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For Grades 9-12 , week of Feb. 06, 2012

1. Sacrifice of the Fourth Estate

Being a journalist can mean anything from being in front of a camera, behind a camera, covering stories for a newspaper or even working for an online publication. It also can mean putting your life on the line to cover a story. On February 10, 1971, four journalists were killed when their helicopter crashed in the Southeast Asian country of Laos while covering the Vietnam War. In Pakistan in 2002, terrorists kidnapped and killed Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal writer. Later, ABC co-anchor Bob Woodruff spent a month in a coma after being severely injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq. Recently Somali pirates kidnapped American journalist Michael Scott Moore. Moore was in the African nation of Somalia to research a book he is writing about piracy. The kidnappers are threatening his life if Navy SEALS attempt to rescue him. Search the newspaper or Internet for stories for which the writer may have put him or herself in danger for the story. Discuss as a class if you would do that.

Core/National Standard: Initiating and participating effectively in a range of collaborative discussions, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

2. African American Heritage Month

February is African American Heritage Month. Find an article in this week's newspaper about an African American who is achieving great things. Then, using other resources, research an African American from the past who excelled in the same field. Write brief biographies of each person and then compare the two people.

Core/National Standard: Understanding narratives about major eras of American and world history by identifying the people involved, describing the setting and sequencing the events.

3. Unplugged and Happy

Cell phone. Bluetooth. Texting. Talking. Tweeting. Facebook. People are more connected today than ever before, and not necessarily in a good way, says Jake Reilly, a 24-year-old college student from Chicago. According to a Yahoo! News article, Reilly unplugged from all forms of social media for 90 days recently, because he said he “felt that we spend more quality time with gadgets and keyboards than we do with the people we really care about.” He called his social experiment the “Amish Project.” By the end, he said he discovered who his real friends were; he had more time to study, and he preferred talking to his friends face to face. Find a newspaper article that talks about the effect of social media on the lives of people. As a class, talk about the good and bad effects you have experienced. Challenge yourselves to go one week without any social media and then write about what it was like.

Core/National Standard: Assessing the influence of television, the Internet and other forms of electronic communication on the creation and diffusion of cultural and political information worldwide.

4. What Do You Really Think?

If you are ever looking for people with strong opinions, look no further than a book reviewer. Reviewers express their thoughts on literature and nonfiction with brutal honesty. David Gates, for example, wrote in the New York Times Sunday Book Review recently that Elliot Perlman’s “The Street Sweeper” was the perfect example of how not to write fiction. On the other hand, Janet Maslin heaped praise on Katherine Boo’s “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity.” The book is a nonfiction account of a Mumbai slum and a boy accused of murder, and Maslin called it an “exquisitely accomplished first book.” Search your newspaper for a book review. Or find one online. Using it as an example, read a book you think your classmates would like and write a review of it. Share reviews to give classmates ideas about other good books to read.

Core/National Standard: Analyzing and evaluating the effectiveness of the structure an author uses in his or her exposition or argument, including whether the structure makes points clear, convincing and engaging

5. A Balancing Act

John Wisely, a staff reporter for the Detroit Free Press, had a story to cover. He needed to cover a hearing about unpaid property taxes. Not a sexy, hard-hitting story, but he found a balance by telling two stories in one. One story was the amount of unpaid taxes owed the city. The other was the human story that put a face on the situation. To tell that story Wisely focused on Heidi Young, a 40-year-old who had gotten laid off three years earlier and her quest to keep her home. Search your newspaper for a story that has more than one key element. Write a summary of the different elements that are important to the story.

Core/National Standards: Determining two or more central ideas of a text and analyzing their development over the course of the text; providing an objective summary of the text.