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For Grades 5-8 , week of May 31, 2021

1. ‘Because I Can’

Simone Biles is one of the greatest gymnasts competing today — and perhaps the greatest of all time. She performs feats no other gymnast tries, and then pushes herself to do even more. This month, the 24-year-old Biles unveiled her most daring — and dangerous — move yet. At a competition in Indianapolis, Indiana, she performed a vault called a Yurchenko double pike, a move so challenging not even the woman for which it is named tried it in competition. To perform the Yurchenko, Biles did a back handspring onto the vaulting table at full speed, and then propelled herself high enough to flip twice in a pike position (body folded, legs straight) before landing on her feet. The move is so difficult that no other woman has attempted it in competition, and the International Gymnastics Federation actually limits points that can be earned for it to discourage gymnasts from trying. So why does Biles do it? “Because I can,” she said simply. Simone Biles is an extraordinary athlete who does extraordinary things. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about Biles or another top athlete. Use what you read to write a poem, rap or rhyme celebrating this athlete’s achievements, how he or she attained success and how that could inspire younger athletes. Fill your poem with colorful and vivid verbs, adjectives and adverbs. Read your poem aloud for family, friends and classmates — with expression!

Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; reading prose and poetry orally with accuracy, appropriate rate and expression on successive readings.

2. Schools Re-Opening

One of the key steps to “getting back to normal” following the coronavirus epidemic is re-opening schools for in-person learning. Parents and teachers have struggled to teach children at home and have pushed communities to get back in the classroom as soon as possible. The nation’s two largest school districts are now planning to do just that when the new school year starts next fall. Education officials in New York City and Los Angeles, California have announced they will return to in-person classes five days a week in the fall. Students in both New York and Los Angeles will be required to wear masks and practice three-foot social distancing when schools re-open. In-person learning gives students things they cannot get learning remotely at home. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of the benefits of in-person learning. Use what you read to write a personal column discussing some of these benefits and calling attention to benefits you think you will get. Don’t forget personal benefits as well as academic ones.

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. Say Cheese

It’s often said that people should be careful what they share on electronic media. A drug dealer from the European nation of England was arrested and sentenced recently after sharing a picture of … cheese. Carl Stewart, a 39-year-old dealer who moved cocaine and heroin around the European nation, was arrested after he posted a picture of himself holding a block of blue Stilton cheese on an encrypted messaging app used largely by drug dealers. Authorities had infiltrated the app, but had not been able to figure out who was behind an account with the username “Toffeeforce,” which was linked to trafficking in cocaine, heroin, MDMA and ketamine. That was where Stewart posted his cheese photo, and it was so sharp authorities were able to determine that the fingerprints in the photo were his. He was “caught … by his love of Stilton cheese,” police said in a news release. Stewart pleaded guilty to drug charges and was sentenced to 13 years in prison. Things people post through social or electronic media sometimes have negative consequences. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories of people whose postings have had a negative effect. Use what you read to write a letter to younger students, offering advice on things they should not post electronically, and why. Share and discuss with classmates.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

4. Boost for Wind Power

To reduce the use of fossil fuels that contribute to global warming, many communities and businesses are turning to non-polluting energy sources such as wind, solar and hydroelectric power. President Biden is a strong supporter of such alternative energy sources, because burning fossil fuels produces greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. This month the President gave a big boost to wind power by opening up areas in the ocean off the state of California for developing wind farms. The plan would allow commercial offshore wind farms in an area in Morro Bay in central California, and another area off the coast of Humboldt in northern California. The move is the most significant action the federal government has taken to promote wind energy along the West Coast, the New York Times newspaper reported. It comes just weeks after the Biden administration approved the nation’s first commercial wind farm on the East Coast, off the state of Massachusetts. The California sites would have way more wind turbines than Massachusetts — more than 300 compared to 84 in Massachusetts. Wind and solar power are getting a lot of attention as businesses and communities look for alternatives to fossil fuels. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about these alternative energy sources. Use what you read to create a chart or poster comparing the benefits and drawbacks of these alternative energy sources. Share with friends and classmates.

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

5. A Modern Touch

St. Albans Cathedral is the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in the nation of England, with construction dating back more than 900 years to the 11th century C.E. A renovation of a shrine at the site, however, has added a distinctly modern touch. At the edge of a space honoring the early Christian saint Amphibalus, a small stone figure has been installed — wearing a coronavirus face mask. “This tiny little figure on the corner of the shrine of St. Amphibalus will be an important reminder for centuries to come of the events of the past year,” the Reverend Abi Thompson, sub-dean of St. Albans, said. St. Alban lived during the third century and was executed after helping Amphibalus — a Christian priest — escape from authorities of the ancient Roman Empire. Communities, institutions and other organizations often look for ways to commemorate important events. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about ways individuals or groups are looking to commemorate the coronavirus experience or other events of the past year. Use what you read to write an analysis of one approach, and how effective you think it will be. For added challenge, write a proposal for commemorating something that was important to you in the past year.

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.

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