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For Grades 5-8 , week of Oct. 14, 2019

1. PlayStation 5

Video games have been hugely popular with kids for years, and none more popular than PlayStation. Now a new PlayStation is being planned, along with new offerings from Nintendo and Microsoft. PlayStation 5 will be coming out next year, the Sony company announced, and will compete with Nintendo’s Switch handheld-hybrid machine and Microsoft’s console known only as “Project Scarlett.” All three products may be the last to operate with a console, because future products are being developed to stream games digitally from “the cloud.” For the last six years, Sony has led in the sale of game consoles. PlayStation 4 sold 100 million consoles worldwide, Microsoft’s Xbox One sold roughly 50 million in the same time period and the Nintendo Switch sold more than 36 million. The announcement of PlayStation 5 was big news in the entertainment world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another big development in entertainment. Use what you read to write a consumer column, detailing the new development, why it is important and whom it will affect most.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

2. Vaping Lawsuits

Vaping and e-cigarettes continue to grow in popularity across the country, particularly among teens and pre-teens. That has left national, community and school leaders scrambling to find ways to deal with what health leaders say is an “epidemic” problem. Approaches being tried range from bans on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, to nicotine testing programs for students, to decisions by major store chains to stop selling vaping products altogether. Now four U.S. school districts are trying a new approach. They are suing the e-cigarette company Juul, charging that it targeted teenagers in its marketing and made the vaping epidemic worse. The four districts in the states of Kansas, New York, Missouri and Washington State say they have decided to “go on the offensive” against companies like Juul that “want to make money at children’s expense.” According to the latest statistics, more than 1,000 people have been sickened and at least 21 people have died in connection with vaping. The popularity of vaping has raised concerns in communities across the nation. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories detailing how different communities are responding. Use what you read to write a short editorial, outlining approaches you think would be most effective for addressing the risks of vaping.

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.

3. Wind Power

To reduce global warming, more and more nations are looking for alternatives to fossil fuels like oil, which create greenhouse gases when burned to create electricity. “Renewable” energy sources like wind power are getting more and more attention, and the European nation of Britain is one of the leaders when it comes to wind. Britain is creating the world’s largest offshore wind farm off its east coast, and when it is completed it will produce enough energy to provide electricity for one million British homes. The project includes 174 giant wind turbines, with towers 100 meters tall and blades as big as ferris wheels. Just a single rotation of one of the blades can power the average home for a day, CNN News reports. The wind farm is located 75 miles off England’s coast and is expected to be completed in 2020. It will bring Britain closer to its goal of generating one-third of the country’s electricity from wind by the year 2030. Many communities are embracing renewable energy to reduce the greenhouse gases produced by burning fossil fuels. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one community’s efforts and experience. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor detailing what this community’s experience could teach yours.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing.

4. Chimp Art

Chimpanzees are among the closest relatives to humans in the animal world — and they share many talents and skills with people. In the 1950s, a chimpanzee named Congo demonstrated he had the ability to create paintings similar to those created by humans. This winter, 55 of those paintings will go on sale for art collectors and animal lovers — and they are expected to bring a total price of nearly $250,000. As part of a scientific experiment, Congo created 400 paintings in a modern “expressionist” style over a three-year period. Congo’s paintings are “actually very good,” according to head of the art gallery that will sell them. “He’d think before he painted,” gallery owner James Mayor said in an interview. “... He was extraordinary.” Art sales and art exhibits call attention to the talents and approach of artists. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an artist whose work is being featured in an exhibit in your community or state. Study photos of the artist’s work. Then think like an art critic and write a review of the artist’s work. Tell what you like or dislike about the work and whether you think people will respond favorably to the exhibit.

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

5. A Nation That Smokes

In the European nation of Greece, more of the population smokes than in any other country in Europe. Nearly 2 of every 5 Greeks over the age of 15 smoke every day, according to the latest statistics. And they smoke everywhere — even though a national law bans smoking in many public places. That may be changing under new prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Mitsotakis wants Greece to improve its health and well-being by enforcing an anti-smoking law passed nearly 10 years ago. Already, Mitsotakis is making progress. When his government took office in July, staffers and politicians stopped smoking inside the Parliament building. People also are starting to follow non-smoking rules in department stores, some new restaurants and the Metro transportation system. The goal is to reduce medical costs and bring the country up to the health standards of other European nations. According to the World Health Organization, Greece is one of the heaviest smoking countries in the world. Greece’s crackdown on smoking is a major effort to improve the public health of the nation. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another nation making a significant effort to improve public health. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper explaining the country’s effort, why it is important and what it has achieved.

Common Core State Standards: Citing textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.