For Grades 5-8 , week of Dec. 16, 2019

1. Impeachment Vote

For just the third time in history, the U.S. House of Representatives is moving ahead to a vote on impeachment articles designed to remove a president from office. Last week the House Judiciary Committee introduced and voted on two articles of impeachment against President Trump, charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The full House is expected to vote on the articles this week. The articles were sparked by revelations that the President had pressured the president of the European nation of Ukraine to launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son in connection with release of security aid from the United States. House Democrats, who hold a majority on the Judiciary Committee and in the whole House, charge that the President committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” with his Ukraine actions and then obstructed the investigation into his misconduct by refusing to allow aides to testify. House Republicans support the president’s contention that he did nothing wrong. If the full House approves the impeachment articles, a trial of Trump will be held in the U.S. Senate in January. Republicans control the Senate and are unlikely to vote to remove the President. This week’s vote on impeachment will make history in the U.S. House of Representatives. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the arguments House members made for and against impeachment. Use what you read to write a political column focusing on which arguments you found most convincing, for and against.

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.

2. ‘Star Wars’ Warning

The “Star Wars” movies have always been packed with high-tech special effects that thrill audiences. The newest movie in the series, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” has some that are so intense they may pose a danger to some fans. The movie contains “several sequences with imagery and sustained flashing lights” that could cause seizures in people who have “photosensitive” epilepsy, the Disney company warned in a letter released with the national Epilepsy Foundation. Flashing lights in certain patterns can cause seizures in about 3 percent of people who have epilepsy, the foundation said. That doesn’t mean people with epilepsy can’t watch the film, Disney said, but they should exercise caution. The Epilepsy Foundation recommends having a friend watch the film first so he/she can warn when problem scenes are about to occur. Public service warnings often are issued to protect people from products or situations that could harm them. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about such a warning. Write a letter to the editor detailing why people should heed the warning and for whom the warning is most important.

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.

3. Olympic Ban

In the history of the Olympic Games, the European nation of Russia has been one of the most dominant and competitive countries. Russian athletes have won hundreds of medals in the Summer and Winter Olympic Games, but they will not be competing in the next two. Russia has been banned from the Olympics for giving athletes illegal performance enhancing drugs, the executive committee of the World Anti-Doping Agency announced. The ban is the most severe penalty ever assessed to a nation that participates in the Olympics. Russia has been warned before about performance drugs, but has not complied with the World Anti-Doping Code, the committee said. The president of the International Olympic Committee noted that Russia’s failure to comply was “an attack on the credibility of sport itself and … an insult to the sporting movement worldwide.” Sports leagues and organizations often penalize teams or athletes for violating rules or guidelines for behavior’. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about athletes or teams that have been penalized. Use what you read to write a sports column assessing several penalties and whether you think they were fair or appropriate.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

4. Women in Charge

The European nation of Finland has a new government, and it is one for the history books. It is led by five women, including 34-year-old Sanna Marin, the world’s youngest prime minister. Three of the other women leaders also are under age 35. Marin is a progressive and will pursue an agenda dealing with issues like climate change, equality and social welfare. After taking office, she declared “I want to build a society where every child can become anything and every person can live and grow in dignity.” Women are making gains in politics all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a woman having success or breaking new ground in politics. Use what you read to write a short editorial outlining how this woman’s success could inspire or influence others.

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

5. Big Tree, Big Dollars

In the holiday season, communities try to outdo themselves decorating and displaying lighted public trees. A coal city in the Siberia region of Russia may win the prize this year for the biggest, showiest, most expensive tree of all. A gigantic electronic tree installed in the city of Kemerovo stands more than 80 feet tall, has 239,000 lights and cost 18 million rubles, or $280,000 in American dollars. The huge price tag has drawn criticism both locally and nationally as an example of excess, waste and “corruption” in a city where many residents struggle to get by. The city’s mayor defended the purchase, saying it was a “mid-range” technology tree that will be used for years. And the attraction’s creator said it was wrong to even compare it to a traditional holiday tree. “This product cannot be called a tree,” a spokesperson said. “It's a high-tech multimedia complex which happens to look like a tree.” Local governments often are criticized for how they spend money. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a local government facing such criticism. Use what you read to design a chart or graphic organizer showing the arguments for and against the spending.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; organizing data using concrete objects, pictures, tallies, tables, charts, diagrams and graphs.