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For Grades 9-12 , week of May 29, 2017

1. The Russia Investigation

One of the continuing controversies of the 2016 presidential race in the United States is whether the Russian government coordinated efforts to influence the outcome with leaders of Donald Trump’s Republican campaign. Now the U.S. Justice Department has named a special counsel to head the investigation by the FBI. The choice of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel was prompted by the firing of FBI Director James Comey by President Trump, in part because of the agency’s ongoing investigation of Russia’s election influence. Because the issue is highly sensitive politically, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed a special counsel who has a track record of being independent of either Republicans or Democrats — and has served presidents of both parties. The work of the new special counsel investigating Russian influence on the U.S. election is getting a lot of attention in Washington, DC, and around the country. In the newspaper or online, find and read stories about what leaders and citizens are saying about the investigation. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short essay, summarizing the most significant points and who is making them.

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. A Caffeine Death

Teens and young adults often turn to caffeine drinks or energy drinks to give them more energy. But too much caffeine can be dangerous. A high school student from South Carolina collapsed during class last month, and died from a heart arrhythmia as a result. According to County Coroner Gary Watts, 16-year-old Davis Cripe collapsed after consuming three caffeine-laced drinks — a cafe latte, large Diet Mountain Dew and an energy drink — in a two-hour period. The coroner said the caffeine likely caused the arrhythmia — an abnormal heart rhythm during which the heart may not be able to pump enough blood to the brain and other parts of the body. From drugs to caffeine to sugary snacks, too much of any substance can be dangerous to people’s health. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about health risks posed by a food or substance. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a TV commercial to educate students your age about the risks. Write a summary of the points to be made in your ad.

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

3. Support from Nicki

Rapper Nicki Minaj has a huge following of fans among high school and college students. And her popularity is going to grow even more now she has stepped up to help students pay off their college expenses. On May 7 Minaj announced on Twitter that she would help top students who were having trouble with debt. “Show me straight A's that I can verify w/ur school and I'll pay it,” she tweeted. “Who wants to join THAT contest?!?! Dead serious.” In a later post on Instagram, Minaj revealed she has paid more than $18,000 to at least eight students who needed help with loan repayments, tuition and books. Minaj also announced that she will be starting a charity to further help students financially “very soon.” Celebrities often support causes and programs with money or public support. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a celebrity supporting a cause. Think like a culture critic and write a column assessing how this celebrity’s support can help the cause, and what people it will appeal to most.

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. Cheerleader Victory

Being a Raiderette was supposed to be an honor for the women who became cheerleaders for the NFL’s Oakland Raiders. But the team often paid them below minimum wage, failed to pay overtime and never reimbursed them for thousands of dollars in personal expenses incurred while they were working for the team. The Raiderettes went to court to get the money they felt they were owed, and now nearly 100 of them have been paid a combined $1.25 million as part of a settlement of their suit. People often sue in court to right wrongs, seek damages or collect money they feel is owed to them. These cases are called civil lawsuits, because they do not result in criminal penalties like going to jail. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a lawsuit that has been filed seeking damages or money for an action. Write a paragraph summarizing the positions of each side of the suit. Then write a second paragraph predicting which side you think will prevail — and why.

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.

5. Best Preserved Dinosaur

Scientists have learned a lot about dinosaurs by studying the fossils of their bones. Now a fossil found in the Canadian province of Alberta is showing what a dinosaur’s body looked like. The fossil of a new species called nodosaur was so perfectly preserved that viewers can see exactly what its skin, body armor and spiky horns looked like. The nodosaur was found in 2011 by an equipment operators digging in an oil sands mine in Alberta. It is roughly 110 million years old and the most well-preserved armored dinosaur ever unearthed. Newly displayed at Alberta’s Royal Tyrrell Museum, this nodosaur was 18 feet long, built like a tank and weighed about 3,000 pounds. Scientists study fossils to get clues about what life and nature were like millions of years ago. What could future scientists learn about the wild animals living on Earth today? In the newspaper or online, find and study stories and photos of wild animals living today. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper detailing what fossils of one or more of these animals could tell future scientists. Discuss as a class.

Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.