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For Grades 5-8 , week of Sep. 26, 2016

1. The First Debate

On Monday, September 26, presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump face off in a debate for the first time. The debate is the first of three scheduled between the candidates, who have very different styles and views on issues. Debates give voters a chance to assess the positions and character of presidential candidates, but also to see how they respond under pressure and conduct themselves. Watch the debate or read about it this week in the newspaper or online. Use what your read, to write a short editorial summarizing what issues you think each candidate was most effective addressing during the debate — and why that could be important to voters.

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.

2. Zoo Burns Rhino Horns

At the San Diego Zoo nearly $1 million worth of items containing rhinoceros horn were burned recently in a symbolic gesture to support U.S. efforts to end illegal wildlife trafficking. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife joined the zoo in building a massive bonfire to destroy rhino materials seized by federal officials from illegal traffickers. The items included carved art objects and a variety of items falsely marketed as medicines. The bonfire was the first of its kind in the United States. In April, 120 tons of elephant ivory and 1.3 tons of rhino horn were destroyed in the same way in the African nation of Kenya. Both rhinos and elephants are endangered because of illegal poaching. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about efforts to protect other endangered species. Use what you read and additional research to brainstorm an idea for a short film or video calling attention to the risks faced by one endangered species. Write an outline for your film, including images you would use. Then write a summary of the first scene. Come up with a creative title for your film.

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.

3. More Soccer Injuries

Soccer injuries are sending more and more American children to hospital emergency rooms, a new study reports, and many require urgent medical care for concussions. The findings reflect the growing popularity of soccer, but also an increasing awareness of the long-range risks of concussions, researchers say. Coaches and parents are seeking emergency treatment for symptoms that might have been downplayed or overlooked in the past, the study notes in the medical journal Pediatrics. With increased awareness, parents and coaches are concerned about concussions’ “consequences in terms of cognitive function and brain development.” Issues involving the health or safety of teens or pre-teens are often in the news because they affect so many families. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one issue involving teens or pre-teens. Use what you read to write a paragraph, detailing the most important things families should know about the issue.

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.

4. Big Trucks Must Cut Emissions

New federal emissions standards have been established for heavy-duty trucks in an effort to achieve better fuel efficiency and reduce pollution. Officials expect that in 10 years, the new regulations will reduce carbon emissions from big tractor-trailers by 25 percent and also lead to improvements in delivery trucks, school buses and other large vehicles. The effort to cut 1.1 billion metric tons of carbon emissions by 2027 puts the U.S. “way out ahead of any other country,” the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said. In addition, the U.S. Transportation Department predicts the trucking industry will save about $170 billion in fuel costs in 10 years under the new rules, reducing petroleum consumption by two billion barrels over the lifetimes of vehicles sold after the rules take effect. Reducing pollution is a concern for many states and communities. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an effort to reduce air, water or trash pollution. Use what you read to create a series of comic strips showcasing ways one kind of pollution could be reduced.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events.

5. $750,000 in Lies

A former soldier who lied his way to a Purple Heart by faking Iraq war injuries cheated the federal and Washington state governments out of more than $750,000, federal prosecutors contend. Darryl Wright is awaiting sentencing in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, where the judge has requested additional testimony about Wright’s mental health. Prosecutors are seeking a five-year prison term for Wright, who falsified statements from buddies to obtain a Combat Action Badge and Purple Heart medal (given only to those wounded in action). He then parlayed the medals into disability and other benefits, including forgiveness of more than $40,000 in student loans. Wright, in applying for benefits, claimed to be so severely disabled that he is unable to focus attention, although he has served in many responsible roles in his community. Crime stories often are used as inspiration for creative fictional stories. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a crime story you think could be turned into a creative story or book. Use what you read to write a “pitch letter” to an editor or publisher detailing why you think this case would be a good subject for a story or book.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.