1. ‘Looks Like America’
As he campaigned in the 2020 election, President Biden vowed over and over again that he would choose a cabinet of advisors that “looks like America.” As his nominees go through the confirmation process in the U.S. Senate, it appears he is making good on his promise. More than half of his 25-member cabinet will be non-white and 48 percent will be female. In addition, there are many barrier-breaking cabinet members beyond Kamala Harris, the first vice president of Black and South Asia heritage. If the Senate confirms Mr. Biden’s picks, the cabinet will include the first Black defense secretary (Lloyd J. Austin III), the first female treasury secretary (Janet Yellen), the first openly gay secretary (Pete Buttigieg, for the Department of Transportation), the first Native American secretary (Deb Haaland, for the Department of the Interior), the first woman to serve as director of national intelligence (Avril Haines) and the first immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security (Alejandro Mayorkas), the Washington Post Newspaper reported. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about groundbreaking leaders confirmed for President Biden’s cabinet. Use what you read to summarize some of their first actions in office and why they are significant.
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. Super Bowl
Next Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday, and football fans all over the nation are gearing up to see whether the Kansas City Chiefs or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will win the National Football League championship. The Chiefs won a trip to the Super Bowl by defeating the Buffalo Bills and have won 16 of 18 games in the regular season and the playoffs. The Bucs defeated the Green Bay Packers to advance to the Super Bowl and have won 14 games, against just 5 losses. The game is being played in Tampa, Florida, making the Bucs the first team ever to play a Super Bowl on its home field. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about this year’s Super Bowl matchup. Use what you read to write a sports column, giving your views on what each team needs to do to win, and which team you think will be most successful. Share your column with family, friends or classmates and discuss.
Common Core State Standards: Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; 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.
3. Bernie on the Move
Bernie Sanders has gotten a lot of attention during 30 years as a U.S. senator and congressman and in two runs for president. But he never has gotten the kind of attention he received after he showed up at President Biden’s inauguration wearing a heavy gray parka coat and handmade brown-and-white mittens. A photo of the senator keeping a safe social distance from the ceremonies in his cold weather gear went viral on the Internet, and soon was placed in all kinds of odd and funny situations thanks to Photoshop technology. There was Sanders in a “Star Wars” scene, at the Last Supper from the Bible, at historic moments with Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, just for starters. The image became so popular, the senator’s own campaign office put it on sweatshirts and sold them to benefit the Meals on Wheels program, which provides meals to senior adults. A craftsperson from Texas went even further, crochet knitting a perfect replica Sanders’ iconic moment and auctioning it off for charity. The Internet is an amazing way to connect with people, and it’s sometimes a surprise what items take off and “go viral.” In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about an item that is trending or going viral this week. Use what you read to write a personal column analyzing why this item is taking off and whether you share the widespread interest. Share your column with family, friends or classmates and discuss the phenomenon of viral “memes” on the Internet.
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.
4. Artificial Singer
Artificial Intelligence technology (AI) is being used in more and more ways to perform tasks previously performed by people. In the Asian nation of South Korea, it has even been used to re-create the voice of one of the country’s most popular singers for a TV special. The achievement is made even more amazing because the singer has been dead for 25 years. Singer Kim Kwang-seok died at age 31 in 1996 at the height of his career. Now, thanks to AI voice technology, Kim will be heard singing a new song on a TV special broadcast by the SBS network. Kim’s voice was re-created by feeding digital versions of his songs into a Singing Voice Synthesis program developed by the Supertone company, CNN News reported. It was then used to sing an entirely new song. The SBS network paid a one-time fee to Kim’s family for permission to use his voice. The re-creation of Kim Kwang-seok’s voice is an example of Artificial Intelligence technology being used in a new way. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another new use of AI. Use what you read to create a two-minute TV news report explaining the significance of this new use of AI, how it was developed and who will benefit most. List images from the newspaper or Internet that you would use in your report. Write out the text and time yourself reading it so that it doesn’t go over two minutes.
Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.
5. Watch Out, Texas Exes
According to an old proverb, “revenge is a dish best served cold.” According to a zoo in the state of Texas, it is also a dish that can be served to zoo animals. In a darkly humorous bit of marketing, the San Antonio Zoo is offering patrons a chance to name rats or cockroaches after ex-boyfriends, partners or girlfriends — just before they are fed to animals and gobbled down. According to the zoo’s website, patrons can pay $5 to name a cockroach after an “ex” before it is fed to a larger animal as a meal. For deeper revenge, patrons can pay $25 to name a frozen rat for a former boyfriend or girlfriend before it is fed to a snake. “You can also symbolically purchase an herbivore option and we will feed it to one of our mammals,” the zoo said. The feed-a-rat opportunity is part of the zoo’s “Cry Me a Cockroach” fund-raising campaign to raise money to support zoo operations. The feedings will take place on Valentine’s Day February 14. The “Cry Me a Cockroach” campaign is an unusual and funny effort to raise money for the San Antonio Zoo. With a partner, use the newspaper or Internet to read a story about an institution or group that would benefit from a fund-raising campaign. Brainstorm an unusual or humorous idea for fund-raising that would get people’s attention and make them want to take part. Give your campaign an eye-catching title and write a paragraph detailing why you think it would be a success. Share ideas with friends or classmates and discuss which ones people like best.
Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic.