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For Grades K-4 , week of Jan. 08, 2024

1. HAPPY NEW YEAR

Millions of people tune in every New Year’s Eve to watch a giant, sparkling crystal ball descend at midnight to mark the moment the year changes. But in towns across the country, other objects are used for the year-end ritual. Mt. Olive, North Carolina, drops a giant pickle in honor of the Mt. Olive Pickle Company. Mobile, Alabama, uses a 600-pound MoonPie, a s’mores-like treat popular in the South. In the laid-back beach town of Folly Beach, South Carolina, they use a giant flip-flop shoe, while Temecula, California, has lit-up grapes to symbolize its location among the state’s many vineyards. What item would you use on New Year’s Eve that symbolizes your life, family, or community? Draw what it would look like and write a description of why you chose that item.

2. SNAIL MAIL

When you mail something with the US Postal Service, you expect it will be delivered soon after. But what if something you sent took a whole lifetime to arrive? That was the case with a letter mailed to an Illinois couple in 1943. It was lost at the post office for eighty years—likely because the sender had written the street but not the house number—before a worker found it and decided to track down family members of the original recipients. It finally made it to a relative who lived in Portland, Oregon, thanks to that postal worker’s efforts. Write your own letter as if it’s going to be delivered to a family member decades from now. What kind of things would you want to tell them about you and your life? What about the community you live in?

3. READING REWRITE

New York schools have fallen behind the rest of the country when it comes to teaching reading. Last year, fewer than half of the third graders in the state scored well on state reading tests. Now, New York’s governor is trying to fix it by changing the way reading is taught in schools. Teachers will be retrained on the “science of reading,” helping them understand new ways of teaching children to sound out words, understand their meaning, and expand their vocabulary. This is different from previous ways, like teaching children to guess words using pictures for clues. Experts say that way doesn’t teach enough understanding of phonics, or the way sounds represent letters or groups of letters. Why do you think it’s important to understand how to read? Studies say children who don’t learn how to read well are more likely to dropS out of school later on—why do you think that is? What are some ways that reading in the classroom could be more fun, so kids are more likely to want to do it? Write down some of your answers and share them with your classmates.

4. PUMPKIN PROBLEM

A woman in Florida is suing Hershey’s because one of their products doesn’t look the way it’s pictured on the wrapper. Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins are a specialty Reese’s Cup sold every year around Halloween. The wrapper shows a chocolate pumpkin with a cutout jack-o-lantern face on it, but the product inside is just the pumpkin-shaped peanut butter filling covered in chocolate without the face detail. A Florida woman has filed a lawsuit against Hershey’s, the maker of Reese’s products, calling it false representation of their product. She said she was misled by the packaging and wouldn’t have bought the pumpkins if she knew they didn’t have the jack-o-lantern face on them. Write a summary of this story, using facts you read here.

5. MUSIC MAVEN

Taylor Swift has broken another record with her music. In the past two years, she’s released her old albums that she’s re-recorded, labeled “Taylor’s Version,” which include new bonus songs. They’ve been so popular, she’s now been at number 1 on Billboard’s music charts 68 times from 13 albums. She’s now appeared at number 1 more than any other solo artist, beating out Elvis Presley for the top spot. The Beatles are the only act to have been at number 1 more times at 132. Her latest rerelease, “1989 (Taylor’s Version),” has been streamed more than one billion times in the United States alone. If you could interview Taylor Swift about her music, write five questions you would ask her.