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For Grades 5-8 , week of May 21, 2018

1. Alexa for Kids?

Programmed “digital assistants” are growing more and more popular among electronics fans. Amazon has Alexa, Apple has Siri and Google has Google Assistant, to name just a few. These voice-activated electronic devices can answer questions, play music, conduct Internet searches, play games and entertain listeners in a variety of ways. Now Amazon has developed an Alexa for kids with a version of its Echo Dot device that can read stories, tell jokes, play music and entertain in ways never tried before. And that has children’s advocates and some lawmakers concerned. They worry that the Echo Dot Kids Edition will increase children’s dependence on electronic entertainment, intrude on their privacy and even have an effect on their manners. Such interactive devices “raise a host of privacy concerns and interfere with the face-to-face interactions and self-driven play that children need to thrive,” said Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Electronic devices like digital assistants are becoming more and more popular. Yet there is debate on how much young children should use them. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the use — or overuse — of electronics by young children. Then pretend you are the parent of a young child. Hold a class discussion on how much you would allow young children to use electronic devices, and give reasons for your point of view.

Common Core State Standards: Responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

2. Sky High Celebration

When Britain’s Prince Harry married American actress Meghan Markle last weekend, the whole nation of Great Britain went crazy with excitement. But no celebration was crazier than the one dreamed up by British Airways. The airline scheduled a flight for the couple’s May 19 wedding day that was staffed entirely by people named Harry, Meghan or Megan. The flight took off from Britain’s Heathrow Airport one hour after Harry and Meghan’s wedding ceremony and traveled to the Canadian city of Toronto. British Airways said Toronto was chosen as the destination because that was where the royal couple’s romance “took off.” Passengers who share the couple’s names got special service on and before the flight, the airline said. The marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was big news in Great Britain and around the world because the bride was very different from others who have married into the royal family. In the newspaper or online, find and read stories about Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Use what you read to write a commentary or opinion essay outlining how she could be a positive influence on the royal family. 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.

3. Anti-Bully Superhero

Comic books can be a lot more than entertainment. Some, like Black Panther, can raise consciousness about black culture and the continent of Africa. Some, like Wonder Woman, can inspire girls to achieve and be strong. Some, like Sugar Glider, can help kids through their struggles with bullying. Haven’t heard of Sugar Glider? You could be hearing a lot very soon. Especially since Sugar Glider is the creation of 12-year-old Shelbi Webb, who was bullied herself when she was younger. “I really hated life at that point because it was so hard for me,” Shelbi says. So she went into her room and let her imagination find a way out of her problem. The result was Sugar Glider, a superhero who got her powers when hiking on a mountain when a meteor shower hit. Sugar Glider can do amazing things but mostly she wants to help people affected by bullying — both those being bullied and the ones doing the bullying. “Even though they’re bad guys, she wants to help them,” Shelbi says of bullies. “… She takes them to therapists to help them.” Shelbi Webb created a comic book to help people deal with bullying. Others have used creativity in other ways to deal with bullying or other problems. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone using creativity to deal with a problem. Write a paragraph or letter to the editor analyzing why this creative approach was effective calling attention to the issue.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

4. A New Ear

In modern medicine, every year brings new breakthroughs. The latest comes from surgeons in the U.S. Army, who replaced a soldier’s ear with cartilage from her own body — and “grew” it under the skin of her arm. The first-of-its-kind surgery was in response to injuries sustained by Private Shamika Burrage in a car accident. Burrage lost her entire left ear, but surgeons took cartilage from her ribs and carved it into the shape of an ear. Then they placed it under the skin of her left forearm to let it “grow” and develop new blood vessels. As a result of the surgery the 21-year-old Burrage recovered full hearing in her ear. Medical breakthroughs are changing the way people are treated for diseases or physical problems. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one such breakthrough. Use what you read to create a multi-media presentation detailing how the breakthrough has changed care and why that is an improvement over past treatment.

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; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

5. Big-Time Police Support

People who work for police departments have a loyalty to each other that is almost like family. They support each other both on the job and off the job. A 5-year-old from the state of Indiana found that out recently when he returned to school after his father was shot and killed while on duty. Dakota Pitts didn’t want to go back to school alone and asked his mom if one of his dad’s fellow police officers could go with him. His mom passed on the request, and when Dakota returned to Sullivan Elementary School he got way more support than he expected. Nearly 70 police officers showed up in uniform to line the sidewalk and offer encouragement when Dakota arrived at school. The officers came from surrounding communities as well as the city of Terra Haute, where Dakota’s dad served. Police officers draw a lot of attention for the way they interact with people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a police officer interacting with people in a positive way. Use what you read to create a one-minute TV news report assessing how this officer’s actions improved relations with the community. Choose images to go with your report.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.