1. Holiday Shopping
With three major holidays, December is the busiest shopping period of the year. To attract shoppers, stores and companies offer special products during the month, and feature a variety of cost-saving sales and promotions. What products and promotions are getting the most attention this year? Use the newspaper and Internet to find and closely read stories about “hot” products or promotions. Use what you read to write a consumer column, predicting which products and promotions you think will be the most popular and successful.
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. Solar Parking Lots
Solar power is a clean, renewable energy source that generates electricity from the rays of the sun. It is much cleaner than power generated by burning fossil fuels like oil and coal, and it doesn’t create dangerous wastes like nuclear energy. Like many other countries, the European nation of France wants to generate more power through solar energy, and it has come with an innovative way to make that happen. A new law will require large parking lots to install roofs of solar panels to collect sun power. Starting July 1, 2023, lots with more than 400 spaces must be covered in solar panels within three years and lots with between 80 and 400 spaces must do so within five years, the Modern Met website reports. At least 50 percent of the surface of the large lots must be covered with solar roofs. The parking lot panels are expected to generate up to 11 gigawatts of energy — about the amount of power from 10 nuclear reactors, French officials said. Many businesses and communities are taking steps to use more alternative energy sources such as solar and wind power. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one such effort. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, detailing what is being done, how effective you think it will be and how soon the community might see results.
Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.
3. China in Space
The Asian nation of China is becoming a political and economic leader in the world. It also wants to become a leader in space exploration. The nation of 1.4-billion people has plans to build a base on the moon, deploy a lunar explorer vehicle there and even send landing craft and orbiters to the planet Mars. Closer to home, China has established a space station orbiting 260 miles above the Earth and put a three-person crew in place to operate it. Last week, in another first, the Chinese sent their first replacement crew to relieve the astronauts that had gotten the space station up and running after construction was completed earlier this winter. The Chinese space station — whose Tiangong name means “Heavenly Palace” — will now be continuously occupied, like the International Space Station operated by the United States, Russia and other nations. Space stations give astronauts and scientists a way to gather new information about the challenges people would face while living in space. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the experiences of astronauts on the Chinese or International space stations. Use what you read to write a paragraph detailing what information has been gained from these experiences and why that is important for future space missions.
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.
4. Van Gogh Paints!
You wouldn’t think one of the world’s most famous artists would have much in common with a rescue dog. But when the dog lost its left ear in a fight, rescuers immediately thought of artist Vincent van Gogh, who famously cut off HIS left ear in a fit of depression while struggling to survive. Rescuers named the dog after the artist, and the boxer-pit bull mix has now become a painter himself. His art career got its start when an animal shelter in the state of Connecticut was trying to find a home for him, the Washington Post newspaper reported. The founder of the shelter thought having a dog named Van Gogh create paintings would call attention to him and find him a home. She dropped small blobs of paint on an 8-inch-by-10-inch canvas, sealed it in plastic wrap and coated the top with a thin layer of peanut butter. Van Gogh’s tongue did the rest as he licked off the peanut butter and spread the paint around. “He has a fast and creative tongue,” founder Jaclyn Gartner said. She put his art on Facebook and raised more than $3,000 for the shelter. Best of all, Van Gogh found a home — with one of the volunteers who provide foster homes for dogs while they await adoption. Pets often make news by doing unusual things. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a pet that has done this. In the spirit of Van Gogh, create a painting or drawing showing what the pet has done and present it to the class.
Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.
5. Save the Glaciers
Children’s books teach young readers valuable lessons through stories, illustrations and memorable characters. The lessons can range from friendship and loyalty, to dealing with emotions, to how things work in the world — especially things that are connected to nature. Children’s author Anita Sanchez recognizes the power of children’s books, and she has written one with a powerful message. Titled “Meltdown,” the book seeks to teach elementary and middle school kids about global warming by taking a close look at glaciers and “What You Can Do to Save Them.” Like all good children’s books, Sanchez tells the story of glaciers in a way that makes them come alive. They almost seem like living things to her in the way they support animals, fish and other wildlife. “Throughout the book, I try to make the glacier a sort of character, even though the book is non-fiction,” she told CNN News. “ … To keep it relevant to young readers, I keep bringing the focus back to the animals that depend on glaciers,” such as salmon, grizzly bears, birds and even ice worms. “Kids need to get excited about the wild places of the world before they become activists to help preserve them,” she said. What lesson would you like to teach if you were to write a children’s book? In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about an issue, situation or problem you think is important. Use what you read to write a children’s story explaining this issue in ways a younger child could understand. Read stories aloud as a class, with expression!
Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; reading prose and poetry orally with accuracy, appropriate rate and expression on successive readings.