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For Grades K-4 , week of Oct. 23, 2017

1.‘Harry Potter’ Rescue

In the “Harry Potter” movies, the “Hogwarts Express” train is based on a real-life train that runs through the Highlands region in the European country of Scotland. Kids everywhere dream of riding it, but four in a Scottish family actually got to do so when they faced an emergency. The four children had been stranded with their parents when their canoe was washed away in a storm during a camping trip. When they called for help, officials told them they could get a ride on a nearby railroad. And not just any ride. “We’ve arranged for the next train passing to stop for you, and you’re not going to believe this but it’s the Hogwarts Express,” officials said. “Your kids are going to love it.” The train is an old-fashioned steam train called the Jacobite and it looks just like the one used in the movies to take the student wizards to school. The children who got to ride the “Hogwarts Express” train in Scotland got to pretend they were in a favorite movie. As a class, talk about movies you have seen that you would like a chance to be in. Use what you read to draw a series of comic strips for the newspaper showing you having fun or adventures in one movie you like.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events.

2.‘Harry Potter’ Wasp

Speaking of “Harry Potter,” a scientist in the nation of New Zealand has named a newly discovered wasp after one of the top villains of the Potter stories. But not for the reason you would think. Biologist Tom Saunders named the non-stinging wasp after Lucius Malfoy to improve what people think about wasps. Though Malfoy was a villain in most of the Harry Potter books, Saunders notes he turned away from the evil Valdemort in the end, and was pardoned for his decision. By naming the new wasp after Malfoy, Saunders hopes to get people to “pardon” wasps and think better of them. “People see wasps as villains, as the ‘bad guys,’” Saunders says, “but the truth is that the vast majority of wasp species are either neutral or beneficial from a human standpoint.” Scientists study insects and other wildlife to learn more about the behavior of different species. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a wildlife species that is being studied. Use what you read to write a paragraph explaining what scientists have learned about the species and why that is important.

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.

3. A ‘Miracle’ Survival

The wildfires in Northern California have caused a lot of pain and heartbreak for the people who live there. But a family in the hard-hit town of Santa Rosa got a jolt of joy when they returned to their burned-out neighborhood. Their family dog Izzy had miraculously survived the fire after she had run off as the Weaver family loaded the car to escape. Izzy, a 9-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog, was covered in ashes and smelled of smoke but was otherwise unharmed. It is not known where she went during the blaze, but officials said there were pockets of land in the neighborhood that were not destroyed. The Weavers’ home was a complete loss, but their spirits were boosted by the “miracle” of Izzy’s survival. Animals and wildlife were affected by the California wildfires, along with people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about animals affected by the fires. Then use what you read to write a letter to the editor, offering suggestions on how your community could help these animals. Discuss as a class.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

4. What a Gem!

Diamonds are among the most valuable gem stones in the world, and collectors will pay lots of money for rare ones. In the European city of Geneva, Switzerland, one of the rarest will go on sale next month, and it could bring a price in the millions. The stone known as “The Raj Pink” could sell for up to $30 million when buyers start bidding against each other at a special auction sale. The Raj Pink is the world's largest known “fancy intense pink diamond” and is among “the most important pink diamonds known,” according to a spokesman for the Sotheby’s auction house. The most expensive gem ever sold was also a pink diamond — a jewel called the Pink Star, which sold for $71.2 million in April. Wealthy people often pay great amounts of money for rare or unusual things. Imagine you had unlimited money. Find something advertised or written about in the newspaper or online that you would be willing to pay a lot for. It can be an item you would want for yourself or a family member or something connected to a person you admire. Write a personal letter to a friend, describing the item you chose and why you would be willing to pay a lot for it. Share letters as a class.

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.

5. Surprise Payoff

Sometimes it pays to be lucky. Just ask Jimmie Smith of East Orange, New Jersey. He found a $24 million lottery ticket in an old shirt — just two days before the deadline for claiming the prize. Smith, a 68-year-old retired security officer, knew he had a batch of lottery tickets in the shirt, but kept telling himself “I’ll check them when I have the time.” It was a good thing he dug out the shirt when he heard New York Lottery officials announce that the big prize was about to expire. “Check your pockets. Check your glove box. Look under the couch cushions,” Lottery officials urged. Smith did and couldn’t believe his eyes. When the numbers matched up, he kept asking “Do I see what I think I see?” People experience surprises every day in life. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone who had a big surprise. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short essay comparing this person’s surprise with the biggest surprise you have ever had.

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.