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For Grades K-4 , week of Feb. 25, 2019

1. The Great Blue Hole

The Central American nation of Belize has many attractions in the waters of the Caribbean Sea off its coast. There are dozens of beautiful reefs, hundreds of species of marine life and one deep mystery. That mystery is a giant sinkhole called the Great Blue Hole, and until now scientists didn’t know what secrets it held in its deepest waters. That has changed this winter, with a groundbreaking mission that successfully explored the bottom of the Great Blue Hole and used sonar technology to draw a map of its features. Among the most exciting discoveries was a system of never-before-seen stalactites — mineral formations that look like icicles hanging from the roofs of caves. The mission also gathered data on a mysterious layer of the chemical hydrogen sulfide, which cuts off all light in the hole at a depth of about 300 feet. The Great Blue Hole is the world’s largest sinkhole with a width of 984 feet and a depth of 410 feet. Scientists are always exploring the environment to learn more about natural features, habitats and wildlife. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a mission to explore nature this way. Use what you read to write a paragraph telling what scientists have learned and why that is important. Then write out any questions you have about the mission.

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. African Basketball

The NBA has fans all over the world, and now it is looking to attract even more on the continent of Africa. NBA officials have announced they will create a new professional basketball league next year that will feature teams in countries across the African continent. Former President Barack Obama, who is a huge basketball fan, will likely have a role promoting and organizing the league, according to news reports. The league will be called the Basketball Africa League and will start play next year. It will have teams from the nations of Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa, among others. In recent years, the NBA has gained more and more players with African roots, including all-stars Joel Embiid and Victor Oladipo. The new Basketball Africa League is an effort to promote basketball and attract more fans. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about different ways sports teams and leagues seek to attract fans. Then pretend you are the owner of one of the new teams in Africa. Write out a plan telling how you would reach out and appeal to fans.

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. Book Store Buzz

From video games to the Internet, electronic entertainment is everywhere in kids’ lives. But at an elementary school in the state of Florida, old-school attractions are causing a buzz these days. A student-run bookstore has opened at Tuttle Elementary in the city of Sarasota, and kids are lining up to buy the latest attractions. The store operates two days a week before school and is staffed by students. While it features the hottest new reads, the prices are reduced by contributions that parents and others have made to the program. Students pay for books with their own money and are excited to see what new titles are offered each week. The students running the store also have fun. As one told a local TV station, it’s great to “help kids pick out a fun book.” Everyone has books they like. As a class, discuss books you have read and enjoyed. Then pretend you are helping run a student book store. Design an ad or poster recommending a book you have read. Give your ad an eye-catching title and explain why students your age would enjoy the book. Use images from the newspaper or Internet to illustrate your ad, or draw your own.

Common Core State Standards: Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions: using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

4. Goodbye, Opportunity

Mars is the planet most like Earth in the solar system, so it has always gotten a lot of attention from America’s NASA space agency. Some of the greatest exploration of the so-called Red Planet came from the twin rover spacecraft named Spirit and Opportunity. Both were launched in 2003 and landed in January 2004. Fifteen years later, Opportunity has finally stopped operating, ending one of the greatest space missions in U.S. history. During their time on Mars (Spirit operated until 2010), the rovers sent back thousands of pictures, conducted scientific experiments and, most important of all, discovered signs that water once existed on Mars. That means that Mars could have once supported life, a huge breakthrough for what scientists thought possible on the planet. Opportunity was still active until June 2018 when a huge sand storm knocked out the solar panels that gave it power. The mission of the Opportunity and Spirit rovers was one of the most successful ever for NASA. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another successful space mission. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, telling what the mission has achieved and why people should support similar missions in the future.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

5. Rescue Dogs

It’s often said that dogs are “man’s best friend.” A case in the state of Florida proves they also are kids’ best friends. In Okaloosa County this month, two pet dogs prevented a pair of young children from wandering into the dangerous traffic of an interstate hjighway. The children, both younger than 5, had wandered away from their yard, officials said, and the dogs went with them. When they reached the Interstate 10 highway and tried to cross, witnesses said the dogs repeatedly stood between the kids and the road and pushed them back when they tried to go toward it. Sheriff’s deputies told Fox 10 TV that one of the children said they were trying to “chase a rainbow” when they left the yard. Pets often do amazing things to help people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a pet providing help. Use what you read to write a poem, rap or rhyme telling how the person who was helped might feel. For added challenge, write a poem telling what the pet might say, if it could talk. Draw pictures to go with your poems, if you like.

Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.