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For Grades 5-8 , week of Feb. 13, 2017

1. President Trump

President Donald Trump has moved quickly to change the policies of the United States — and has generated debate and protests around the nation. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a decision or action by the president that has generated debate. Use what you read and additional research, to write a paragraph summarizing the positions of the different sides of the debate. Then write a second paragraph, giving your opinion on which side of the debate has the more effective arguments. Be sure to support your opinion with specific information from your reading.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; 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. FDA Warns of Opioid Abuse

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now requiring warning labels for certain types of opioid painkillers, because abuse of the drugs has reached epidemic levels. The warnings will specify the risks of addiction and death with use of immediate-release opioids. The warnings apply to 87 brand-name prescription drugs and 141 generics, and urges physicians to reserve the drugs “for pain severe enough to require opioid treatment … for which alternative[s] … are inadequate or not tolerated.” Drug overdoses in the United States now kill more people than car crashes, and opioid addiction has become a major health issue. Users become addicted when prescribed the pain-killers after injuries or surgery and find they can’t quit. When their prescriptions run out, addicts often turn to street drugs like heroin. In the newspaper or online, find and read stories about opioid drug addiction and the problems it is causing in communities. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short film or video designed to educate people about the risk. Write an outline for your film, including images you would use. Then write the opening scene, in the form 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.

3. Nuclear Plant Closing

The only nuclear power plant in the state of Massachusetts is becoming too expensive to run, and will close by mid-2019, perhaps earlier. Federal inspectors had downgraded the safety rating of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station to the lowest level after a storm shut it down. Its owners insisted it was safe, despite needing millions of dollars in upgrades. Now there is no money for improvements so it will close. The 680-megawatt plant in the Pilgrim town of Plymouth provides 17 percent of the state’s electrical power and has more than 600 employees. Nuclear power is one way to meet the energy needs of communities. So are plants fueled by coal or oil, and renewable sources such as solar, wind or hydroelectric power. In the newspaper or online find and closely read stories about different sources of electrical power. Choose two and use what you read to create a Venn Diagram showing the differences between the sources and the things they have in common. Share diagrams with the class.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; organizing data using concrete objects, pictures, tallies, tables, charts, diagrams and graphs; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

4. Jailed for Pulling the Plug

A Dutch tourist was sentenced by a court in Mandalay, Malaysia, to three months of hard labor for unplugging an amplifier being used for religious activities. He received imprisonment and a fine for causing a disturbance to religious worshippers when he pulled the plug on a group performing Buddhist chants at the tourist hostel where he was staying in the Southeast Asian nation. He said he was “really tired” and trying to sleep in his hostel room, when he was awakened by the chants. The 30-year-old lawyer appealed the sentence, and urged the Dutch embassy to ask for his release. He was fined for violating the terms of his travel visa, which requires visitors to obey Malaysia’s laws and customs. In many countries, tourists have to be sensitive to the cultural traditions of the people who live there. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a cultural tradition in a country other than the United States. Use what you read and additional research to write a paragraph or short essay, explaining this tradition and whether there are consequences for not honoring it.

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.

5. Destroying Artifacts a Crime

Destroying cultural artifacts is a war crime, the International Criminal Court has declared, after a member of a jihadist group linked to al-Qaeda pleaded guilty to helping destroy religious monuments. Jihadist Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi was ordered to serve nine years in prison for his role in demolishing ancient historic shrines that were part of a UNESCO World Heritage site in Timbuktu in the African nation of Mali. The shrines — modest structures of mud and stone — had been built centuries ago above the tombs of Muslim holy men. The jihadist group had used pickaxes and iron bars to destroy tombs and institutions housing documents from the Middle Ages, when Timbuktu was a center of Islamic learning. All nine of the smashed shrines have been rebuilt with funds from foreign donors. Every community or state has landmarks or buildings that are important to local history. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one such landmark. Or study a photo of the landmark. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor describing the landmark and why it is important or inspiring.

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.