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For Grades 5-8 , week of Sep. 05, 2016

1. NFL Tightens Concussion Rules

The 2016 National Football League season begins Thursday night when the Carolina Panthers face off against the Denver Broncos on national TV. And this year the NFL is taking new steps to reduce concussion injuries. Teams will be subjected to large fines and possible loss of draft picks if they don’t take players out of games when they appear to have sustained a possible concussion. The new rules follow criticism that the league had inadequately addressed injuries from hits to the head and the settlement of a class-action lawsuit in which the NFL agreed to spend hundreds of millions in damages and donate tens of millions to companies developing safer equipment. Under the new rules, the league and the players union will appoint monitors for games to ensure that players are tested for concussion when warranted. The debate over concussion safety has brought great attention to the National Football League. In the newspaper or online, closely read stories about the debate, what critics have said and how the NFL has responded. Brainstorm an idea for a short movie or video examining the issue and the debate. Write an outline for your movie, including images you would use. Then write the opening scene in the style of a movie screenplay.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

2. Strengths & Weaknesses

The race for president is heating up between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump. Both are campaigning hard, promoting their strengths and pointing out perceived weaknesses of their opponent. In the newspaper or online, closely read stories for a week about the presidential race. Keep a log of ways each candidate promotes his/her strengths and highlights the opponent’s weaknesses. Then think like a political reporter and use what you read to assess the accuracy of each candidate’s claims. Write a summary of your findings, detailing the most accurate and least accurate statements.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

3. Pope: Don’t Be ‘Couch Potatoes’

As head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has drawn wide attention for the way he addresses issues. And in a speech to hundreds of thousands of young people this summer, he gave them a blunt message. Don’t be a “couch potato,” he exhorted the crowd gathered in a meadow in the European nation of Poland. He urged them to engage in social activism to create a more just world, instead of retreating into video games and computer screens. “We didn’t come into this world to vegetate, to take it easy, to make our lives a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on,” the 79-year-old pontiff said. “No, we came … to leave our mark.” What issue would you like to leave your mark on? In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an issue that is important to you. Use what you read to write a personal or editorial column, detailing why the issue is important to you, what you would like to do about it, and how you might achieve your goals.

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.

4. Flossing No Longer a Must?

Something’s missing from the latest dietary guidelines issued by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health & Human Services — insistence on daily dental flossing to prevent tooth cavities and gum disease. The American Academy of Periodontology says that current evidence falls short of determining the benefits of flossing because studies have not included enough participants or been conducted over enough time. The American Dental Association, however, insists flossing is “essential” and “disturbing the bacteria in plaque with brushing and flossing is … beneficial.” Most experts agree that flossing improves health of gums and reduces gingivitis (bloody gums and inflammation). Flossing is a health practice many people feel is important. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read about another health practice people recommend to make people healthier. Use what you read to write a paragraph summarizing the benefits of this health practice and detailing ways more people could be encouraged to follow it.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

5. Read for a Longer Life

Reading is good for you! In fact, reading may help you live longer by as many as two years, according to the journal called Social Science & Medicine. Researchers found that people who read books for up to three and a half hours a week are 17 percent less likely to die over the next 12 years, and those reading more than that are 23 percent less likely to die. The study found that those reading magazines and newspapers also live longer lives. The researchers speculate that the increased survival rate may be due to cognitive benefits that come from reading. What kind of books have you read that you really like? Discuss favorite book choices as a class. Then think like a book reviewer for the newspaper and write a review of one book you enjoyed or thought was important to read. Be sure to support your opinions with specific facts and evidence from your book.

Common Core State Standards: Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.