1. Fighting ‘Fake News’
The Internet is a tremendous source of information, but it is also a great source of misinformation, or “fake news.” In 2016, agents of the European nation of Russia used the Internet to spread thousands of “fake news” stories to influence the U.S. presidential election, and the trend continues in other countries. To combat the influence of “fake news,” the European nation of Finland has launched a program to build critical thinking and fact-checking skills of both students and adults. The program teaches how to recognize “fake news” sources, test their accuracy and question the origins and purpose of stories spread on social media like Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit and Twitter. It teaches people to recognize the techniques used by Internet “trolls” to appeal to emotions with half-truths, “clickbait” articles or inflammatory information. It encourages people to question everything they see or read on the Internet, even if it looks like it is from an “official” source. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about ways to recognize “fake news” or misinformation on the Internet. Use what you read to write a consumer column for the newspaper, detailing ways people can “fact check” or use critical thinking to determine the accuracy of Internet information.
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.
2. Gooey Protests
“Milkshaking” sounds like something you would do for fun at a fast food restaurant. But in advance of elections in Great Britain on the continent of Europe, it has become a form of political protest. In recent weeks, British protestors have taken to throwing milkshakes purchased at places like McDonald’s and Burger King at politicians whose policies they dislike. Among the politicians targeted have been the leader of Britain’s Brexit Party, another politician who is a member of Britain’s Independence Party, plus the former leader of the English Defense League. Brexit leader Nigel Farage complained that the threat of “milkshaking” is making “normal campaigning … impossible” and he filed charges against the protestor who doused him with a milkshake in the city of Newcastle. Concerned about escalation, police in Scotland ordered a McDonald’s to stop selling milkshakes while Farage spoke nearby. Political protests come in many forms. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about different protests involving issues or political candidates. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor analyzing several approaches and which you think are the most effective.
Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.
3. ‘Do or Die’
Extreme emergencies are often referred to as “do or die” moments. A farmer from the state of Nebraska learned that first hand this spring, when his leg got caught in a grain auger and was being pulled into the machine. He literally had to DO something or face the possibility he could DIE from a deadly accident. To save his life, 63-year-old Kurtis Kaser took drastic action by cutting his leg off with a pocket knife before it could be pulled into the auger. He then painfully crawled on his elbows until he reached his house and could call for help. ‘I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t know how long I would keep my consciousness,” he told CNN news, but he wasn’t about to give up. The lower portion of his leg could not be recovered, but Kaser will be able to walk again with an artificial leg. Kurtis Kaser displayed tremendous courage when he cut his leg off to save his life. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another person showing great courage. Write the word COURAGE down the side of a sheet of paper. Use each letter to start a word or phrase telling how the person demonstrated courage. You can turn your phrases into a poem, if you like.
Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; organizing data using concrete objects, pictures, tallies, tables, charts, diagrams and graphs.
4. Home to Libraries
In most cities, public housing is designed to provide safe and affordable housing for lower income residents. In the city of Chicago, Illinois, newly built housing offers that — and a lot more. At three new complexes, public libraries are included in the buildings along with housing units. The libraries offer safe public spaces for people to gather, read, do research and learn. They offer resources for all ages — from children’s libraries for toddlers, to Internet access for teenagers, to books, movies and music for senior citizens. Pushed by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the goal was to raise the quality of life for neighborhoods, as well as to provide affordable housing. To do that, he enlisted some of Chicago’s top architects to design the libraries so that they would be modern, bright and inviting spaces. Public spaces and buildings can help build a sense of community and belonging in neighborhoods. In the newspaper or online, find a story or photo showing a building or public space where people gather. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short essay, analyzing how public spaces or buildings can build and strengthen communities. Share ideas with the class and discuss.
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.
5. Six Babies. Six!
Beyond twins and triplets, births of multiple babies from a single pregnancy are rare. This month, the European nation of Poland is celebrating one of the rarest occurrences of all — the healthy birth of six babies at once. The birth of these “sextuplets” — four girls and two boys — surprised both doctors and the Polish woman who gave birth in the city of Krakow. They had been expecting five babies, or quintuplets, but discovered there was a sixth when they reached the end of the delivery process. The sextuplets are the first ever born in Poland. Parents Klaudia and Szymon Marzec
said the babies would be named Filip, Tymon, Zofia, Kaja, Nela and Malwina. Preparing for a new baby requires a lot of planning. Preparing for SIX babies requires much, much more! In the newspaper or online, study ads for baby products. Then think what will be the biggest needs for the parents of Poland’s sextuplets. Plan a shopping trip for the Marzecs, listing the five products you think they will need the most. For each, give a reason why it will be important.
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.