For Grades 5-8 , week of Sep. 14, 2020

1. Historic Wildfires

Wildfires have been raging in the states along America’s West Coast, and they are causing conditions many have never seen before. At one point last week, smoke covered the entire coastline, from Washington State in the north to the Mexican border in Southern California. In many areas the fires and smoke turned the skies from blue to a spooky orange during the daytime. Areas were so dark from smoke that streetlights stayed on during the day and chickens refused to wake up, eat or lay eggs. In the states of Washington and Oregon, whole communities were destroyed, and California was hit even harder. The blazes there last week pushed the damage to more than 2.9-million acres, a new record for a single year. In Oregon, more than 300,000 acres burned in just a few days. Smoke rose so high it looked like thunderclouds before a storm. The West Coast wildfires have drawn new attention to the effects of climate change and to building development near dry forest areas. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories examining how these issues have contributed to this year’s wildfires. Use what you read to write an editorial offering ways people and communities could address these issues to reduce the risk of wildfires in the future.

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. ‘Laced Up’ to Win

In the age of social media and the Internet, candidates for political office can get huge attention in an instant for the things they do. Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris did just that on her first day of on-the-ground campaigning for presidential candidate Joe Biden. But it wasn’t for something she said or for being the first Black candidate on the presidential ticket of a major party. When she stepped off the plane in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, she became an Internet sensation for what she was wearing on her feet. The California U.S. senator was sporting a fashionable pair of black, low-rise Chuck Taylor All-Stars sneakers. Made by the Converse company, Chuck Taylor All-Stars were once the go-to sneaker for NBA and college players but in recent years have been known more as a fashion accessory. Harris wears them all the time for comfort and style, her sister Maya said. In addition to black “Chucks,” she has white Chucks, off-white Chucks and even a sequined pair she has yet to break out on the campaign trail. Her campaign didn’t mind the attention her shoes got, declaring on social media that she was “laced up and ready to win.” The actions and attitudes of candidates give voters an idea of what they are like as people. In the newspaper or online find and closely read stories about reactions to Kamala Harris’s sneakers. Use what you read to write a paragraph telling what Harris’s sneakers say about what she is like. Write another paragraph examining what the actions of another candidate reveal about them. Discuss with family, friends and classmates.

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

3. New Number 2

With more than 6.2-million cases, the United States is by far the world’s leader in coronavirus infections. But a new country has now claimed the Number 2 spot. The Asian nation of India has surged past the South American nation of Brazil to claim second place with more than 4.2-million cases. according to statistics released last week. Brazil was close behind with 4.1-million cases, the Washington Post newspaper reported. More than 72,000 people in India have died from the virus, making it the worst-affected nation in Asia. The death toll in the United States is nearly 190,000 and the total in Brazil is nearly 127,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The U.S. response to the coronavirus epidemic is getting renewed attention following publication of a new book about the actions of the Trump administration. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about how the U.S. responded. Use what you read to write an editorial examining what the U.S. could have done differently (if anything) and what it needs to do going forward.

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.

4. Hollywood Ending

Six months ago, Great Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, made news when they announced they were cutting ties with the Royal Family headed by Queen Elizabeth II. The immediate question many asked was: What will they do if they no longer take part in Royal Family activities in the European nation? Now we know the answer. Prince Harry and Meghan have signed a multi-year deal with Netflix to make documentaries, docu-series, feature films, scripted shows and children’s programming. Terms of the deal were not announced, but the couple said “Our focus will be on creating content that informs but also gives hope. As new parents, making inspirational family programming is also important to us.” Before marrying Harry, Meghan had an acting career as Meghan Markle. It is not known whether she or Prince Harry will appear on camera under the new agreement. They are not the only high-profile couple to work with Netflix. In 2018, Netflix signed a deal with Barack and Michelle Obama to produce shows and films. Prince Harry and his wife Meghan say they want to make “inspirational” programming that could engage and help families. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about issues or problems affecting families that need greater attention. Use what you read to write a letter to Prince Harry and Meghan proposing one or more issues they should address in their programming for Netflix.

Common Core State Standards: Citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

5. Sunshine Fields

With the coronavirus epidemic, protests against racial injustice and an increasingly bitter presidential race, this summer has been a dark time emotionally for a lot of Americans. A farmer in the state of Wisconsin decided to do something about it by bringing a little sunshine into people’s lives. Instead of planting strawberries, raspberries and pumpkins at his pick-your-own farm, Scott Thompson and his wife planted more than 2-million sunflowers in their fields. People can still pick-your-own and take the flowers home, but what Thompson is really selling is happiness. “One of the things that's so cool about this is everyone is so happy,” Thompson told CNN News. “We get all these comments on Facebook, or if I'm out in the field, everybody is like, ‘Thanks for doing this’ [or] This is what I needed.'” The Thompson family’s sunflower fields are a colorful way to spread joy and happiness to others. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about people spreading happiness in another way. Use what you read to draw a colorful picture or illustration showing what these people are doing. Give your artwork a creative title. Share with family and friends.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.