1. Shocking Departure
When Jacinda Ardern was elected prime minister of New Zealand at the age of 37, she was the South Pacific nation’s youngest prime minister in more than 150 years. She also was one of the youngest female leaders in the world. Her election was seen as a significant victory for women in the male dominated world of politics in New Zealand and for women in other nations as well, the Washington Post newspaper reported. She was hailed for her handling of the coronavirus epidemic, domestic terrorism, and children’s issues, and for forming the most diverse government in New Zealand’s history. Yet from the start Ardern faced challenges not connected to policy — remarks that were both ageist and sexist from opponents, commentators and reporters. She was called a “babe” and “sweetie” by opponents, criticized for having a baby while in office and even questioned for meeting with another young, female leader, 37-year-old Sanna Marin of Finland. Last week, Ardern announced she had had enough, shocking her nation by declaring she would resign after five years in office. “I am human,” she said. “Politicians are human. We give all that we can, for as long as we can, and then it’s time.” Women in politics face challenges and criticisms that men do not face. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about female politicians who have experience this. Use what you read to write a political column examining how leading women in politics have overcome such obstacles.
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. ‘Dry’ Lifestyle Benefits
After all the partying during the holiday season, many adults vow to start the new year on a healthy note by giving up alcohol and having a “dry January.” These days they are getting a lot of help from companies that make beers, wines and liquors. Many of those companies are now making non-alcoholic versions of those drinks for people seeking to eliminate or reduce alcohol in their diets. And it may go far beyond January. The business of non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits is booming, NPR Radio reports. The market for non-alcoholic beverages grew more than 20 percent last year — and more than 120 percent over the last three years. Non-alcoholic beverages now account for almost $400 million in annual sales, business experts note. The growth in non-alcoholic beverages comes at a time when medical experts and studies are warning that even small amounts of alcohol can increase risks for health problems such as heart and liver disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. Giving up alcohol is one way to live a healthier lifestyle, medical experts say. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about other ways people can live healthier lives. Use what you read to create a public service ad for the newspaper, Internet or television offering tips for healthier living in the new year. Share with the class and discuss.
Common Core State Standards: Integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.
3. Kobe’s Jersey
When Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash three years ago, the sports world was shocked to lose one of basketball’s biggest stars so suddenly. Now fans are getting an opportunity to preserve his memory with a significant memento of his life. But it will cost them — big time. The gold Los Angeles Lakers jersey Bryant wore in his only Most Valuable Player season in 2007-2008 is coming up for auction next month, and it is expected to sell for up to $7-million! The autographed, Number 24 jersey was worn by Bryant 25 times during that season, in which he averaged more than 28 points per game and led the Lakers to the NBA playoff finals. The Size 54-long, Adidas jersey was worn in 5 pre-season games, 14 regular season games and 6 playoff games, according to the Sotheby’s auction house. “This jersey was worn by Kobe Bryant at the peak of his powers,” Sotheby’s said. Bryant played his entire 20-year career with the Lakers and won five NBA championships. The online auction will take place February 2-9. People pay extraordinary amounts of money for items connected to famous or inspirational individuals. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a person who inspires or interests you. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend describing an item connected to this person that you would want if you had unlimited wealth. Describe why you would want it and what it would mean to you emotionally or inspirationally.
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.
It takes a lot of luck to win a lottery worth millions of dollars. So it probably didn’t hurt that a Wisconsin man added some extra luck by buying his winning ticket in a town of that name. Really. A man named Mark Cunningham won a $15.1-million prize this month when he purchased a state Megabucks lottery ticket in the little town of Luck, Wisconsin. The jackpot of $15.1-million is the largest Megabucks prize since a $22.2-million jackpot in 2015, the Wisconsin Lottery said. Luck is a tiny town of just 1,100 residents, so it was a big deal for such a big prize to be sold there at the Wayne's Food Plus store. As part of the Wisconsin Lottery's “Retailer Performance Program,” Wayne’s earned a $100,000 prize just for selling the winning ticket. “Dreams really do come true,” Cunningham said. People often make news when their dreams come true. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone for whom this has happened. Use what you read to write a paragraph describing how the person was affected by having a dream come true — both positively and negatively.
Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing textual or visual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.
5. Slavery in Music
When slavery was legal in U.S Southern states, enslaved people would often run away in a quest for freedom — and slave owners would do anything to get them back. One tactic was to run ads in Northern newspapers describing slaves who had gone missing and offering rewards for their return. More than 150 years later, those ads and other documents have inspired a new musical production giving voice to the experience of enslaved Black Americans. The new work was presented by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society in a pair of “Singing Freedom” concerts on Martin Luther King weekend January 15-16. The words of the ads and newly composed music bring the experiences of escaped slaves to life in a memorable way for modern audiences. Written by the enslavers, the ads describe what the people who escaped to freedom wore, how they talked and even how they walked, the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper reported. Others are identified by their scars — some on their backs from being whipped and beaten. “I want people to understand that slavery was about enslaving human beings,” singer Karen Slack said. “And I want people to understand the beauty of who these people were.” The “Singing Freedom” project used music to teach people about the struggles of escaped slaves. With a partner, use the newspaper or Internet to find and closely read stories about a person, family or group facing struggles today. Rewrite the words to a song you like to tell the story of these people. Perform your song for the class — with feeling!
Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events.