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For Grades K-4 , week of Dec. 13, 2021

1. Let There Be Lights!

One of the great traditions of the holiday season is how families decorate their homes with lights. In southeastern New York State, one family does it up like no other. The Gay family of the town of Lagrangeville has set a new world record by decorating their property with 687,000 lights this year. The Gays broke their own record of 601,736 lights set in 2014, UPI News reported. Officially, according to the Guinness World Record organization, the Gay display is for most lights on a residential property. People come from miles away to see it and contribute money for local charities, including the Union Vale Fire Department's community fund. Tim Gay says he hopes to raise $500,000 in contributions this year. Light displays have long been a part of the winter holiday season, which comes at the darkest time of the year. Ancient peoples lit bonfires on the winter solstice in December to mark the return of light after the shortest day of the year. People who celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa all use light to celebrate their beliefs and tell stories of their people. In the newspaper or online find and study photos of different kinds of light displays. Use what you find to write a letter to a family member, telling how lights raise people’s spirits, connect to traditions or provide a sense of wonder during the winter holidays.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

2. Describing the Holidays

Holiday lights and other decorations often leave people searching for the right words to describe them. Adjectives and adverbs are especially good words for holiday descriptions. To get in the holiday spirit, write the alphabet down the side of a sheet of paper. Create two columns, one for adjectives (“sparkling,” “glowing”) and one for adverbs (“brightly,” “magically”). Then use the newspaper and Internet to search for holiday adjectives and adverbs that start with each letter. You can list more than one for any letter, but try to find at least one for each letter. Then use your adjectives and adverbs to write a holiday song. Use the tune of a song you like and change the words. Give it an eye-catching title. Share with family, friends or classmates.

Common Core State Standards: Identifying multiple language conventions and using them; recognizing nouns, verbs and modifiers; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts.

3. A Climber’s Reward

In the world of mountain climbing, reaching the tallest peaks is usually the greatest reward. But sometimes there’s a bonus. A mountain climber who found a treasure of precious stones on Mont Blanc in the European nation of France will get to keep half of them after years of waiting. The climber found the stash of emeralds, rubies and sapphires on a glacier on the mountain in 2013, but it wasn’t until this year that the Chamonix-Mont-Blanc council ruled he could keep half of the discovery because the family of the original owner could not be found, CNN News reported. The other half will go to the council, which owns the land and plans to display the stones in a museum. Experts valued the gems at $168,799, making the climber’s share $84,350. The council said the stones wound up on Mont Blanc after an Air India Boeing 707 crashed on the mountain in 1966, killing 117 people. The gems were being transported on the jet, but the owner could not be determined. Mont Blanc, which means “white mountain” in the French language, is the tallest mountain in western Europe with a summit of 15,774 feet. Like the Mont Blanc mountain climber, people often make news by experiencing good fortune. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone experiencing good fortune or luck of some kind. Write a paragraph telling how this good fortune could change the person’s life for the better.

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. Much Traveled Roadrunner

Roadrunners are fast-running birds that can cover great distances quickly. Last month one out-distanced all the others after it hitched a ride in a moving van and traveled 2,800 miles from Las Vegas, Nevada to Westbrook, Maine on the other side of the United States. Then after some recovery at a bird center, and approval from wildlife officials, it got a flight back to Nevada for a journey totaling more than 5,000 miles. The roadrunner got into the van while it was being loaded, and no one noticed until the cargo was being taken out of the van at the end of the journey, the New York Times newspaper reported. A volunteer at the Avian Haven bird center quickly responded and caught the bird with a net. After several days at the center, wildlife officials cleared it for a flight back to Nevada and its native desert habitat. When its cage was opened, witnesses reported it took off like a shot. Roadrunners are the world’s fastest-running flying bird, and can reach speeds of more than 20 miles per hour. Wildlife often make news by making unexpected travels or visiting unexpected places. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a wild animal or bird doing this. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor telling what challenges the wild creature faces getting back to its native habitat, and whether humans will need to help.

Common Core State Standards: Citing textual or visual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

5. A Wish Fulfilled

The Make-a-Wish Foundation grants special wishes to children who are dealing with critical or life-threatening illnesses. This month the foundation teamed up with Macy’s department stores to turn a 4-year-old girl from the state of Maryland into a fashion star. Abigail Makanjuola, who is known as Abi, was born with sickle cell disease, a red blood cell disorder that can lead to infections, medical complications and even strokes, the Washington Post newspaper reported. When her medical team referred her to be a recipient of a Make-a-Wish gift, she knew just what she wanted. Rather than something flashy such as a trip to Disney World, she declared “I want to be a model. I love to dress up. I’m a fashionista.” Through a partnership with the Macy’s “Believe” campaign, Abi and her twin sister Vivi got to go to New York City for a professional fashion shoot and then take part in a red-carpet party that featured the two girls in a Macy’s highway billboard near their home in Laurel, Maryland. “We did a full celebrity experience for her,” a Macy’s spokeswoman said. And it was appreciated. As Abi and Vivi walked toward the billboard hand-in-hand, Abi pointed up and said, “That’s me!” The Make-a-Wish Foundation grants wishes for children facing medical challenges. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a child facing a medical challenge or illness. Use what you read to brainstorm a wish this child might like. Pretend you are the child and write a request asking to have your wish fulfilled and what it would mean to you.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.