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For Grades 5-8 , week of Oct. 17, 2016

1. Millions Watching Debates

This year’s race for president is shaping up as a historic contest that is breaking new ground in both tone and topics. So millions of people have been tuning in to watch the debates between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton. The year’s first debate on September 26 topped previous records for TV viewers, drawing at least 84 million viewers on the 13 networks broadcasting it. Millions more will tune in for the third and final Clinton-Trump debate on Wednesday, October 19. The previous record for a presidential debate was 80 million viewers in 1980, for the debate between Democrat Jimmy Carter and Republican Ronald Reagan. The only comparable event to the first debate for TV audience was the 2016 Super Bowl, which attracted more than 100 million viewers. Many political experts say the third debate is like a Super Bowl because it is the last opportunity for the candidates to “close the deal” with voters who have not decided whom to support. In the newspaper or online, read stories about undecided voters and what they are saying about the candidates. Write a short political column summarizing their views, and offering advice on what each candidate could do to win over the largest number.

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. An Enormous Hack

Yahoo has announced that online account information of at least 500 million users was stolen by hackers two years ago — including email addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, encrypted passwords and, in some cases, security questions. Many users will have to change passwords, and all will have to treat whatever they receive online with renewed suspicion. Yahoo says the massive hack was the work of a “state-sponsored actor,” though it did not identify the state or nation involved. The breach was the biggest known intrusion ever into one company’s computer network. Yahoo is in the process of being acquired by Verizon Communications for $4.8 billion. Internet security is a growing concern for individuals, businesses and the government. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an Internet security issue. Use what you read to write a summary of the issue, and how it could be dealt with.

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.

3. A New Fault Line

An earthquake and aftershocks in the state of Oklahoma have led to discovery of a new fault line in the Earth’s crust. That has stoked fears among scientists that other unknown faults exist in Oklahoma, which could be triggered to shift and cause earthquakes by wastewater being injected underground as part oil and gas drilling. As a result of the discovery, state and federal regulators have ordered 32 Oklahoma wastewater disposal wells shut down because they are near the newly discovered fault line that produced the state’s strongest earthquake ever. That earthquake, on September 3, shook several nearby states and was felt more than 1,000 miles away in Florida and Nevada. It was farther east than most previous earthquake activity in Oklahoma. When natural disasters occur, governments often draw up plans to reduce the risk of damage in the future. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a government responding to a natural disaster with a plan for the future. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short video to educate people about the plan. Write an outline for your video and what it will show. Then write the first scene.

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.

4. Environmental ‘Crimes’

Cases involving environmental destruction, misuse of land, and land grabs will be defined from now on as “crimes against humanity,” the International Criminal Court has an announced. Until now, crimes against humanity have mostly involved war crimes and human rights offenses. An advocacy group called Global Witness hailed the move, saying, “Company bosses and politicians complicit in violently seizing land, razing tropical forests or poisoning water sources could soon … [be] standing trial in The Hague alongside war criminals and dictators.” Protecting the environment is a concern for people all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about people taking action to protect the environment or a habitat. Use what you read to draw a series of comic strips showing what the people are doing, and what effect it could have.

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. 600,000 Drones in Skies

About 600,000 commercial drones will be operating in American skies within a year, federal aviation officials estimate, and there will be new safety rules to govern them. The Federal Aviation Commission has announced new rules governing operation of small commercial drones. The FAA says the rules have been designed to protect safety without stifling innovation. More and more drone aircraft are being used by individuals, businesses and government. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one use. Write a paragraph summarizing how the use helps people. Then write a second paragraph listing some regulations and rules that are needed for this kind of drone use.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.