For Grades 5-8 , week of May 24, 2021

1. To Mask or Not?

The decision by federal officials to ease mask requirements for those who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus was hailed by many as a milestone in the battle against the disease. But the sudden decision by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has caused confusion and uncertainty among government leaders, businesses and individuals. The decision to allow vaccinated people to go unmasked in most indoor and outdoor situations caught many off guard and left both businesses and individuals wondering how they can tell if everyone going without a mask has actually been vaccinated. Others felt the decision was made too soon, even though cases are dropping in some areas as vaccinations rise. “It came out of left field,” one business owner in Montana told the New York Times. While residents of some states didn’t wear masks even when they were required, those in places where masks have been common are reluctant to give up the “safety blanket” they provide. “It’s just so much uncertainty with the one thing that’s helped us feel safe in a really scary time,” one shop owner in Nebraska said. Every business, community or individual is having to adjust to looser regulations for mask wearing. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about how people in your community or state are responding. Use what you read to write an editorial outlining how you think businesses and individuals should respond to the new guidelines.

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.

2. Summer Olympics

The 2020 Summer Olympics in the Asian nation of Japan were postponed last year due to the worldwide coronavirus epidemic. Now the Games are in danger of being canceled outright due to an upsurge in virus cases in Japan and its capital city of Tokyo. Government and business leaders have spoken out about the risks of holding the Games, and a leading group of doctors has called on the International Olympic Committee to call off the Games completely. At the same time, an online petition against holding the Games has gained more than 350,000 signatures. So far, the Olympic Committee has resisted calls to cancel, saying the Games can go forward safely from July 23 to August 8 with safety precautions in place. Still, people are uncomfortable, as Japan is now battling its fourth wave of virus infections and a state of emergency has been declared in Tokyo and other regions. The Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association, which represents about 6,000 primary care doctors, said hospitals in Tokyo “have their hands full and have almost no spare capacity” amid a surge in infections. While acknowledging health concerns, the Olympic Committee has said it must also consider the aspirations of athletes who have trained for years for the Olympics and the interests of businesses that have signed on as sponsors. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about holding the Summer Olympics. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor giving your view on whether the Games should be held or canceled.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

3. Titanic Attraction

The sinking of the luxury ship Titanic is one of the most famous — and tragic — events in the history of ocean travel. The British ship sank in 1912 when it hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean on its very first voyage, killing 1,517 of the 2,223 passengers and crew on board. Its story has been told in countless books and in an Oscar-winning movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Now its story will be told in a new way at an amusement park in the Asian nation of China. The Romandisea theme park is re-creating the Titanic at its full size and with many of its original features. The “Unsinkable Titanic” at the park will be 882 feet long and 92 feet wide and include banquet halls, theaters, observation decks and sleeping quarters where guests can stay overnight, CNN News reports. It will be permanently docked in a reservoir in the Qijiang River, several hundred miles from the sea in southwestern China. No opening date has been set for the project, which began in 2016 and will cost an estimated $153.5-million to build. Every year amusement parks come up with more and more elaborate attractions to entertain visitors. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about top new attractions at parks this year. Think like an entertainment writer and write a column highlighting two or three attractions you think would be worth considering. Support your choices with details from your reading.

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. Jenga World Record

Jenga is a game of skill and strategy. It challenges players to remove rectangular blocks from a tower and restack them at the top — without knocking the tower over. It can get pretty tricky, when many blocks are removed and restacked. To make the game even trickier, some players try to see how many Jenga blocks they can stack on top of a single block in a kind of reverse pyramid. Now a 12-year-old from the Canadian province of British Columbia has set a new world record for this form of Jenga — stacking a whopping 1,400 blocks on top of a single block, according to the Guinness World Records organization. In achieving this feat, Auldin Maxwell more than doubled the world record he set by stacking 638 Jenga blocks on top of a single block, UPI News reported. Auldin also holds the world record for stacking giant Jenga blocks, with 500 giant blocks on a single block. Jenga is a game families and friends can play together at home. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about other games people have been playing together at home during the coronavirus emergency. Or find some in ads. Pick one you have played, or would like to play. Write a paragraph telling why you think this game would be fun to play with friends.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

5. Singing on the Job

In her famous Disney movie, Snow White teaches the forest animals that life can be more fun if you “Whistle While You Work.” At a McDonald’s in the state of Minnesota, a young takeout worker is showing customers that life can be more fun if you SING while you work. Twenty-two-year-old Daniel Marshall sings every order, starting with the McDonald’s jingle that begins with the musical notes “BA, da-, ba, DA, DA!” Customers love his happy, enthusiastic approach. “He brightens my day!” said one. “Daniel is outstanding,” said another. “You have found a gem,” says a third. Marshall, who has autism, wasn’t always so outgoing. “I was different,” he told a local TV station. “I was called names, like, I was dumb, I was stupid.” The taunting continued through high school and after at his first job. Then he found the McDonald’s in the city of Arden Hills and clicked with the manager. “I understand how he ticks,” manager Ashley Sicora says. “My youngest son is actually autistic as well.” Daniel is successful, she says because he “puts everything he has” into customer service. Daniel Marshall succeeds at his job because he uses his personality to enhance his skills. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone else who succeeds on the job by the way they use their personality. Use what you read to write a letter to a business owner telling why “Personality Counts!”

Common Core State Standards: Applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; demonstrating understanding of figurative language.