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For Grades K-4 , week of Dec. 16, 2019

1. A Milestone Marie

With performances all over the country, “The Nutcracker” ballet is one of the most popular holiday entertainments. One of the most famous “Nutcracker” shows is the production put on by the New York City Ballet, and this year’s edition will go down in history. For the first time, the featured role of Marie is being played by an African American dancer. Eleven-year-old Charlotte Nebres earned the part by besting other talented dancers in auditions. But she wasn’t overly impressed at making history. When told she was the first African American to get the part, she simply responded “Wow. That seems a little late.” Charlotte has been dancing for more than five years and is a student the School of American Ballet, a feeder school for New York City Ballet. Children who have special talents often are in the news. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a talented child making news. Pretend you are a TV reporter doing a story about this child. Write a paragraph telling how you would show this child’s talents, and three questions you would ask to learn how they were developed.

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.

2. Jolt of Fun

Displays of holiday lights are always a big attraction at this time of year, and the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee has one that people won’t soon forget. It’s a lighted tree at the Tennessee Aquarium that gets its power from an electric eel! The eel is named Miguel Wattson, and he lights up the tree whenever he gives off a jolt of natural electricity. Electric eels have the ability to generate electricity with their bodies, and the staff at the aquarium figured out a way to collect it with sensors in Miguel’s tank and link it to a Christmas tree. Miguel gives off low doses of electricity when resting or swimming quietly, and large doses when he gets angry or excited, triggering bursts of light on the tree and “kaboom” sounds over the aquarium’s sound system. Electric eels can generate as much electricity as a wall socket in a home when excited. People often celebrate the holidays with pets or other animals — though not electric eels. In the newspaper or online, find and study stories or photos of people celebrating the holidays with animals. Use what you read to write a Haiku poem about one of these holiday animals. A Haiku has five syllables in the first line, seven in the second and five in the third. For added fun, write a Haiku about an animal you would like to celebrate the holidays with.

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

3. Secret (NFL) Santa

Chicago Bears linebacker Khalil Mack is a superstar in the National Football League, but he hasn’t forgotten where he came from. To give back to his home town of Fort Pierce, Florida, Mack hooked up with the local Walmart and paid off 300 holiday layaway accounts people had set up to buy presents for their families. As a “Secret Santa” for the families, Mack wiped out about $80,000 in holiday debt for holders of the accounts. “We here at Walmart would like to thank the Khalil Mack Foundation for your generosity, and for making so many families happy for the holidays!” store officials said in a Facebook post. “Everyone is truly grateful for everything you have done for them!” Mack, 28, attended Fort Pierce Westwood High School before going on to the University of Buffalo and the NFL. His Secret Santa donation is not the first time he has helped out Fort Pierce. In June, his foundation purchased 100 pairs of cleats for the school's football team. In the holiday season people often do good deeds for others. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a person or group doing this. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, publicly thanking the person/group and telling how their actions could inspire others to do good deeds.

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.

4. 5-Year-Old Hero

You’re never too young to be a hero, and a 5-year-old in the state of Alaska just proved it in sub-zero weather. According to Alaska State Police, the 5-year-old carried an 18-month-old toddler half a mile to safety wearing only socks and light clothing after the power went out in their home. The children had been left alone in the house, and the 5-year old became frightened when the power went off and left them in the dark. Police said the temperature was 31 degrees below zero at the time of the incident in the village of Venetie. A 37-year-old woman was charged with leaving the children alone and endangering their welfare. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes and can be any age. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone who is a hero for something they did. Use what you read to design an ad for the newspaper calling attention to what the person did. Give your ad an eye-catching headline that will make people want to read it. Share and discuss ads as a class.

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.

5. Really Close Partners

Police officers who work as partners often say they feel as close as family. In New York City, two officers recently found out they ARE family — they just didn’t know it. Officers Harley Greco and Tyler Barbour were teamed up in the city’s 19th Precinct, and they immediately got along. But they didn’t know they had connections beyond work. Thanks to relatives on Facebook, however, they discovered they were not only partners but cousins. The relatives had taken an ancestry test to track family history and were commenting on it on Facebook. Greco's grandmother and Barbour’s first cousin had learned they were related when they discovered they both had family working the 19th Precinct, CNN News reported. “My grandmother called me and said, ‘Do you know a Tyler Barbour?’” Greco recalled. “I said 'Yeah, I just went to his wedding -- that's my partner. “And she said ‘Well, that’s also your cousin.’” People often feel a special bond to family members or relatives. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone who feels this way about a relative. Use what you read to write a short paragraph explaining how the person feels about the relative and why that makes them close. Then write a paragraph about a relative who is special to you and how they make you feel.

Common Core State Standards: Citing textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.