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For Grades 5-8 , week of June 19, 2017

1. The Russia Investigation

Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election continues to cause debate and controversy. The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee is investigating how Russian operatives worked to disrupt and influence the presidential race by supporting leaks of information. Former FBI Director James Comey testified he felt President Trump wanted the FBI to back off parts of the Russia investigation, and Trump responded by saying Comey had lied under oath. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also was called to testify. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read the latest developments in the Russia investigation. Use what you read to write a letter to one of your state’s U.S. Senators, giving your opinion on what steps should be taken next by the Senate or the FBI.

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. Some Older Relatives

How long has the human species “Homo sapiens” been around? New fossils discovered in the North African nation of Morocco indicate members of the species were living on Earth 100,000 years earlier than previously believed — and they didn’t all live close together. The Moroccan fossil bones are believed to be about 300,000 years old, and were found thousands of miles from where the next-oldest “homo sapiens” fossils were found in eastern Africa. The new fossils are not identical to modern humans, but they had “basically the face you could meet on the train in New York,” according to one of the scientists reporting the find. The study of fossils enables scientists to learn more about how early humans and wildlife lived and changed over time. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a fossil discovery. Use what you read to write a paragraph explaining why the discovery is important, and how it advances what is known about the species.

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. New Space Heavyweight

The Asian nation of India has become a heavyweight in space — by launching a very heavy weight. This month India joined the small number of nations capable of launching heavy cargoes by successfully sending a satellite weighing more than three metric tons into space. In the past, only the United States, Russia, China, Japan and the European Space Agency have successfully launched so-called “heavy” satellites that weighed more than three metric tons. The success of the launch makes India a bigger player in the multi-billion-dollar market launching global satellites. India’s launch of a “heavy” satellite expands the number of nations active in space activities or exploration. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about space programs or activities undertaken by another nation. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short film or video explaining the nation’s space activity. Write an outline for your film, including images you would use. Then write the opening scene.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

4. Muslim Women’s Clothing

In the Muslim religion, women are expected to dress modestly, cover most of their bodies and not call attention to themselves by what they wear. But that does not mean all Muslim women want to wear boxy, shapeless clothes — especially if they work in modern jobs or communities. In the European nation of Great Britain, two Muslim sisters have started a business to give such women more options, and in just two years it has grown to serve a community of more than 250,000 Muslim women. Nafisa Bakkar and her sister Selina launched their Amaliah company in 2015 as an Instagram page to find Muslim-friendly clothes for women among top brands. The goal was to help Muslim women to “find clothes that were modest but also fashionable,” said 24-year-old Nafisa. “We realized that was a big pain point for Muslim women.” The Amaliah business was founded to meet the needs of a target group of customers. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another new business. Use what you read and prior knowledge, to write a business plan explaining what target group (or groups) the business seeks to serve.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; closely reading written or visual texts to make logical inferences from it.

5. Oceans in Peril

The Secretary-General of the worldwide United Nations organization has declared that the world’s oceans are “under threat as never before,” and has warned that plastic garbage dumped in the oceans could outweigh all the fish in the seas by 2050. At the opening of the first U.N. conference on oceans, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of Portugal told presidents, ministers, diplomats and environmental activists from nearly 200 countries that oceans are being severely damaged by pollution, overfishing, trash and the effects of climate change. Guterres said the aim of the conference was “to turn the tide” and solve the problems that “we created.” Oceans, he said, are “the lifeblood of our planet.” Pollution is a major problem in the world’s oceans. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about pollution problems in oceans. Use what you read to write a short editorial, giving your opinion on steps that could be taken to address the problems.

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.