1. Assault Weapons
The school shooting that left 19 students and two teachers dead at an elementary school in Texas has again fired debate about high-powered assault weapons in America. The 18-year-old shooter at Robb Elementary School in the community of Uvalde used an AR-15-style assault rifle, a weapon based on a military design that has been used in school shootings ranging from Sandy Hook, Connecticut to Parkland, Florida. Weapons of this kind were once banned in the United States for private ownership, but since the ban expired in 2004 the gun has become hugely popular among gun owners. The National Rifle Association has called it “America’s rifle” and a “modern sporting rifle.” Opponents call it a weapon of war designed to fire and kill at high speed and have urged that it be banned for private individuals. The Texas shooter, Salvador Ramos, legally purchased two AR-15-style rifles and 375 rounds of ammunition just after his 18th birthday this month. He used them to commit the deadliest school shooting since a gunman used an AR-15 to kill 20 small children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012. Politicians responded along party lines to the shooting, with Democrats renewing calls for banning assault weapons and Republicans resisting on the ground that the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment guarantees “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms.” In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories and commentaries about the debate over assault weapons. Use what you read to write an editorial outlining your views and how you think government leaders should respond. Share 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; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.
2. Pledge to Go Green
Every year, the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum brings together top business and government leaders to address economic, health, technology and other issues. Held at a resort high in the Alps Mountains in Davos, Switzerland, it’s one of the top gatherings of world leaders, and this year they were giving a lot of attention to the environment. One whole day was devoted to the importance of clean water for developing non-polluting “green” economies and another featured a major announcement about fossil fuels and global warming. More than 50 worldwide corporations announced they have joined a global “buyers’ club” called the First Movers Coalition with a pledge to purchase aluminum, steel and other manufacturing materials made with processes that emit little or no amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, the New York Times reported. The goal is to increase demand for green versions of materials that have proved difficult to manufacture without significant carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to global warming. “We are creating a demand for low-carbon products,” the president of the World Economic Forum said. “The price of inaction far exceeds the price of action when it comes to climate change.” The First Movers Coalition is an effort by business leaders to take action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and global warming. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about other steps businesses are taking to reduce global warming. Pick one and write a letter to the editor assessing how effective you think the effort will be.
Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.
3. Phonics Comeback
Learning letter sounds has long been a part of learning to read and write. Connecting the sounds people hear to the letters that make them is the basis for the kind of instruction known as phonics (FON-iks). Phonics teaches students to “sound out” words they don’t know. For more than 100 years, people argued over how students learn to read and debated the best methods: some advocated for phonics while others advocated for “whole language” in which students would memorize whole words. In the 1990s, an approach called “balanced literacy” became very popular, which included some phonics but mainly encouraged children to learn by reading books on topics that interested them and determining the meaning of words from pictures, surrounding words and other cues. Now phonics is making a comeback thanks to the “science of reading.” The “science of reading” is based on 20 years of research about how people’s brains work when they learn to read — research that has become more widely known in K-12 education in the past few years. As a result, a leading supporter of balanced literacy is revising her curriculum guidelines to include more phonics, and communities are turning again to phonics-based instruction. High school students can help younger children learn and practice letter sounds. In the newspaper or online, find and make a list of words you think a younger reader might have trouble pronouncing. For each word, make a list of simple words that include the sounds of the letters in the listed word. For added fun, divide your list into simple words for elementary students and more challenging words for middle school students. Finally, pick words from the news that you are not familiar with. Sound them out using the same strategy you outlined for younger students.
Common Core State Standards: Applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.
4. Horsey High School
High school principals have to do a lot of things when running a school, from deciding what courses get taught, to maintaining order and discipline, to creating a safe and supportive environment. In the state of Montana recently, Principal Raymond DeBruycker was busy doing all that at Conrad High School when he was asked to take care of a dozen horses as well. DeBruycker’s unusual duty as a stable hand came about when 12 students decided to ride their horses to school as a prank in the community 60 miles south of the Canadian border. Under an old state law, if students come to school on horseback, the principal “has to feed and tend to the horse[s] throughout the day,” the school noted on its Facebook page. Though taken by surprise, DeBruycker rose to the occasion, UPI News reported. He had “his work cut out for him,” the school said, but the principal made sure the horses were well cared for, and they made it home safely. When students are about to graduate from high school, they often play “senior pranks” on their schools or school officials to have good-natured fun. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about seniors playing good-natured pranks at school before they graduate. Pretend you are a “prank critic” for the newspaper and write a review of each prank, ranking it for creativity, fun level and degree of difficulty. If you disapprove of pranks, write a column telling why they are a bad idea.
Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.
5. Duck, Duck, Goose
For millions of students across America, the game Duck, Duck, Goose has provided fun and entertainment for years and years. In the state of Indiana this month, students from three high schools teamed up to play it in a way they hope will earn them a Guinness World Record. More than 2,000 of the students gathered on a Friday morning at Terre Haute South High School in an effort to establish a new world record for the biggest game ever of the childhood favorite. They formed a giant, lopsided circle around the track and football field, along fences, in front of bleachers and past the tennis courts to provide a massive course for the “geese” to chase the “it” players after being tagged. “This is one heck of a circle,” said teacher Jim Mann, who served as announcer for the event. To qualify for the record the competition had to last at least 16 minutes and top the previous record of 2,135 people set in 2011 by a school district in the state of Missouri. School officials believe they have the numbers to set a new record but won’t know for sure until their effort is verified by Guinness. People attempt to set world records in many unusual ways — and often they do it to raise money for charity. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about such efforts. With a partner, brainstorm an idea for a world record you could set for something you do regularly in your school or community. Use the Guinness website here to determine if a record already exists for this activity. Write a paragraph detailing how this effort could raise money for charity. Pick a charity you would like to support, if you wish.
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.