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For Grades 5-8 , week of Aug. 17, 2020

1. Historic Choice

The choice of Kamala Harris to be the Democrats’ nominee for vice president has rewritten the political history books for the nation. When selected by Joe Biden to be his running mate, she became the first woman of color to be chosen for national office for a major political party. When approved by Democratic convention voters, the 55-year-old U.S. Senator from California will also be the first Black woman and the first person of Indian descent to be nominated for national office and just the fourth woman to be part of a presidential ticket for a major party. Kamala Harris (pronounced KAH-muh-lah) has achieved a lot of firsts in her political career. In the state of California, she was the first African American and first woman to become district attorney of the city of San Francisco and later the first to be Attorney General of the state. In 2016, she was elected the first Black U.S. senator from California. The selection of Kamala Harris to be the Democrats’ nominee for vice president continues to spark conversation and debate across the country. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read columns and commentaries about her selection. Use what you read to write a commentary of your own assessing the impact you think she’ll have on the presidential race.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

2. Protect Those Employees

To slow the spread of the coronavirus, most states now require people to wear safety masks when entering stores, restaurants and other businesses. The rule has angered some individuals who feel requiring masks infringes on their personal freedom. Some customers have even gotten into fights with store employees when asked to put on a mask. In the state of Illinois, that will now be a felony crime, thanks to a law passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor. Under the law anyone who assaults an employee enforcing rules for face masks or social distancing can now be prosecuted for aggravated battery. The law went into effect immediately. “This provision sends the message that it’s vitally important for workers to be both respected and protected while serving on the front lines,” the governor's office said in announcing the new law. Rules for safety masks and social distancing have caused conflicts in some communities. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of these situations. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor outlining how communities should deal with situations in which people refuse to wear masks against the wishes of stores or restaurants. Discuss with family or friends.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

3. New Political Mission

Teen Vogue was founded to provide news about fashion, beauty, celebrities and entertainment for teenage girls. But this year the online magazine is broadening its interests. With a highly contested presidential race expected this fall, Teen Vogue is taking on political issues like voting rights, voter suppression and the experiences of people who have been disenfranchised by rules that make it harder to vote. A series called “The Uncounted” looks specifically at the experiences of women of color deprived the right to vote, and a cover story examines the history of voting rights activists of the past and present. "Young people are very conscientious about the politics that are impacting their lives,” executive editor Samhita Mukhopadhyay told CNN News. “They’re upset about the world that they’re looking out on. Job prospects are low, student debt is crippling, and climate change is real. … They are interested in advocating for themselves and their participation as full citizens in our society.” Voting rights and rules that make it harder to vote are getting a lot of attention as the nation heads toward Election Day on November 3. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about efforts to ensure that all eligible voters get to vote. Or read stories about efforts making it harder for people to vote. Use what you read to write a political column outlining steps that states can take to ensure all people eligible to vote get to cast their ballots.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

4. What a Find

Sometimes hobbies can turn into big things. Consider the man in the European nation of Scotland who likes to explore places with a metal detector. On a recent outing to a field near the town of Peebles in southern Scotland, he and his machine uncovered a treasure trove of objects that date back nearly 3,000 years, CNN News reported. The findings of Mariusz Stepien included a complete horse harness, a sword still in its scabbard, decorated straps, buckles, rings, ornaments and chariot wheel axle caps from the Bronze Age. “This is a nationally significant find,” said Emily Freeman, head of a Scottish agency called the Treasure Trove Unit (really). “So few Bronze Age hoards have been excavated in Scotland.” Discovery of ancient artifacts gives scientists and historians a new look at how people lived long ago. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about such a discovery. Use what you read to write a paragraph telling what was discovered, how it was discovered and why the discovery is important.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

5. Very Good Dog

Police dogs bring skills to police departments that human officers just don’t have. Consider the tracking dog in the European nation of Wales who located a missing woman and her baby — on his very first day! The dog named Max used his sense of smell to locate the woman on the edge of a steep ravine after she had been missing for two days, CNN News reported, and saved the mother and child from possible injury. Working in a wide-ranging area off a mountain road, Max took just 90 minutes to find the pair. They were uninjured, but cold, police said. Max’s handler said he had played an “invaluable” role in the rescue. In addition to finding missing people, Max will be used to locate suspects in crimes and find abandoned or stolen property. Animals can be trained to do many useful things for people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about such animals. Use what you read and other resources to write a paragraph outlining how you think the animal was trained and the benefits that training gave people.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.