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For Grades 5-8 , week of Jan. 02, 2023

1.’30 by 30’

All over the world, plants, animals and other wildlife are being threatened by loss of habitat, global warming, development and human activities. To protect those species, nearly 200 nations have reached a historic agreement to preserve the world’s natural areas. Meeting at a summit conference in Canada last month, the nations pledged to protect nearly 30 percent of the Earth’s land, oceans and waterways by the year 2030 to ensure that more species do not go extinct. The “30 by 30” agreement still must be funded by individual nations, but it is “an incredible milestone for the world,” said one conservation leader, because an estimated 1-million species are at risk of disappearing forever. The conference at which the agreement was reached was sponsored by the international United Nations organization. The new agreement to preserve natural areas is an example of nations working together. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another example of nations working together. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor detailing how nations working together can accomplish more than nations working alone.

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. Free Virus Tests

Cases of the coronavirus infection are rising again across the United States and around the world. Because of this, health officials are worried there could be a surge during the winter months. To head off the spread of infection, the U.S. government has announced it will restart a program to provide free coronavirus tests to American households through the U.S. Postal Service. Households will be able to order four tests at www.covidtests.gov, and shipments are available now, the New York Times newspaper reports. Offering free home tests is part of a “winter preparedness plan” put together by President Biden’s administration to block the spread of the disease as more people stay indoors during cold weather. The program also is urging Americans to get the latest booster vaccines to increase their protection from the virus that has killed more than 1-million Americans. Heath issues often are in the news. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one health issue making news. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a 60-second public service TV ad alerting people about the issue and explaining why it is important. Write the content and choose photos to illustrate it from the newspaper or Internet. Read the message of your ad aloud to make sure it does not run longer than 60 seconds. For extra challenge, write a 30-second ad. Shorter is harder!

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.

3. Fresh Start

The year 2023 has arrived! For people, communities, teams and other organizations, the beginning of a new year provides an opportunity to make a new start after failures, setbacks, disappointments or tragedies. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a person or group that might want to make a new start. Use what you read to write a personal column about the value of making new starts, why a new start could benefit the person or group you read about and what a new start would involve. End your column with a personal note about a new start you might like to make in some way.

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

4. New NBA Awards

At the end of each season, the National Basketball Association gives out special awards to honor the top performers in different categories of play. Starting this season, the NBA will honor top players from the past at the same time. The league has just announced it is renaming top awards like Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player after players who set the standards for those achievements. The Most Valuable Player award will now be called the Michael Jordan Trophy, the Defensive Player award will be the Hakeem Olajuwon Trophy and the Most Improved award will be the George Mikan Trophy. Jordan earned the honor by winning five MVP awards, second only to Kareem Abdul Jabbar, who won six. Olajuwon was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year who made the All-Defensive Team nine times. Mikan, who was a star big man in the 1940s and 1950s, is known to players of today for the layup and footwork exercise known as the "Mikan Drill" that has been used by players at all levels to improve their fundamentals. In every career field, people could be honored as Most Valuable or Most Improved contributors each year. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about people who would fit these two categories. Choose a person for each category and write a paragraph explaining why they deserve honors as Most Valuable or Most Improved. For fun, pick students from your class who could be honored as Most Valuable or Most Improved for a quarter or semester (you can’t vote for yourself!).

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

5. Ancient Water Solution

In the South American nation of Peru, the Inca people had great success 1,000 years ago creating buildings, roads, farms and forts like the Machu Picchu citadel in the Andes Mountains. But more than 1,000 years before the Incas, native peoples already were building impressive farms, buildings and water systems to manage their natural resources. Now, nearly 1,700 years after these structures were built, Peru is trying to revive some of them to deal with modern water shortages. An experimental program is under way to renovate water systems known as “amunas” that were used to store and distribute water in mountain regions above the modern city of Lima, the Washington Post newspaper reports. The “amunas” gathered water from streams during Peru’s rainy season and spread it through stone channels and dikes to feed pastures, farms and natural springs. Under the new program, the channels are being dug out and rebuilt so that they can save and distribute water for modern communities. If the program proves successful, planners hope that it could be expanded to provide more water to Lima, which is built in a dry, desert region and experiences frequent water shortages. People can often learn valuable lessons from previous generations. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about people of today doing this. Use what you read to write an editorial discussing the value of learning from the past.

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.