For Grades 5-8 , week of June 10, 2019

1. He’s a Billionaire!

Superstar Jay-Z has reached a lot of milestones in his entertainment career, and now he has reached a really big one. According to the Forbes business magazine, Jay-Z is the first rapper to become a billionaire. Forbes, which tracks the worth of business, sports and entertainment leaders, declared that “it’s clear that Jay-Z has accumulated a fortune that conservatively totals $1-billion, making him one of only a handful of entertainers to become a billionaire — and the first hip-hop artist to do so.” In addition to his music success, Jay-Z has amassed a fortune as owner of the Roc Nation sports management company, a $70-million share of the Uber transportation company, a $70-million art collection and $50-million in real estate holdings. Other top entertainers on Forbes’ list of billionaires are Oprah Winfrey (worth $2.5-billion) and NBA legend Michael Jordan ($1.9-billion). When people become millionaires or billionaires, they often use their money to help others. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about Jay-Z or other celebrities using their wealth to help others. Pick one and write a personal opinion column telling why the effort is important. Then suggest other ways the celebrity could effectively use his/her wealth to help others.

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.

2. ‘Octo-Champs’

Each year, the Scripps National Spelling Bee attracts the best student spellers in the United States. This year, it attracted so many great spellers, that eight of them tied for the championship. That had never happened before, and prompted bee officials and the spellers themselves to nickname the co-winners the “Octo-Champs.” Co-champions have been declared in six previous National Spelling Bees but never had more than two competitors shared the title in a single year. Crowning of this year’s champions took 20 rounds, and in the last three not a single word was misspelled. After the 17th round, the bee’s “pronouncer” and host Jacques Bailly told the remaining contestants that if they made it through three more rounds they would earn a share of the title. “We’ll soon run out of words that will challenge you,” Bailly said. “We’re throwing the dictionary at you. And so far, you are showing this dictionary who is boss.” Becoming a National Spelling Bee champion requires hard work, commitment and determination. In the newspaper or online find and closely read about another activity that requires hard work and commitment. Write a personal letter to someone who wants to succeed in this activity. List things they will need to do to succeed and why each is important.

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.

3. Amazing Story

The world of antiques is a world of stories, and one of the most amazing stories is getting new attention on the continent of Europe this summer. A chess piece believed to be part of a set discovered buried in a sand dune in 1831 has been re-discovered after being “buried” in a drawer by its owner for more than 50 years. And that’s just part of the story. The piece that was bought in 1964 for about $6 is expected to sell for nearly $1.3-million at an auction sale next month. The piece was once part of one of the most famous chess collections ever: the set known as the Lewis Chessmen. The 93 pieces in the collection are believed to have been hand-carved out of ivory nearly 900 years ago in the late 12th century and buried in the sand after a shipwreck on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. The 3.5-inch piece is a fierce warrior known as a “warder,” which is the equivalent of a rook in modern chess. Antiques and artifacts from the past tell stories about people, events and the lifestyles of earlier times. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about antiques that have stories of their own. Pick one and retell the story in your own words. Focus on aspects of the story that would appeal most to students your age. Illustrate your retelling with drawings or images from the newspaper or Internet.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

4. Zap ’Em

Nuclear energy can be used for many things, from running power plants, to powering submarines, to developing atomic weapons. In the African nation of Senegal, it is being used to kill flies. But not just any flies: The deadly tsetse flies that can cause sleeping sickness in humans and make cows and other livestock sick. In a joint project between Senegal, the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency, male tsetse flies are being zapped with nuclear gamma rays to leave them incapable of reproducing. They then are released and reduce the fly population because they cannot reproduce, the Washington Post newspaper reports. So far, the program has been successful. In one area of Senegal, 90 percent of the tsetse fly population has been eliminated, and cattle no longer are afflicted with disease spread by the flies. Other African nations are now interested in joining the program, including Uganda, South Africa and Burkina Faso. The tsetse fly project in Senegal is an example of science being used in a new way to solve a problem. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read another story about science being used in a new way. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for an animated movie to explain the science story to students your age or younger. Write a description of animated characters you would use in your movie, and why. Then write a dialog between characters for the opening scene.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

5. Crowding a Landmark

Located high in the Andes Mountains of South America, Machu Picchu is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. More than 1.2-million people visit the fortress in Peru each year and crowds have gotten so big that timed tickets restrict when people can enter the stone landmark. Now a plan to build a new airport near Machu Picchu has raised concerns that the problem of overcrowding will be made even worse. The international airport will be able to accommodate larger planes than the small airport in the town of Cuzco, and that will bring more tourists to the area around Machu Picchu, opponents of the project say. It also will disrupt local life and culture in the area known as the Sacred Valley, and violate the archaeological character of the region, according to a petition opposing the plan. “An airport in the surroundings of the Sacred Valley will affect the integrity of a complex Inca landscape and will cause irreparable damage due to noise, traffic and uncontrolled urbanization,” the petition declares. Many people have great interest in preserving and protecting important historic sites and natural areas. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read about one effort in the United States or another country. Use what you read to write a short editorial, summarizing what people are doing to protect or preserve one site, and whether you think that is the most effective approach.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.