For Grades 5-8 , week of Feb. 03, 2020

1. ‘Dear Basketball’

The death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant led to an outpouring of emotion across the United States and around the world. Players, former players, coaches and fans struggled to find the words to sum up their feelings about his impact on the game of basketball. Some found the best words were Bryant’s own, in his poem “Dear Basketball” that was made into an Oscar-winning short film. In the poem, Bryant tells how he fell in love with basketball at 6 years old and remained in love throughout his career. He tells how “I’ll always be that kid… :05 seconds on the clock / Ball in my hands. / 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1.” And he offers a goodbye that is even sadder now that he is gone. He tells his sport “As a six-year-old boy / Deeply in love with you / I never saw the end of the tunnel. / I only saw myself / Running out of one.” Poetry expresses emotions in ways unlike other kinds of writing. It doesn’t use a lot of words but chooses the best words to express feelings. In the newspaper or online, read or watch Kobe Bryant’s poem/film “Dear Basketball.” Then write a short poem about a person or situation that you have strong emotions about. Your poems do not need to rhyme. Read poems aloud as a class.

Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts.

2. History at the Grammys

Singer Billie Eilish is just 18, but she made history at her first ever Grammy Awards. She captured all four of the biggest prizes — Best New Artist, Record of the Year, Album of the Year and Song of the Year. She also took home the award for Best Pop Vocal Album, for a total of five Grammys. She is the youngest solo performer to ever win Album of the Year, taking the top award for her album “When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go.” Her song “Bad Guy” earned her top honors for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Eilish is the first woman and second person ever to win Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist in the same year. Billie Eilish has earned wide attention and praise for her music. What musical performers do you think deserve praise and attention? In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a performer you like. Then think like a music critic and write a column telling what you like about this performer and why he/she deserves greater attention. Discuss columns and choices as a class.

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. Milestone Graphic Novel

The Newbery and Caldecott Medals are the most prestigious awards given out each year for children’s and young adult literature. This year’s winner of the John Newbery Medal has earned a place in history. For the first time ever, the Newbery has gone to a graphic novel — “New Kid” by writer and illustrator Jerry Craft. “New Kid” tells the story of a 12-year-old boy from New York City whose parents enroll him in a prestigious private school where he is one of the few students of color. Critics called it “funny and heartfelt” and a “classic coming-of-age tale” Winner of this year’s Caldecott Medal for outstanding picture books is “The Undefeated,” a celebration of African American life and achievements that was illustrated by Kadir Nelson and written by Kwame Alexander. Both “New Kid” and “The Undefeated” also received Coretta Scott King Awards, which recognize African American authors and illustrators. Graphic novels use art as well as words to tell stories. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story that interests you. Use what you read to retell the story in the style of a graphic novel. Share with the class.

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

4. Digging for Owls

Burrowing owls are a threatened species in the state of Florida. Habitats where the owls once lived have been developed and built on, so there are fewer and fewer places where they can make their homes. The city of Marco Island, however, is putting out the welcome mat for the pint-sized owls with an innovative program that will pay residents to let them live in their yards. Under the new program, residents can earn $250 to let wildlife officials dig “starter burrows” designed to encourage the owls to nest. Residents have been enthusiastic about the plan, according to city and wildlife officials. “Most people I've talked to on the phone didn’t care about the money,” one wildlife official said. “People just want owls in their yards.” Burrowing owls are one of Florida’s smallest owl species, with an average height of nine inches and a wingspan of 21 inches. They have bright yellow eyes, spotted sandy brown feathers and feed primarily on insects, snakes and small lizards. People do many different things to help threatened or endangered wildlife species. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one effort. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, analyzing the effort and whether you think it will be successful. Suggest other ideas for helping this species, if you like.

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

5. Obamas on Tour

Since they first went on display, the portrait paintings of Barack and Michelle Obama have been among the most popular attractions at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. The portraits of the former President and First Lady were painted in a fresh modern style that appealed to visitors from the time they first went on display in 2018. Now art lovers in other cities will get to see the works by Kehinde Wiley (Barack) and Amy Sherald (Michelle). The Portrait Gallery has announced that they will go on a five-city tour starting in June 2021. The tour will begin in the Obamas’ hometown of Chicago, Illinois and make stops in Brooklyn, New York; Los Angeles, California; Atlanta, Georgia; and Houston, Texas. They will then return to the National Portrait Gallery. “There will be a big party when they get back,” the museum said. Portrait artists seek to capture the personalities of people and also to tell something about their lives. They can do this in a realistic style or, in the fashion of Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, they can portray their subjects in a more imaginative way. Use the Internet to see the portraits of the Obamas created by Wiley and Sherald. Then find a person in the news you would like to make a portrait of. Draw a sketch of your portrait and share with the class. Discuss whether you want it to be realistic or imaginative, and why.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.