For Grades 5-8 , week of May 30, 2022

1. The Loved and Hated AR-15s

The weapon used by the gunman who killed 19 children and two adults at a Texas elementary school was an AR-15-style assault rifle. Weapons of its kind were once banned in the United States for private ownership, but since the ban expired in 2004 the gun has become hugely popular among gun owners. It also has become a weapon of choice for people who commit mass shootings, because it can fire quickly, is lightweight and easy to load. The National Rifle Association has called it “America’s rifle” due to its popularity; opponents call it a weapon of destruction that should be banned for private individuals. The Texas shooter, Salvador Ramos, legally purchased two AR-15-style rifles and 375 rounds of ammunition just after his 18th birthday this month. He used them to commit the deadliest school shooting since a gunman used an AR-15 to kill 20 small children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012. Whenever an assault-style weapon is used in a mass shooting, it renews debate about whether such weapons should be banned for private ownership. Divide the class into teams and read stories and commentaries in the newspaper or online about whether such weapons should be banned. Then read the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which addresses gun ownership. Stage a class debate about ownership of assault weapons such as AR-15-style rifles. Take a vote at the end of the debate on whether private individuals should be allowed to own such weapons.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

2. NFL Spreads Out

NFL football is the most popular professional sport in America. Now the National Football League wants to make it popular around the world as well. In recent years, the NFL has played up to five games per season outside the United States in England, Canada and Mexico. This season, for the first time, a game will take place in the European nation of Germany as well. On top of that, the NFL has launched a program to promote teams and the league in new markets and areas around the world. Under the league’s International Home Marketing program, teams have been granted access to different areas in the world to attract fans for their teams and build interest in the NFL as a whole. Nineteen teams have signed up for the program so far, targeting areas as far reaching as the Asian nation of China, the South American nation of Brazil and the Southern Pacific nation of Australia. This year, for the first time, a team is looking to build support in Africa, with the Philadelphia Eagles setting their sights on the nation of Ghana. NFL football is hugely popular in the United States. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories and commentaries about why the sport has such broad appeal. Then pretend you have been put in charge of a marketing campaign to promote the league in an area unfamiliar with American football. Draw up a list of “talking points” to use in a new market to generate enthusiasm for football or an individual team. Share with the class and discuss.

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.

3. Starbucks Shutdown

A week after McDonald’s announced it was selling all its restaurants in Russia, another major American company is bidding the European nation goodbye in response to the Ukraine war. Starbucks, which operates 130 stores in Russia, said it was closing them all, and also halting shipment of any Starbucks products to the country. In March, the coffee chain condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and announced that it was suspending all store operations, the New York Times reported. “We condemn the unprovoked, unjust and horrific attacks on Ukraine by Russia, and our hearts go out to all those affected,” Starbucks’ chief operating officer said at that time. Now, in a move to stay “true to our mission and values,” Starbucks is pulling out entirely. The shutdown will affect 2,000 employees. International companies are cutting ties with Russia in an effort to damage the Russian economy and pressure the Russian government to halt the war in Ukraine. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about companies that are doing this. Use what you read to write a business column detailing which efforts will have the most impact on Russia and cause the most damage to the Russian economy.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

4. Last Call

Before cell phones and smart phones were invented, the only way to make a phone call in public was to use a public pay phone. They were easy to operate: you inserted a quarter or two, dialed the number and talked to the person you wanted to contact. Local calls usually had no time limits, while long-distance calls cost more. The arrival of mobile cell phones made pay phones unnecessary and out of date, and they were phased out in city after city. This month, long after most pay phones had shut down elsewhere, New York City removed the last pay phone operating on its streets. The phone, located on a street in the Midtown neighborhood on the island of Manhattan, was unplugged because too few people used it to make it profitable. On top of that, the city has been installing free-wifi kiosks from which people can make calls or access the Internet at no charge. While the last public pay phone has been removed from the street, it isn’t gone completely. It’s headed for a display at the Museum of the City of New York. “Whether or not we have pay phones doesn’t necessarily symbolize the end of anything,” the exhibit’s curator told ABC TV in New York. “[It’s] just a change in the way we communicate.” From phones to computers to cars and trucks, technology is constantly changing. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a technology change that is affecting a product people use. Use what you read to write a short editorial detailing how this change is an advance over previous technology and how it will make people’s lives easier or more efficient.

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.

5. A Toast to Security

The decision by Finland to seek membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has been greeted with support throughout the European nation following Russia’s invasion of its neighbor Ukraine. Now a brewery in Finland is showing its support for NATO membership in an unusual way. The Olaf Brewing company has brought out a beer called OTAN that it says has “a taste of security, with a hint of freedom.” The beer takes its name for the French phrase for NATO — Organisation du Traité de l’Atlantique Nord, the Washington Post newspaper reports. Finland has always stayed neutral in matters involving NATO, but after Russia invaded Ukraine it joined neighboring Sweden in seeking NATO membership. Since its founding in 1949, NATO’s mission has been to serve as a counterbalance to the power of Russia, and before that the nation known as the Soviet Union. Companies often capitalize on events in the news to create new products or offers. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a company that has done this. Then think of a product or business you like and use. Brainstorm a new product, offer or promotion based on the news. Write a paragraph telling why your product idea would attraction the attention of customers.

Common Core State Standards: Citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.