For Grades 5-8 , week of Jan. 25, 2021

1. First 100 Days

When a new president takes office, the first 100 days often provide a window on what are his top goals and priorities. They also provide the best opportunity to get things passed by the U.S. Congress. President Biden has set an ambitious agenda for his first 100 days. At the top of his list of goals are leading a recovery from the coronavirus epidemic, reversing immigration policies put in place by former President Trump and addressing “systemic racism” and criminal justice reform. The coronavirus is the most pressing problem, because it threatens both the health of citizens and the health of the nation’s businesses and economy. President Biden has proposed a sweeping $1.9-trillion plan that includes $20-billion for a national vaccination program, $1,400 stimulus checks for individuals, $130-billion to help schools safely reopen and raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. “This will be one of the most challenging operational efforts we have ever undertaken as a nation,” Biden said. President Biden is moving quickly to enact measures to address top goals. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about his efforts this week. Use what you read to write a political column assessing which plans have the best prospects for quick approval from the U.S. Congress — and why.

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.

2. Distance Learning

With many schools closed due to the coronavirus, distance learning has become more and more routine for teachers and students. No one has taken it quite so far as a music teacher from Fairfax County, Virginia. He kept teaching his students even after he was called up by the National Guard to protect the U.S. Capitol during the inauguration of President Joe Biden in Washington, DC. Sgt. Jacob Kohut, 34, was unfazed by his military assignment. He taught music lessons, in uniform, before his daily Guard shift began each day, or in his military Humvee vehicle during breaks. When he was called to Washington for duty, he said “my first thought was, ‘What about my kids?’” the Washington Post newspaper reported. “… The last thing these students need is a disruption in their teaching.” Kohut admits it’s tiring to teach while on call-up, but he’s determined to keep teaching his elementary and middle school students. “This is what a hero looks like,” one of his principals said in a message to parents. Sgt. Jacob Kohut has been called a hero for continuing to teach his students even after being called up by the National Guard. In the newspaper or online find and closely read other stories about people who could be considered heroes for things they do for students or children. Use what you read to write an editorial detailing how one person has acted like a hero and how the community is better for it.

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.

In the next activity please link the word “here” to.

3. Amazing Youth Poet

Amanda Gorman has been writing poetry since she was a young child, and last week she made history with one of her poems. At age 22, she became the youngest poet to read her work at an inauguration ceremony. Gorman, who is Black, read her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the end of the inauguration ceremony for President Joe Biden, just before the benediction prayer. Born in Los Angeles, California, Gorman was named the Youth Poet Laureate of her home city while still in high school and in college she became the nation’s first National Youth Poet Laureate. In keeping with the theme of the inauguration, she used her poem to call for “hope and unity” but also addressed the violence of the assault on the U.S. Capitol building on January 6. Her words, confidence and style drew universal praise from commentators and a huge audience on social media. This fall she will get an even bigger audience when two books of her work will be published: a collection of poems also called “The Hill We Climb” and a children’s picture book titled “Change Sings.” To read “The Hill We Climb” and watch Gorman read it, click here. Note how it draws on both history and current events. Then use the newspaper or Internet to find and closely read a story about an issue or event in the news. Think how this event or issue compares to one you have read about in history classes. Challenge yourself to write a poem comparing the news from today to the event or issue from history. Share with family, friends, classmates and teachers.

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

4. One Big Dino

One of the great things for fossil hunters is that there are always new things to discover. And some of them are HUGE discoveries. In the South American nation of Argentina, for example, scientists have discovered the fossil remains of a 98-million-year-old plant-eater that may be the largest dinosaur ever. The fossils include 24 vertebrae of the tail and pieces of the pelvis, scientists said, and are believed to belong to a titanosaur, a huge sauropod that had a long neck and tail and walked on four legs. In a newly published report on the find, scientists said they won’t know exactly how big this dinosaur was until they find fossils of the humerus or femur bones from the dinosaur’s legs. They are confident, however, that it will be “one of the largest sauropods ever found,” CNN News reported, with a length of more than 130 feet and a weight of more than 110 tons. Fossil discoveries teach scientists new things about creatures that lived long ago. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a fossil discovery of dinosaurs or another species. Use what you read to write a paragraph describing how the discovery was made and what it teaches scientists about the ancient species.

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.

5. Write a Letter!

Before there were text messages, social media and smart phones, people sat down and wrote letters when they wanted to communicate with each other. To many people, writing on paper with a pen or pencil seems quaint and old-fashioned today. But not to a woman in Flagstaff, Arizona. Nancy Pantalones has challenged herself to write letters to friends and family every day— and she’s been doing it for nearly 600 days straight! She writes to young people and old people, friends and co-workers, people she knows well and people she’s only met through letters. She illustrates her letters with hand-drawn doodles and picks old fashioned stamps to match the colors. Her letter-writing binge started as a joke and challenge with a friend, but now it’s a full-time hobby. She writes about small things in her life, asks about the lives of others, offers thanks for good deeds and rants about politics and other issues. People who get her letters enjoy them, especially kids. One parent told the Arizona Daily Sun her sons “just get so excited to get mail. … They started to write their grandparents and aunts and uncles. … It shows my boys what a thoughtful thing it is to do for someone else.” “It’s pure joy in the mailbox,” said another. Many people still get excited when they receive a letter in the mail, especially relatives like grandparents, aunts uncles. Think about your family and pick someone you think would enjoy getting a letter from you. Then scan the newspaper or Internet for stories they might be interested in. Write a personal letter to your chosen relative talking about one story you think they’d like. Finish by telling your relative something that’s going on in your life. Get a stamp and your relative’s address and mail your letter.

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.