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For Grades K-4 , week of Dec. 05, 2016

1. Rare Beach Snowballs

Thousands of giant snowballs mysteriously appeared on a beach in Siberia recently in the nation of Russia. The balls of ice and snow ranged in size from just a few inches across to almost three feet wide. Local residents in a village on the Yamal Peninsula near the Arctic Circle said they had never seen anything like it. Scientists told the Siberian Times newspaper that the snowballs were caused by a rare environmental process — small pieces of ice rolled by wind and water were covered when water in the ocean rose, and remained on the beach when the water retreated. Although exceptionally rare, it’s occurred in other areas. In 2014, it happened on the shoreline of Lake Michigan in the United States. Unusual or severe natural events often are in the news. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a severe or unusual natural event or weather event. Use what you read to write a poem, rap or rhyme about the event, with the title “Amazing Nature.” Read or perform your poems or raps for the class.

Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts.

2. Astronauts Open Exhibit

Thirty American astronauts gathered this fall at Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the grand opening of an exhibit in which they are the stars. Two of them — Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldrin — were also observing a special anniversary — the 50th anniversary of their Gemini 12 flight. Gemini 12 was the last of America’s two-man space flights, and it featured three space walks by Aldrin. The exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center features many pioneer achievements by America’s astronauts. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an astronaut’s achievement. Use what you read to create a series of comic strips, showing this astronaut in action.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

3. Sinkhole in a City

Parts of a main street in the Japanese city of Fukuoka collapsed recently, creating a massive sinkhole more than half the size of an Olympic pool. The collapse cut off power, water and gas in the business district of the city of 1.5 million people. The cause is under investigation, but city officials have linked it to nearby subway construction. No injuries were reported from the pre-sunrise collapse in the heart of the city, about 620 miles south of the capital city of Tokyo. Public officials often have to make quick decisions to ensure public safety in response to disasters or unusual events. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about officials responding to a challenge like that. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, calling attention to what officials did, and how successful their efforts were.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

4. Skiing Star Vows Return

Ski racing superstar Lindsey Vonn is injured again, and she says she is “beyond frustrated.” At the same time, she has vowed she will “return to the slopes as soon as possible, as I always do.” She recently underwent surgery to repair a broken bone in her right arm, which she sustained while training at Copper Mountain in the state of Colorado. That was the same mountain where she had suffered an injury that caused her to miss the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia. Vonn, 32, has won 20 World Cup season titles, two Olympic medals and 76 World Cup races, 10 short of the world record. She was the first American to win the Olympic women’s downhill event, and she has vowed to be ready for the 2018 Winter Olympics. Sports stars like Lindsey Vonn often have to overcome challenges or setbacks. In the newspaper or online, closely read a story about a sports star or other athlete who overcame a challenge or setback. Use what you read to write a short sports column giving your opinion on how this athlete’s actions could inspire others.

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.

5. Cats Spared at Medical School

Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, has stopped using sedated cats to train medical students in how to insert breathing tubes. The decision effectively ends the practice in the United States, since Washington was the last pediatrics program in the country using cats. The university’s School of Medicine has switched to using mannequins and advanced simulators instead of cats. Critics have maintained that the practice was cruel to animals and unnecessary for students. The last cats were adopted by employees at the school. Many people believe that all animals should be treated fairly and kindly. With a partner or alone, use the newspaper or Internet to find and closely read a story about someone being kind to animals. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea to honor this person for his/her animal kindness. Write a paragraph explaining your idea and share it with the class.

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.