battling mosquitoes can be a nuisance and a problem in the summer months. In a neighborhood in northeast China, creative residents turned it into a kind of art. Recreational dancers in the city of Jilin in the Asian nation bought electric bug swatters and choreographed a new dance to have fun while dealing with the pesky insects. The dance, which looks like playing tennis, allows dancers to kill bugs while expressing themselves artistically, the Global Times reported. At the start, the residents danced along a local river to avoid disturbing neighborhoods with their music. But some of those neighborhoods would like them to visit. “Please dance in my residential community,” one commented online. “I don’t care about the loud music.” People often try unusual things to solve or deal with problems. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a problem facing a person or a community. Use what you read to brainstorm an unusual idea for dealing with the problem. Describe your solution in a short letter to the editor.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.