For Grades 5-8 , week of Aug. 02, 2021

1. Singing ‘Simpsons’

In all the years “The Simpsons” has been on television, you might think it has done all that can be done on a TV show. But when the program kicks off this fall, it will do something it has never tried before. The program will launch its 33rd season with an episode that is all music from start to finish. On top of that, the episode titled “The Star of the Backstage” will feature “Frozen” actress Kristen Bell singing the voice of Marge Simpson. “The Simpsons” has had lots of musical numbers over the years, mostly parodies of other songs, but this all-musical episode will feature all original songs. “The premiere this year is the most musical episode we’ve ever done – almost wall-to-wall music,” said executive producer Matt Selman. “It’s like a Broadway musical of an episode.” Parody songs use the music and rhythm of familiar songs and change the words in a humorous way. Often they are used to comment on events or famous people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a topic that would be a good subject for a parody song. Pick a popular or familiar song and rewrite the words to create a parody talking about your subject in a humorous way. Share with friends and family. Better yet, sing it out!

Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; reading prose and poetry orally with accuracy, appropriate rate and expression on successive readings.

2. Medalists at 13

For the first time, women’s street skateboarding was included as a sport at this year’s Summer Olympics. And when the competition was over, the top finishers were stars of the next generation. Both the gold and silver medal winners are 13 years old! Gold medal winner Momiji Nishiya is a rising star from the Asian nation of Japan. Silver winner Rayssa Leal hails from the South American nation of Brazil. They finished one-two by pulling off a series of daring leaps and maneuvers off ramps and railings and by taking risks on their boards that few females have tried before them. “In the last two years the level [of competition] has been incredible to see,” said American fourth-place finisher Alexis Sablone, who at 34 is more than twice the age of Nishiya and Leal. “ … They’re going to show other girls around the world what’s possible.” Adolescents and teenagers often do incredible things in sports or other fields. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a young person doing this. Use what you read to plan a newspaper or magazine interview about this person’s achievements. Write out five questions you would ask about succeeding at such a young age, how they prepared and how they feel about success. List images you would use in your report.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

3. ‘Pay It Forward’

Piano players play in many locations, and they often rely on tips to supplement what they are paid. In the state of Georgia recently, a piano player at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport got the tip of a lifetime after a traveler heard him play. Tonee “Valentine” Carter was working his usual gig at a pizzeria and bar when Carlos Whittaker walked by. Whittaker, who is a motivational speaker and Internet “influencer,” was wowed by Carter’s enthusiasm and playing. And then he had an idea. “I was like, ‘what would happen if I asked my Instagram followers if we could give him the biggest tip he’s ever gotten?’” he told CNN News. He posted a video of Carter playing and “within 30 minutes, we had raised $10,000.” And it didn’t stop there. Whittaker’s 200,000 followers kept giving … and giving … and giving, and eventually the total rose to more than $60,000. “I just lost it,” Carter recalled. “I just couldn't believe it.” Though he has medical problems, Carter says he won’t keep the money for himself. “That $60,000 is not mine. It’s money that's going to go to others,” Carter told CNN. “There is only one way to say thank you … and that is to pay this forward.” People often “pay it forward” when they experience good fortune. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a person who has had good fortune such as winning a lottery or inheriting money. Write a letter to this person suggesting ways they could pay their good fortune forward by helping others. Finish by discussing how you might “pay it forward” if you experienced good fortune.

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

4. Zap! It’s Raining!

Countries all over the world are having to deal with record temperatures, droughts and lack of rain this summer. In the Middle East nation of the United Arab Emirates, scientists are trying to do something about it. In an experimental program, scientists are using drone aircraft to zap clouds with electricity and make it rain. The zapping forces the clouds together and allows larger raindrops to form within them, the Washington Post newspaper reports. The larger raindrops then have a better chance of reaching the ground without evaporating in the intense Middle East heat. Water is a big challenge in the UAE, which has a growing population and only gets about 4 inches of rain a year. In addition to the drone project, the government has built 70 desalinization plants to remove salt from sea water and has even entertained the idea of building a mountain that would create rain clouds. The UAE drone project is an example of technology being used in a new way to solve a problem. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another new use of technology to deal with a problem. Use what you read to prepare a PowerPoint detailing what the problem is, how the new technology seeks to solve it and how that would be an improvement over approaches used in the past.

Common Core State Standards: Integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

5. Like Father, Like Son

It’s not unusual for a boy to pick up his father’s interests, or even his career. It IS unusual for a boy to set a state fishing record, in the same place as his dad, for the same species, exactly one year apart. Yet that’s exactly what 13-year-old Robert R.J. Audrain IV did. The youth from the city of St. Louis caught a 5-ounce long-ear sunfish early last month that broke a state record set by his father. Robert caught the fish in a private pond on July 3, the same date and place his father had caught a 4-ounce long-ear to set a state record in 2020, state fishing officials said. “It’s cool I beat my dad’s record,” Robert said. Long-ear sunfish are small, colorful fish, with a speckled blue-brown back, bright orange belly and blue-green bars on the sides of their head. An elongated flap protecting the breathing gills behind their eyes gives them the name “long-ear.” From sports to business to hobbies, fathers and sons — and mothers and daughters — often have success in the same fields. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about parents and children who have had this kind of success. Use what you read to write a personal column examining what advantages and disadvantages a son or daughter would face by being in the same field as a parent. Include how you would feel if you were to follow in the same field or interest as a parent.

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.