For Grades 9-12 , week of June 15, 2020

1. NFL Changes Course

National Football League quarterback Colin Kaepernick was ahead of his time in 2016, when he kneeled during the national anthem at games to protest police violence against African Americans. The league did not take kindly to his actions, effectively blocking him from playing in the NFL and passing rules to require players to stand during the anthem no matter what they wished to protest. Now, with the whole nation protesting police violence after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota officers, the NFL is changing course. League commissioner Roger Goodell said the NFL had been wrong to ignore players who spoke out against police brutality. “We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people,” Goodell said in a video statement. “We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier. … We, the National Football League, believe Black Lives Matter.” Without black players, Goodell stressed, “there would be no National Football League.” Protests targeting inequality and police mistreatment of people of color have led many businesses and organizations to issue statements on those subjects. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about businesses and organizations doing this. Use what you read to write a political column analyzing the impact of these statements and what changes may result.

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. Goodbye Social Distancing

When millions of Americans took to the streets to protest the death of George Floyd, it sent a dramatic message about police violence against people of color. It also sent a dramatic message about efforts to curb the coronavirus: The time of social distancing is over. To be sure, protesters wore face masks and used hand sanitizer, but in city after city they marched shoulder to shoulder, chanting slogans and singing songs. And they were often crammed together when police tried to clear areas or made arrests. Those things are just the kind of behavior that spreads the virus, health officials say, and they now worry the protests will create a spike in new cases. “I don’t think there’s any way to know how bad it will be,” Columbia University virologist Angela Rasmussen told the Washington Post. “But there is likely to be increased cases in cities with large protests.” Complicating matters is the fact many states had just “re-opened” by relaxing social distancing rules. If there is a spike in cases, it may be difficult to determine whether protests or re-openings were the cause. Health officials worry that George Floyd protests may lead to more cases of coronavirus. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about this concern. Use what you read to write a paragraph summarizing the concerns of health officials, what people can do to minimize the effects of exposure and how soon the nation might see if protests caused more cases.

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. Unexpected Rewards

Protests following the death of George Floyd led to violence and destruction in some communities. When a teen in Buffalo, New York saw what had happened to an important commuter street in his city, he jumped into action. And now he has been rewarded in ways he could never have imagined. Eighteen-year-old Antonio Gwynn Jr. took action after seeing on the local news that highly traveled Bailey Avenue was covered in glass and debris after protesters took out their anger on buildings and businesses, CNN News reported. He knew that street was one many people used to get to work, so he went out in the middle of the night with a broom and trash bags and got busy. Gwynn worked for 10 hours straight and by the time neighbors came out to clean up, he had done most of the job himself. When word spread of his good deed, Gwynn got some amazing feedback. One man gave him a red Mustang convertible — a car like the one Gwynn’s mother drove before she died. Then to top that, local Medaille College offered him a full scholarship to study business starting this fall. There are many ways to reward people who do good deeds or help their community. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone who has done something for the community. Use what you read to write a proposal to reward this person. Your reward can be public recognition, something of value, or both.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

4. Advice from Michelle

Since leaving the White House, former First Lady Michelle Obama has expanded her efforts to empower young people, support women’s causes and promoting physical fitness for children. When the coronavirus epidemic hit, she created a weekly online story hour to read to young children, and she also produced a video series chronicling the first year of college for students. This month, she reached out to young people in a new way — as First Mom instead of First Lady. Appearing in YouTube’s virtual graduation ceremony “Dear Class of 2020,” she offered advice to this year’s graduates to help them cope with a world “turned upside down” by turmoil. “For those of you who feel invisible: Please know that your story matters,” she said. “Your ideas matter. Your experiences matter. Your vision for what our world can and should be matters. So, don’t ever, ever let anyone tell you that you’re too angry, or that you ‘should keep your mouth shut.’ … It’s up to you to speak up when you or someone you know isn’t being heard. It’s up to you to speak out against cruelty, dishonesty, bigotry — all of it.” Many people offer graduation advice at this time of year. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about advice different people are giving. Then pretend you are a graduation speaker. Write a short speech offering your advice for the graduates of 2020. Make a video of your speech, if you like, and share online.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.

5. Civil War Connection

America’s Civil War ended 155 years ago, but one of the nation’s last living connections to it was alive until just this spring. Before she died in a nursing home at age 90, Irene Triplett of Wilkesboro, North Carolina, was the last American to be receiving a pension connected to the Civil War from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. She was receiving the pension because her father, Mose Triplett, had served in both the Confederate and Union armies and because cognitive impairments entitled her to a lifelong pension as a “helpless adult child” of a veteran. Irene Triplett was born when her father was almost 84 years old and in his second marriage, the Washington Post newspaper reported. Her father died at age 92 when Irene was 8 years old. Her pension was $73.13 a month at the time of her death, or $877.56 a year. In both positive and negative ways, many communities still feel connection to America’s Civil War. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about different examples. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a creative short story, in which a character is obsessed or deeply affected by a connection to the Civil War. Then write the opening scene.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.