For Grades 9-12 THE WEEK OF Nov. 16, 2020

1. The Count Controversy

The dispute over the vote count in the presidential election continues to divide America. Democrat Joe Biden has been declared the winner by news networks and voting officials in individual states and is moving forward to organize and plan his administration. President Trump, meanwhile, refuses to accept that he has lost and is proceeding with lawsuits and requests for recounts to overturn the vote totals on grounds there was “voter fraud” in key states like Pennsylvania, Georgia and Wisconsi. State officials have responded emphatically that there were no irregularities or fraud in either balloting or the vote count. Trump supporters in the U.S. House and Senate have not acknowledged Biden’s apparent victory or the fact he carried the popular vote nationwide by more than 5-million ballots. Biden is assuring supporters he will prevail in both the courts and recounts and urging patience and focus among his supporters. The events that have followed the vote in this year’s presidential race are unlike any that have happened in the history of the United States. In the newspaper or online, closely read stories this week about the latest developments. Use what you read to write a political column assessing the impact of the challenges and uncertainty on the nation going forward. Discuss with family, friends or classmates.

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; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

2. Power of Young Poets

The year 2020 has been a year of great turmoil. From the Black Lives Matter movement, to the presidential race, to the coronavirus epidemic, Americans have had to deal with new challenges, new problems and new ways of doing things. They’ve also had to find new ways to express their concerns about problems in virtual protests, online gatherings and Zoom collaborations. And they’ve had to learn to listen to a new generation of leaders. A project organized by the New York Times newspaper is doing that — and connecting with an old form of communication at the same time. The Times’ Young Black Poets program sought out the best young poets in America and showcased their work online as a “call for change” on a variety of issues. The young poets, most of whom were in high school, addressed police violence, racism, politics, the coronavirus and other topics causing turmoil in the nation through the eyes of writers 12 to 19. They can be seen reading their works online by clicking here.

The famous poet Robert Frost once said that “Poetry is a way of taking life by the throat.” He meant that poetry gives people a way to express intense feelings about topics that are both public and personal. View some of the poets reading their works for the Young Black Poets project. Then use the newspaper or Internet to closely read stories about a subject that affects you that you feel intensely about. Write a poem expressing the intensity of your feelings and how the issue has affected your life. Don’t hold back. Grab the topic “by the throat,” as Robert Frost might have said. Read poems aloud with family, friends and classmates.

Common Core State Standards: Reading prose and poetry orally with accuracy, appropriate rate and expression on successive readings; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts.

3. Nutty Tuition

In the United States and other countries, students and their families sometimes struggle to pay for college. It’s been especially hard during the coronavirus epidemic, when businesses have closed and people have lost jobs. In the Southeast Asian nation of Indonesia, a school on the tourist island of Bali has come up with an unusual way to help students pay the bills. The Venus One Tourism Academy has told students that they can pay their tuition in coconuts! Of course, it takes a lot of coconuts to cover the school’s tuition fees that run between $560 and $700 in U.S. dollars. Students are paid market price for any coconuts they bring in, which amounts to about 35 cents per coconut. The school uses the coconuts to produce virgin coconut oil for cooking, heath products and skin care. If they can’t find coconuts, the school also lets students pay tuition costs with moringa and gotu kola leaves, which can be converted into herbal soaps. The Venus One coconut plan is a creative way to help students pay school tuition. Many students around the world have to get creative to find ways to pay their tuition. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about unusual ways students have raised money for tuition and other school costs. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend or classmate discussing approaches that might be the most helpful for other students.

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.

4. He’s an Ironman!

Ironman competitions are among the most grueling in the world, challenging participants to swim 2.4 miles, ride a bike for 112 miles and run a 26.2-mile marathon — all in one day. Participants who complete this super-triathlon get to proclaim “I Am an Ironman!” and now a Special Olympics athlete from Florida has claimed that honor. Twenty-one-year old Chris Nikic became the first athlete with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman when he finished the Ironman Florida competition this month in 16 hours 46 minutes and 9 seconds. While completing the race, Nikic had to overcome both large and small obstacles. He fell off his bike at one point and was attacked by ants at a nutrition stop, CNN News reported, but he kept going and persevered. “We are beyond inspired, and your accomplishment is a defining moment in Ironman history that can never be taken away from you," the Ironman Triathlon organization said in an online post to Twitter. “I achieved my goal and now I want to help others like me,” Nikic wrote to Instagram. The Special Olympics give athletes with special needs a chance to show their abilities and determination. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about Special Olympics competitions and some of the athletes who compete. Use what you read to write a sports column outlining how the attitude and determination of Special Olympians could inspire and educate all athletes.

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

5. A Girl at Last

There’s an old saying that declares “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” A husband and wife in the state of Michigan certainly have been living by that motto. As they expanded their family in the hope of having a daughter, they finally got a baby girl — after 14 sons! Kateri and Jay Schwandt had their first child Tyler 28 years ago and their last just this month when daughter Maggie Jayne was born. In between they had 13 other boys: Zach, Drew, Brandon, Tommy, Vinny, Calvan, Gabe, Wesley, Charlie, Luke, Tucker, Francisco and Finley. Maggie Jayne weighed 7 pounds, 8 ounces, and father Jay told the Detroit Free Press newspaper that “We are overjoyed and beyond excited to add Maggie Jayne to our family. … Maggie is the greatest gift we could ever imagine.” Large families present special challenges for parents and for children within those families. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about large families and the challenges they experience. Write a paragraph detailing how successful large families “make it work” and how family members feel about the approaches.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.