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For Grades 5-8 , week of Jan. 17, 2022

1. Honor for Angelou

Maya Angelou was a writer, a poet, a playwright, a songwriter, an actress and an activist for civil rights and women’s rights. Now, more than seven years after her death, she has gotten a new honor. She has become the first Black woman — and the first woman overall — to be featured on a U.S. quarter-dollar coin. Angelou, who died in 2014 at the age of 86, is the first woman honored in the American Women Quarters Program designed to celebrate the accomplishments of American women. On the new 25-cent coin Angelou is shown on the “flip side” from the hips up, with her arms uplifted, a bird in flight and a rising sun behind her — “images inspired by her poetry and symbolic of the way she lived,” according to the U.S. Mint. Angelou’s most famous work is a memoir titled “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which the detailed the racism and abuse she endured as a child. A bust of George Washington remains on the front of the coin. The American Women Quarters Program was set up to honor the achievements of American women. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about high-achieving women today who could be worthy of honors in the future. Write an award nomination for one of these women, detailing her achievements, her contributions to society and her importance as a role model for girls and other women.

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.

2. Pope Urges Vaccinations

As leader of the world’s Catholics, Pope Francis has not been afraid to speak out on controversial issues. So it was not surprising that he plunged into the debate over vaccinations to fight the coronavirus epidemic in his yearly state of the world address this month. Speaking to a special meeting of world diplomats, the Pope pushed for national immunization campaigns around the world and condemned the spread of “baseless information or poorly documented facts” that have made people reluctant to get vaccinated. “Vaccines are not a magical means of healing,” Francis said, “yet surely they represent, in addition to other treatments that need to be developed, the most reasonable solution for the prevention of the disease.” The Pope noted that “We have realized that in those places where an effective vaccination campaign has taken place, the risk of severe repercussions of the disease has decreased. It is therefore important to continue the effort to immunize the general population as much as possible.” Pope Francis, who is 85, is fully vaccinated. Nations around the world continue to work to get more people vaccinated against the Covid 19 coronavirus and variants like the omicron virus that is spreading rapidly. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the efforts of different nations. Use what you read to write an editorial comparing the efforts of other nations to those in the United States — and what the U.S. could learn from the experiences of other countries.

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. NFL Know, Wonder & Learn

The NFL playoffs are under way, and fans all over the country are watching to see which teams will advance to pro football’s Super Bowl. Following the playoffs in the newspaper or online is a great way to build reading skills if you use the approach called Know, Wonder and Learn. With this approach, called KWL for short, you ask yourself questions every time you read something. First, you ask what you already KNOW about the subject. Then you ask what you WONDER or WANT TO KNOW about the subject. Then you read and ask what you have LEARNED about the subject by reading. Practice KWL by finding a story in the newspaper or online about the NFL playoffs. Write out what you already KNOW about the subject of the story. Then write what you WONDER or WANT TO KNOW about the subject of the story. Then read the story and write what you LEARNED about the subject of the story by reading.

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.

4. Great Memory!

When it comes to taking tests or learning new skills, it pays to have a good memory. In the Asian nation of China, one man’s sharp memory enabled him to reunite with his family years after he was separated from them. The man, named Li Jingwei, had been kidnapped at age 4 and taken to another province in China in 1988. He knew he had been taken far from his home, but he didn't remember his birth name, his parents’ names or the name of his village. But he did remember what his home village looked like: the location of roads, pastures, rivers, rice paddies and ponds, CNN news reported. As a child he would draw pictures of his village almost every day when he was lonely or sad. Now an adult, he turned to the Internet to find that village. He drew as detailed a picture of his village as he could and put it online. It went viral and soon attracted the attention of Chinese authorities. Not long after, officials located Li's suspected birth mother and DNA samples confirmed their relationship. On January 1 they were reunited. “I’ve finally found my baby,” his mother said. The newspaper or Internet are a great way to improve your memory. With a partner, find a photo of an outdoor scene that interests you. Study the photo for five minutes. Then cover or close the photo and write down as many details as you can about the scene in the photo. Compare lists and discuss why some things stuck in your memory more than others.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and making logical inferences from them; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

5. 70 Years a Queen

Queen Elizabeth II of England has been monarch of the European nation and its Commonwealth for longer than any English monarch in history. She became queen at just age 25 upon the death of her father King George VI on February 6, 1952, and next month, at the age of 95, she will mark 70 years on the throne. Last week the Royal Palace announced how the Queen will mark 70 years as Queen with parades, pageantry, street parties and even a pudding competition. The pudding contest is open to any British resident who is at least 8 years old and will be judged by a panel of celebrity chefs and the head chef of the Royal Palace known as Buckingham. The celebrations will peak in May and June. At one May event more than 1,000 performers and 500 horses will put on a show in honor of the Queen. In June two of the Queen’s private residences — Sandringham and Balmoral — will be open to visitors, giving the public a rare look at royal life. Queen Elizabeth II has been successful for many years as England’s queen. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another person, business or institution that has been successful for a long time. Use what you read to write a personal column detailing the qualities or skills that have made this person or institution successful for such a long time.

Common Core State Standards: Citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.