1. NFL Playoffs
The NFL playoffs are under way, and this weekend the two top teams will be in action for the first time. The Green Bay Packers and the Tennessee Titans earned a week off from the competition because they had the two best records in pro football’s regular season. The Packers won 13 games in the National Football Conference, with just 4 losses. The Titans won 12 games against just 5 losses in the American Football Conference. The Packers and Titans will play the winners of “wildcard” games played last weekend, and their coaches are sure to be reminding them that the teams with the best records don’t always win in the playoffs. Under the NFL format, a single loss knocks a team out of the playoff picture. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about Green Bay, Tennessee or another NFL team you like. Use what you read to write a sports column discussing what could be the biggest challenge this team will face from its playoff opponent next weekend.
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. What a Good Deed!
In times of severe weather, people often go out of their way to help others. Few go as far out of their way as an Uber rideshare driver did in the Virginia-Washington, DC area earlier this month. When a giant snowstorm stranded hundreds of people on Interstate 95, DaVante Williams was unable to get a teenage passenger he had picked up in Washington home to her parents in Virginia. Unlike many drivers, he managed to get turned around on I-95 and was able to return to the nation’s capital city. But he worried about the safety of the girl, who was exhausted and stressed from the trip. So with his own money (and her parents’ permission), he got her a room at a Washington hotel where she could rest up and relax until the roads were cleared, CNN News reported. A family friend later picked her up and took her home. The story wasn’t over for Williams, however. When word got out about his good deed, he not only was paid back for the cost of the hotel room, he was offered a better job with another rideshare company. People often make news by doing good deeds for others. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a person doing this. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor telling how this good deed could inspire others to do good deeds. Or write about a good deed you would like to do after reading the story.
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.
3. Snowy Sensation
Snowy owls love wide open spaces. They breed in the summer in the treeless tundra regions near the Earth’s North Pole and spend winters farther south on beaches, farm fields and airport lands. So it was a surprise this winter when a snowy owl turned up in the city of Washington, DC and took up residence near the Union Station transportation center just blocks from the U.S. Capitol Building. The young female owl perched atop statues and buildings as if posing for pictures and hunted for rats and pigeons, to the delight officials seeking to control those species. Snowy owls, which are the largest North American owl by weight, are not common in the Washington, DC area, but this one made itself right at home. She was “killing it,” one naturalist told the Washington Post newspaper. “She’s doing marvelously, and she’s doing us a favor with the rats.” Snowy owls weigh about 4 pounds on average — one pound heavier than a Great Horned Owl. They stand up to 28 inches high with a wingspan of 57 inches. Wildlife lovers often get excited when they get a chance to see a species more closely than usual. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about people getting to do this — and how they responded. Then use the Internet or newspaper to find a photo of a species you would like to see up close. Write a letter to a friend telling how you would feel if you got to do this.
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.
4. ‘Sea Dragon’
In the world of dinosaurs, ichthyosaurs were giant fish-lizards that were fierce hunters in oceans and other waterways. They had pointed snouts, sharp teeth and fins that allowed them to hunt down a wide variety of prey nearly 200-million years ago. Not to mention huge heads and scary, bulgy eyes. A new discovery in the European nation of England is giving scientists an eye-opening picture of what ichthyosaurs (ICK-thee-uh-sors) looked like. And it’s being called one of the finest fossil finds ever in England and Great Britain. The ichthyosaur, which scientists are calling a “sea dragon,” was a complete skeleton, 32-feet long with a giant head that weighed more than 2,000 pounds. It was found at the bottom of a reservoir when the water body was drained for repair and upkeep, the Washington Post newspaper reported. Though ichthyosaurs first appeared on Earth 250-million years ago, scientists estimate this one lived about 180-million years in the past. Ichthyosaurs died out about 90-million years ago. Fossil discoveries give scientists new information about species that lived in the distant past. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another fossil discovery. Use what you read to prepare a TV news report about the discovery, detailing how it was made and why it is important to scientists.
Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.
5. Wow — That’s Hot
Because the Earth is tilted as it orbits the sun, the seasons in the northern and southern parts of the world occur at opposite times during the year. When it is winter in the Northern Hemisphere north of the equator, it is summer in the Southern Hemisphere south of the equator, and just the opposite when it is summer in the north and winter in the south. Right now, it is summer in the Southern Hemisphere and what a hot summer it is. The South Pacific nation of Australia has just recorded an all-time high temperature of 123.3 degrees Fahrenheit, tying the record for the highest temperature ever in the Southern Hemisphere. The record setting temperature, which occurred during a massive heat wave, fell well short of the highest recorded temperature in the Northern Hemisphere —129.9 degrees logged at Death Valley, California in the summers of 2020 and 2021. The Australia record was achieved the same week that several of the world’s top climate institutions announced that the past seven years have been the hottest in recorded history. Scientists are concerned that the Earth is warming and how that will affect wildlife and the environment. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about warming temperatures on Earth. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short report on how warming temperatures are affecting a region of the Earth or the Earth as a whole. Find photos in the newspaper or online to illustrate your report.
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.