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For Grades 9-12 , week of May 22, 2017

1. That FBI Firing

President Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey continues to cause debate and discussion in the nation’s capital and the nation. Trump at first said he fired Comey because he had “lost confidence” in Comey’s ability to lead the FBI after a series of actions connected to an investigation last year involving Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state. Then Trump said the firing was connected to an expanding FBI investigation of Russian interference in U.S. election last fall, and possible connections to the Trump campaign for president. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about reaction to the Comey firing, and how the president’s action could affect the FBI’s Russia investigation. Use what you read to write a news analysis, summarizing the latest developments, what you think will happen next and what you think will be the effect on the Russia investigation.

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.

2. Speak Out, Teens

In the Internet world, one person’s action can have enormous impact. Consider 16-year-old Lucie Myslikova, a Girl Scout in Europe’s Czech Republic, who joined protesters opposing a demonstration by a neo-Nazi group in the city of Brno. A photographer took her picture facing down an angry member of the far right Workers Party of Social Justice and it went viral around the world when it was posted on the Internet. The attention has given Myslikova a forum to encourage teens to speak out about issues important to them. “I think it makes sense to be seen and to be heard,” Myslikova told The Associated Press in an interview. “I think young people should comment on public issues, to express their views. They will live in the future and they should create it as they wish.” What would you speak out about if you were given attention by the news media? In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an issue you feel strongly about. Then write a short statement giving your opinion on the issue. Remember that statements that get most attention are clear and direct. Use short sentences and strong verbs and adjectives. Share statements 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

3. An Idea Business

Like many senior adults, Nick Sabatino didn’t take to retirement. After a lifetime of business and art pursuits, the Centerville, Ohio resident is still looking for new challenges. So he’s decided to start a new business — at age 98! Sabatino is working to create a consulting firm for budding business owners and inventors called Say It With An Idea. The business will feature the services of retired architects, salesmen, artists, business owners and politicians to guide the next generation of innovators. “It’s going to be simple,” he said. “No offices, no presidents, all owners. We’ll communicate with Skype and our only products will be ideas.” What kind of business would you start if you had the chance? Would you sell products or offer services? In the newspaper or online, scan ads and stories involving different kinds of businesses. Then write a short proposal for a business you would like to start. Be sure to describe what services or products you would sell, and how you would ensure they are top quality. Give your business an eye-catching name.

Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

4. South America Slavery

In the South American nation of Brazil, poor people are desperate for jobs to support their families. Many of them go to work for cattle ranches carved out of the Amazon jungle — and get caught in a system that critics call “modern-day slavery.” It’s not like the slavery of the American South in the 1800s, but just as damaging. Workers get involved in systems of “debt bondage” and can’t get out, according to an investigation by CNN News. They are lured to the jobs with promises of a small salary and a place to live. But often the ranch owners charge them fees for housing and tools that amount to more than the salary they are paid. They’re told they can’t leave because they owe the owner money, and some have been held in bondage for two years or more. Brazil is trying to crack down on “debt bondage,” but doesn’t have enough inspectors to monitor the ranches. Modern-day slavery still exists in some parts of the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about Brazil’s “debt bondage” or other situations in which people are forced to work. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short documentary film about one situation. Write an outline for your film, including images you would use. Then write the opening scene or introduction to the topic.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; 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. New Human ‘Cousin’

South Africa’s Rising Star cave system is one of the world’s richest sites for fossils of human ancestors — so rich it has been called “the Cradle of Humankind.” Now it has yielded a new species of human cousin that may have overlapped with the human species “Homo sapien.” The species “Homo naledi” lived as recently as 236,000 years ago, according to a new analysis of fossil bones found two years ago. That means it was living in Africa at about the same time Homo sapiens were evolving. More surprisingly, “Homo naledi” may have buried their dead in the caves, since skeletons were found in two different caves deep in the system. Up to now, only “Homo sapiens” and Neanderthals were known to bury their dead. “Homo naledi” had a mix of ancient and more modern features. It had a small brain and curved fingers like an ape or gorilla, yet it had long legs, small teeth and supple wrists similar to those of humans. “This is a humbling discovery for science,” said fossil expert Lee Berger. “It’s reminding us that the fossil record can hide things.” Archaeologists and anthropologists study ancient fossils and artifacts to see how early humans and animals lived and evolved. What would future scientists learn if they studied fossils of today’s humans or some artifacts we use? In the newspaper or online, study photos of people from the United States and ads of products we use. Then write a paragraph or short essay describing what future scientists could learn from these about lifestyles of people today. Remember that the size and health of bones can reveal indirect details about lifestyles.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; closely reading written or visual texts to make logical inferences from it; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.