1. Young Grammy Nominees
Every year the Grammy Awards honor top performances in the music world. And this year young artists are getting a lot of attention. Leading the way is the pop and R&B star Lizzo, who has been nominated for eight awards, including the “Big Four” of album of the year, record of the year, song of the year and best new artist. Close behind, with six nominations each, are Eilish, a 17-year-old alternative music artist, and Lil Nas X, a 20-year-old who created the wildly popular “country-rap” hit “Old Town Road.” Among this year’s other top nominees are pop-R&B star Ariana Grande and the young R&B singer H.E.R., with five nominations each. The awards ceremony will be held on January 26 in Los Angeles, California. If you were giving out Grammy Awards, which music artists or songs would you honor? In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about this year’s Grammies and the nominations for awards. Then think like a music critic and write a column for the newspaper listing artists you would honor and why. Share and discuss choices as a class.
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.
2. Threat to the Amazon
South America’s Amazon rain forest is the largest in the world. It is about the size of the United States (excluding Alaska) and bigger than the next two rain forests combined. It is home to more than 16,000 tree species and is often referred to as the “lungs” of the Earth because it produces 20 percent of the oxygen in the atmosphere. The Amazon’s ability to produce all that oxygen (through the plant process known as photosynthesis) may be undermined in the future by people cutting more of its trees for materials and development. Especially in the nation of Brazil, which controls two-thirds of the Amazon’s territory. Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro wants to develop the Amazon to help the Brazilian economy, and his policies already are having a huge impact. According to new data from the Brazilian government, deforestation of the Amazon in the last 12 months has reached its highest level in 11 years, CNN News reports. About 3,769 square miles of rain forest were lost or cut in the previous 12 months, a nearly 30 percent increase over the 12 months before that. Much of the deforestation has been caused by illegal fires set to clear jungle areas for farming, mining or other activities. Efforts to protect the Amazon rain forest have been going on for years. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about past efforts and new threats. Use what you read to write a short editorial offering ideas on how to balance protection of the environment with economic development.
Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.
3. Anti-Nuke Pope
As head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis is the moral leader of the world’s Catholics. He has not been shy about using his position to speak out on issues, and this month he spoke out against nuclear weapons. In visits to two Japanese cities destroyed by nuclear bombs at the end of World War II, the Pope said it was “immoral” to use them and called for a “world without nuclear weapons.” “We will be judged on this,” the Pope said while visiting the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which were leveled by nuclear bombs dropped in 1945 by the United States. Pope Francis has been outspoken on many issues since becoming Pope in 2013. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about issues the Pope has spoken out on. Pick one and write a letter to the editor, telling why world leaders should follow the advice of the Pope, or not.
Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; citing textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.
4. Bye-Bye, Bei Bei
Since he was born in 2015, the giant panda named Bei Bei has been one of the most popular attractions at the National Zoo in Washington, DC. But under an agreement with the Asian nation of China, Bei Bei is on the move. China gave the national zoo its first pandas in 1972, but under a later agreement between China and the United States all pandas born at the zoo must be returned to China when they turn 4 years old. Pandas are native to China, and the Asian nation is working to rebuild the population of the black-and-white bears living in the wild. Bei Bei was given celebrity treatment on his trip to China. He was the only passenger on a Boeing 777 jet called the Panda Express. With just 1,800 pandas living in natural habitats, pandas are listed as a “vulnerable” species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read another story about a wildlife species that is considered vulnerable, threatened or endangered. Use what you read to write a personal letter to a friend, telling what risks or problems the species faces, what people are doing about it and what remains to be done to ensure the survival of the species.
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.
Illegal drug traffickers are constantly looking for ways to elude police and enforcement officials. They have tried tunnels and drones and even submarines in an attempt to avoid detection in their smuggling efforts. In the European nation of Spain this month, they tried to smuggle cocaine into the country by using a 72-foot semi-submersible submarine. It didn’t work. In an inter-agency operation, authorities seized the “narco sub” and the more than 3,000 kilograms of cocaine it was carrying off the coast of northwestern Spain. The cocaine, which could be worth as much as $75 million if sold on the street, is believed to have originated in the South American nation of Colombia. At least two men were arrested. Movies often are made from real-life operations like the seizure of the “narco sub.” In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an event or adventure that would make a good action movie. Write a plot summary for your movie, including how it would begin and how it would end. Give your movie an eye-catching title that would make viewers your age want to see it.
Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; citing visual and textual evidence when writing or speaking.