1. Books Make Great Gifts
For holidays or any day, books are gifts that keep on giving. They can be read again and again, shared with friends and family or even “re-gifted” to others. To help parents and kids choose books to give as gifts, reading organizations and experts issue lists of Best Books for Children each year around this time. There are many lists to choose from, but here are four to check out this holiday season: one from a family columnist for the Washington Post newspaper (click here), one from librarians working with Good Housekeeping magazine (click here), one featuring winners of the Coretta Scott King Awards for books written by African Americans (click here) and one for Latino/Latina children’s literature (click here). Use these lists, or the newspaper and Internet, to read about new or favorite books for students your age. Use what you read to make a list of books you would choose to give to friends, brothers, sisters or cousins for the holidays. Write a sentence or paragraph for each book, explaining why you chose it for each person. Share choices as a class and discuss.
Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.
2. Flying Record on Mars
The word “ingenuity” means the ability to do clever, new and inventive things. On the planet Mars, an American helicopter named Ingenuity (IN-jen-OO-it-ee) is thrilling scientists by doing new things its inventors never thought possible. The helicopter, which is the first to ever be landed on the so-called Red Planet, has just recorded its 35th flight and set a new record for the highest flight ever on Mars. The flight earlier this month reached an altitude of 46 feet in the thin Mars atmosphere and paved the way for future flights at even greater heights and distances, CNN News reported. Ingenuity landed on Mars a year and a half ago with the rover Perseverance and has been working as a partner and scout for rover journeys ever since. America’s NASA space agency originally planned just five flights for Ingenuity, but the 4-pound helicopter has proved tougher and more valuable than scientists had imagined. NASA is now planning to send two more helicopters to Mars on future space flights. The record flight of the helicopter Ingenuity is the latest achievement in U.S. efforts to explore the planet Mars. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about Ingenuity, Perseverance and other NASA missions to Mars. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor explaining one mission and why it is important or interesting.
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.
3. That’s Some Swimmer!
Dogs can be great pets, but they also can be great athletes. Consider the case of a 6-month-old puppy who broke away from its owner in New York City earlier this month. The puppy named Bear demonstrated amazing strength and endurance before being rescued and returned to his owner. Bear, who is a mix of the large Leonberger and Bernese breeds, broke out of his collar while out for a walk with his owner. Frightened by the noise and bustle of the city, he ran a mile and half through city streets and along a bike trail next to the famous Hudson River. Then, for reasons no one can understand, he jumped into the water and started swimming, the New York Post newspaper reported. Bear’s owner called 911, but when rescue boats didn’t find him, the owner thought Bear was lost for good. Two days later, however, Bear turned up on the opposite shore of the Hudson more than a half mile from where he went in the water. “He did like a full triathlon [race],” Wolpin said. “Because he ran about a mile-and-a-half and then swam [nearly] a mile.” Animals often make news by doing amazing or unusual things. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an animal doing something like this. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a video telling what the animal did. Write an outline for your video, including images you would use. Give your video a title that would make kids your age want to watch it.
Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.
4. Another ‘Miracle’
The town of Lake Placid, New York is world famous as the site for the “Miracle on Ice” hockey game in which the United States upset a powerful Russian team on the way to winning an Olympic gold medal. This winter, Lake Placid is offering a kind of “Miracle Off Ice,” thanks to an unusual program of the local police force. Instead of giving tickets to drivers they pull over, officers are offering “second chances” that are sometimes paired with gifts of $100 cash! The program is funded by a local “Secret Santa” who donated money to the police department, plus contributions from other residents. This month police will have $4,000 to give out to drivers in Lake Placid and neighboring Saranac Lake. “I think it’s a good change of pace,” one officer told NBC 5 TV. “Usually, we deal with people in their low moments, and it’s a good chance to turn it around [and] make someone happy.” “I definitely didn’t see this coming” said one driver who had been pulled over. People often do random acts of kindness for others during the holidays. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone who has done this. Use what you read to write a thank you letter to the person as if you were the one who was helped. Be sure to explain why the act was meaningful or special.
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.
5. Unusual Donations
In the holiday season, the bell ringers of the Salvation Army are a familiar sight outside stores and shopping malls. They collect donations in bright red kettles to provide aid to the poor, the homeless or other people in need. Many donations from shoppers come in the form of coins people have in their pockets, but sometimes unusual gifts are given as well. In the city of Des Moines, Iowa this month, bell-ringers got two extremely unusual coins as donations — and they are worth a whole lot more than a nickel or quarter. Outside one store, a shopper donated a $100 Queen Elizabeth II coin from the South Pacific nation of Australia that has a value of $2,000 or more, TV station KCCI reported. At a Town Center in West Des Moines, another shopper donated a $50 Elizabeth II coin from the nation of Canada that is valued at $1,800. In the holiday season, people often donate money to organizations that help people in need. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an organization that provides such help. Use what you read to write a short editorial urging people to support this organization — and explain why.
Common Core State Standards: Citing specific 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.