For Grades 9-12 , week of Aug. 08, 2022

1. Death of a Hero

When basketball great Bill Russell died last week at the age of 88, the nation lost a hero in sports — and a hero in life. He had incredible success as an athlete: 11 NBA championships in 13 years with the Boston Celtics, including an incredible eight in a row. But he earned equal respect outside of sports as a champion for civil rights, an opponent of racism and discrimination and an advocate for children and young people. With a game-changing emphasis on defense and rebounding, he had success at every level of basketball he played, winning 55 straight games and two NCAA titles in college, leading the United States to a gold medal in the 1956 Summer Olympics and playing his best in games that counted most. In college and pro sports, he played in 21 winner-take all games and won all 21. When Red Auerbach retired as coach of the Celtics, Russell became the first African American coach in NBA history, winning the last two of his 11 championships as a player-coach and opening the door for Black coaches who would follow. Off the court he marched for civil rights with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., spoke out against racism when few Black athletes were doing so and endured taunts and slurs from fans in with courage and resilience. He was “someone who stood up for the rights and dignity of all men,” President Barack Obama said in 2011, when he awarded Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. When Bill Russell died, newspapers and websites wrote extensive obituaries telling about his life, achievements and influence inside and outside of sports. In the newspaper or online find and closely read an obituary about a famous person to see how they are written. Then read stories about another person who has had great achievements and influence in America or the world. Use what you read to draft an obituary of the person. Use the opening paragraphs to tell the most important achievements the person had in life.

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.

2. Power of Friendship

It’s often been said that having good friends can make life richer in personal and social terms. A wide-ranging new study has found that good friendships can make students richer in economic terms as well. The study published in the journal Nature found that lower income students were significantly more likely to raise their income as adults if they lived in an area where they could develop friendships with wealthier students, the New York Times newspaper reported. Having friendships that cut across class lines had a stronger influence on future success than school quality, family structure, job availability or a community’s racial composition, the study found. For poorer children cross-class relationships could mean an increase in future income of 20 percent, on average. The new study — the largest of its kind — was based on analysis of the Facebook friendships of 72 million people, amounting to 84 percent of U.S. adults aged 25 to 44. “Growing up in a community connected across class lines improves kids’ outcomes and gives them a better shot at rising out of poverty,” said Raj Chetty, an economist at Harvard University who was one of the study’s four principal authors. According to the Facebook study, the people you know really can open up opportunity. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about two people in the news. Use what you read to write a paragraph outlining what opportunities could open up for each person if they had a strong friendship. Write a second paragraph outlining what opportunities could open up for you if you knew one or both of these people.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

3. Virtual Influence

From travel to food to movies, social media “influencers” play an increasingly significant role shaping public opinion. They usually are beautiful or glamorous people who have attracted a following with their looks as well as their opinions and adventures. In the Asian nation of South Korea, one of the most popular influencers shares those qualities — but isn’t a person at all! The influencer is named Rozy, and while she looks like a woman, she is a “virtual human” created with computer generated imagery (CGI) and artificial intelligence. And she is not alone, CNN News reports. Virtual humans are in demand as influencers and “spokespeople” for companies and products. Like their real-life counterparts, virtual influencers build a following through social media, where they post about their “lives” and interact with their fans. They can be placed in any situation or location at far lower cost than filming a real person in a real location. And they are “not limited to time or space,” noted the creator of a virtual influencer named Lucy. “She can appear anywhere. And there are no moral issues.” Social media influencers help shape public opinion on a wide range of topics and issues. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about different influencers. Then check out the online posting site of one influencer. Study the site and write a “review” of the influencer’s posts as a source of information for his or her specialty interest. Share with friends and discuss.

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. ‘Clean-Up Raves’

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has devastated cities and towns all over the European nation. Now young people are taking an unusual approach to clean up the damage. They are organizing “raves in the wreckage” in an attempt to turn clean-up efforts into a positive, and even fun, experience. Groups like Repair Together in the city of Kyiv bring DJs to ruined sites to spin techno music while volunteers shovel, sweep and clear wreckage, the Washington Post newspaper reports. As volunteers and residents move to the music at the “clean-up raves,” it takes their minds off the hard work at hand. “It’s like you don’t think about everything,” an organizer for Repair Together said. “You just move and feel the music.” Residents are welcoming the visits by the music raves. “If people are coming here and helping us to the music, it somehow helps the village to get renewed and revived,” one said. “Before that, people would walk around gloomy and emotionless. … This helps them to forget the war a bit and feel some joy.” Groups often organize fun or unusual events to get people together to do things for the community. With a partner, use the newspaper or Internet to find and closely read stories about a group that has done this. Then read a story about a problem that needs to be solved in the community. Brainstorm an idea for a fun event to tackle the problem.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

5. History-Making General

The U.S. Marine Corps was founded in November 1775, and in nearly 275 years it has made a lot of history. This month it continued to make history when the U.S. Senate confirmed Lieutenant General Michael E. Langley as a four-star general and leader of all military forces on the continent of Africa. Langley is the first African American to earn the rank of four-star general in the history of the Corps. A native of Shreveport, Louisiana, Langley is the son of a 25-year Air Force veteran and has served in the Marines for 37 years. He was nominated by President Biden as chief of the U.S. Africa Command after service in Afghanistan, Somalia and Japan and top jobs at the Pentagon in Washington, DC and with Marine Corps Forces in Europe and Africa. The Marine Corps is considered one of the elite U.S. military forces but for its first 167 years it barred African Americans from enlisting. That ended in 1942 after President Franklin D. Roosevelt banned discrimination in recruitment practices in national defense departments. African Americans are breaking new ground in many career fields beyond the military. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a person who has done this. Use what you read to write a letter of congratulations to the person. Be sure to include why this person’s groundbreaking achievement is important to the community.

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