1. Learn with Kids’ Books
The “Jeopardy” TV show tests contestants’ knowledge on a wide range of topics. After an Illinois man set a new single-day record for money won, he revealed he had expanded his knowledge by using an unusual resource. James Holzhauer told the Washington Post newspaper he had learned a great deal spending time with children’s books in the library. In particular, he said, non-fiction, informational kids’ books are a tremendous resource. “They are chock-full of infographics, pictures and all kinds of stuff to keep the reader engaged,” he told the Post. With a huge bet in the “Final Jeopardy” part of the game, the 34-year-old Holzhauer set a single-day cash record by winning $110,914. The number wasn’t an accident. Holzhauer calculated his bet so the total would match the birthday of his daughter, who was born on 11/09/14. Children’s books can help students learn things about the world — and about attitudes that can help them succeed. As a class, discuss children’s books you have read and liked and what you learned from them. Then use the newspaper or Internet to find and closely read a story about a subject that interests you. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a children’s book that would teach kids more about the subject. Would your book be fiction or non-fiction? Write a paragraph describing how you would begin the book — and why you would choose that approach.
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.
2. A ‘Zoo’ Tomb
The burial tombs of Egypt have revealed a great deal about how ancient Egyptians lived and what things they valued. A recent tomb discovery reveals how they felt about animals — and which ones. The 2,000-year-old tomb near the Nile River in eastern Egypt presents a virtual zoo of animals and birds that were mummified along with the man for whom the tomb was built. Scientists report finding 50 mummified animals and birds at the site, making it “one of the most exciting discoveries ever in the area,” according to officials. The animals included cats, which are quite common in tombs, but also falcons, eagles, mice and a wild ibex goat. The newly discovered tomb in Egypt reveals how ancient Egyptians felt about many animals. What could future archaeologists learn about how we feel about animals if they looked at our lives? In pairs or teams, search the newspaper or Internet for ads, photos and stories that involve animals. Make a list of what you find. For each item write how you think it reflects people’s attitudes about the animal. Then pretend you are future archaeologists. Prepare a presentation detailing what you could conclude about people’s attitudes about animals today, based on what you found in ads, photos and stories.
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.
3. An Odd, Remarkable Life
Living to be 99 years old is a remarkable accomplishment for any person. But to do it when your body’s organs are out of whack is even more amazing. An Oregon woman named Rose Marie Bentley did just that, and it was only after her death that her rare and unusual life was revealed. Upon her death Bentley donated her body for medical research and the training of new doctors. When students at Oregon Health and Science University examined her organs, they discovered many were in the wrong places. Organs that should have been on the left were on the right and those that should have been on the right were on the left, CNN News reported. Her condition, called situs inversus with levocardia, occurs only once in every 22,000 births and only 5 to 13 percent live past the age of 5. Bentley, however, lived longer than anyone on record — and never had health problems. Medical discoveries and advances often are in the news. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one discovery or advance. Use what you read to write a paragraph explaining what is making news, why it is important, whom it will affect most and how soon.
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. A Just Reward
Teachers on the continent of Africa often have to overcome great obstacles to serve their students. In the nation of Kenya, for example, math and physics teacher Peter Tabichi has only one computer to work with, poor Internet service and a student to teacher ratio of 58:1. His students are so poor he gives away 80 percent of his monthly income to help them. Tabichi, who is also a member of the Franciscan religious order, now has earned wide recognition for his efforts. He has won a $1-million prize from a foundation that recognizes top teachers from around the world. Tabichi said he would use the money from the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize to help the secondary school where he teaches and to support his students, many of whom are orphans. Teachers go to great lengths to overcome challenges and help their students. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a teacher doing something extraordinary to help students. Use what you read to write a short editorial, praising the teacher and telling why he or she should be an example for others.
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. Big Bite Fishing
It’s often said that real life is stranger than fiction. Consider the case of the fisherman from the southern Pacific nation of Australia. Trapman Bermagui encountered lots of fish on a recent trip off the coast of New South Wales, but he wound up with very little to show for it. And what he had was weird. Bermagui was looking for small sharks to catch, and it didn’t take long for him to hook a bronze whaler. He didn’t get to celebrate the catch, however, because the whaler was quickly eaten by a huge mako shark. Yet Bermagui’s adventure was not over, CNN News reported. While the mako was still on his line, an even bigger fish bit off everything but its head! Bermagui didn’t see the attack but speculated it may have been a tiger shark, which can grow up to 16 feet long. Others thought it may have been an orca, or great white shark. Real-life events often inspire people who make TV shows. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an event that you think could be the start of a TV series. Use what you read to outline the first five episodes for your series. Then write a plot summary of your first episode. Give your series a title and share as a class.
Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts.