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For Grades 5-8 , week of Sep. 27, 2021

1. K-Pop Diplomacy

As one of the most popular acts in the K-pop music world, the boy band BTS is used to performing in front of huge audiences. But last week it attracted more than a million viewers to a performance in a place not known for its connection to music. The band from the Asian nation of South Korea appeared at the United Nations in New York City — and attracted so many viewers it nearly crashed the U.N. YouTube channel. BTS — whose name stands for the Korean words for Bulletproof Boy Scouts — appeared ahead of the opening of the U.N. General Assembly at which leaders addressed such as issues as global warming, climate change and environmental sustainability. The seven band members spoke out in favor of getting vaccinated to combat the coronavirus and in praise of young people setting the agenda for the future on everything from warming to digital interconnectedness. “I’ve heard that people in their teens and 20s today are being referred to as Covid’s lost generation,” said Kim Nam-joon, the band’s lead singer, who performs under the stage name RM. “I think it’s a stretch to say they’re lost just because the path they tread can’t be seen by grown-up eyes.” After their seven-minute speech, BTS screened a video that showed them singing and dancing inside and outside the United Nations to their hit song “Permission to Dance.” To view the video, click here. To view an interview with the band discussing the issues before the United Nations, click here. Celebrities like BTS often use their fame to call attention to issues important to them. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a celebrity doing this. Use what you read to write a personal or political column analyzing how the celebrity’s involvement helps educate people about an issue or motivates them to take action.

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. Black Boy Joy

In addition to calling out discrimination and racism, the Black Lives Matter movement has called attention to negative stereotypes faced by African American men today and in the past. To counter those stereotypes writer Kwame Mbalia has put together a remarkable book showing Black boys and young men in positive and happy circumstances. And the book “Black Boy Joy” enlists some of America’s leading Black male writers to do it. “Black Boy Joy” features 17 stories for middle school showing Black boys “when you’re at your happiest” and most fulfilled in everyday life, Mbalia says. The stories are told in prose, poetry and comics and are loaded with fun and humor. The book was an instant best-seller when it came out in August, and it continues to draw nationwide attention. Mbalia says he hopes Black boys who read it will see themselves in its pages, and be encouraged to tell their own happy stories. The book “Black Boy Joy” seeks to provide a positive alternative to negative stereotypes experienced by Black boys and men. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about Black boys or young men doing positive or happy things. Write a paragraph telling why it is important for people to see such positive activities in the face of negative stereotypes. Write a second paragraph detailing positive actions or experiences of an African American boy or young man you know. Better yet, turn these experiences into a creative story like those in “Black Boy Joy.”

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

3. ‘Skinny House’

In the city of Boston, Massachusetts, the “Skinny House” is famous for being the narrowest house in the city. It now has gained more fame by selling for a big fat price. The house in Boston’s North End neighborhood sold for $1.25-million, even though it only has two bedrooms, one bathroom, and a width of just 6.2 feet at its narrowest point. The house was built during America’s Civil War by a soldier who was reportedly upset that a brother had built a house on land they had jointly inherited from their father. The brother took most of the lot for his house, and left only a tiny sliver of land for the soldier, the legend goes. To get even, the returning soldier is said to have built the Skinny House out of spite to block the light from his brother’s home. “For $1.25-million you can live like a spiteful brother,” the real estate agent who handled the sale told the Washington Post newspaper. “That's really something.” Unusual houses often sell for very high prices. In the newspaper or online, find stories or ads involving unusual properties that are for sale. Pick one that interests you and write a letter to the real estate agent selling it to explain why you would want to live in the house. Compare choices with those of classmates.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

4. Virus-Fighting Help

In the battle to control the coronavirus, the United States is fighting on two fronts. Inside the U.S., leaders are pushing to get as many people as possible vaccinated against the deadly disease. Outside America, the nation is providing millions of free vaccine doses to help other nations control the Covid 19 virus and its variants. This month the United States announced that it will make another huge contribution to help other nations fight the virus. The U.S. will buy 500-million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and donate them to poorer countries to help them control the spread of the Covid virus. This comes on top of another 500-million vaccine doses already purchased and donated to poorer nations. “This is a monumental commitment by the United States, bringing our total number of donated vaccines to the world to more than 1.1-billion,” White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients and Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote in an opinion piece in the Washington Post. “For every one shot we’ve put in an American arm to date, we are now donating about three shots globally.” The United States is the leading nation in the world in providing vaccines to other countries. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about which nations need vaccines the most and the obstacles to getting vaccines to those countries. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor offering ideas on how to overcome the obstacles.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and making logical inferences from them; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

5. Warming Warning

All over the world, environmental leaders are sounding the alarm about the impact global warming and climate change could have on habitats, wildlife and even human existence. Last week they were joined by a leader who holds one of the most prominent positions in the world — the secretary-general of the United Nations. In remarks opening the 76th session of the General Assembly of the international organization, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivered a white-hot warning about what is in store for the Earth if nations of the world don’t join together to reduce warming. “The climate alarm bells are ringing at fever pitch,” he said. “… We see the warning signs in every continent and region — scorching temperatures, shocking biodiversity loss, polluted air, water and natural spaces. And climate-related disasters at every turn.” Failing to act would be a “catastrophe,” he said. “We must get serious and we must act fast.” Global warming is affecting nations in many different ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about how warming is affecting the United States or another nation. Use what you read to write a short editorial calling attention to this effect and what could be done about 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.