For Grades 9-12 , week of Sep. 19, 2022

1. Ukrainian Comeback

When Russian forces invaded the neighboring nation of Ukraine, the Ukrainians were considered an overwhelming underdog in the conflict. Now, with support from the United States and other nations, the Ukrainians may have turned the tables on the Russian Army. Ukrainian forces have retaken cities and towns in the northeastern part of the European nation, some of which have been occupied by Russian forces for more than six months. Russian troops are reportedly retreating in disarray from the Ukrainian counter-attack. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that his country’s forces had retaken more than 3,088 square miles of territory, including 300 cities and towns that are home to 150,000 people. In their retreat, the Russians left behind more than 100 tanks, dozens of armored fighting vehicles and great amounts of military ammunition and equipment, the New York Times newspaper reported. Russia still holds wide areas in eastern and southern Ukraine, but war experts say the Ukrainian success may embolden the nation to step up its efforts to recapture other areas. “Today, when we look up, we are looking for only one thing — the flag of Ukraine,” Zelensky said when he visited the recaptured city of Izium. “Our blue and yellow flag is already flying in … Izium. And it will be so in every Ukrainian city and village.” Fierce fighting continues in the Ukraine war and experts fear it could continue for months. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the latest developments in the war. Use what you read, to write an editorial or political column outlining the biggest challenges facing Ukraine in the coming months and how other nations could help the Ukrainians meet those challenges.

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.

2. Fighting Misinformation

At a time when people use the Internet as a main source of information, critical thinking is a skill more important than ever. On the Internet, everything looks “official” on websites and social media, so how do people guard against misinformation, bias or propaganda disguised as news? Several educational groups representing more than 350,000 teachers in social studies and other disciplines have created an alliance to push for greater media literacy and critical thinking among students, the New York Times newspaper reports. They are urging schools to teach students how to test information by checking other websites or tracing the origin of documents. They are encouraging students to ask questions such as: Who is the source of this information? What is their perspective or point of view? Do they have a goal or “agenda” in presenting the information? The educators are cautioning that things that go viral may not be legitimate, that content — even photos — can be manipulated and that an .org domain does not necessarily make a website trustworthy. As a class, discuss ways to check the value of information on websites, and how Googling the name of the website can reveal what others think of it. Talk about things to look for that would reveal who is behind a website, and what biases or point of view they may have. Use the newspaper and Internet to do further research and design a poster highlighting ways to practice “Critical Thinking on the Internet.” Share posters and display them in your school.

Common Core State Standards: Responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement; 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.

3. Youngest Champion

When men’s tennis pro Carlos Alcaraz won the U.S. Open this month, he made history in the process. He became the youngest Number 1 men’s pro in the history of the Association of Tennis Professionals. Alcaraz, who is just 19, won the U.S. Open by defeating 23-year-old Casper Ruud in in four sets in the Open Final in New York City. Ruud is the Number 2 men’s player in the world. Both Alcaraz and Ruud come from nations on the continent of Europe — Alcaraz from Spain and Ruud from Norway. Had Ruud won the U.S. Open he would be Number 1 in the world. “This is something I’ve dreamt of since I was a kid,” Alcaraz said after winning. “To be Number 1 in the world, to be a champion.” The U.S. Open is one of the four top-rated “Grand Slam” tournaments in tennis, along with the Australian Open, the French Open and the Wimbledon competition in England. By winning the U.S. Open, Alcaraz took home $2.6-million in prize money. Ruud won $1.3-million. Young athletes are constantly making their mark in professional sports. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a young athlete who has done something remarkable in a sport. Use what you read to write a sports column outlining how this young athlete’s achievement might inspire other young athletes, and how it generates excitement and interest for the sport.

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.

4. Free College

As a member of the Ivy League, Princeton is one of the top universities in the United States. It is also one of the most expensive, with tuition, room and board charges of almost $80,000 a year. Starting next year, however, students from families making less than $100,000 a year will be able to attend Princeton at no cost. Through an ambitious expansion of financial aid, the school will offer a free education to students from families in that income bracket in an effort to increase “socioeconomic diversity” at the New Jersey university. Previously, only families earning less than $65,000 received full financial aid coverage, CNN News reported. The university also eliminated the annual “student contribution” — a portion of tuition and expenses that students were expected to pay with their own savings or on-campus work – and increased the financial aid allowance for personal expenses and books. Many leading universities are expanding financial aid to help students pay for college. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about universities that are doing this. Use what you read to write a consumer column analyzing which are the best approaches and offers.

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.

5. A Real Team Effort

When more than 8 inches of rain hit the state of Indiana this month, hundreds of homes and properties were damaged in flash floods. In Switzerland County one couple was cut off from the world when flood waters destroyed the only bridge over a creek between their home and a main road. Todd and Sarah Hagan didn’t know what they were going to do until the local football team stepped in. At the urging of their coach, the players on the Switzerland County High School football team showed up on Labor Day weekend to rebuild the bridge. With the help of parents and friends, they removed the damaged wooden planking on the bridge, hauled off the debris and helped lay new planking to make the bridge useable again, the Washington Post newspaper reported. “This may be the most labor you guys ever do on Labor Day,” coach Ryan Jesop told his team. With so many hands to share the work, the bridge replacement was completed in just three hours. “It felt really rewarding,” said Gavin Reese, 18, a senior on the team. “We all came together to help a family in need.” Students often make news by helping others in the community. In the newspaper or online find and closely read a story about students doing this in your community or state. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor detailing how their actions could be a model for others — and how they benefited the community as a whole.

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.