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For Grades 9-12 , week of Dec. 04, 2023

1. Great Shining Stars

The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts was created 65 years ago to be a national cultural center, and named for President John F. Kennedy after he was assassinated in 1963. President Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy had been great supporters of the arts, and the center’s mission reflects that. It focuses on “reaching and connecting with artists, [while] inspiring and educating communities.” One of the ways the center does that each year is by honoring leaders in the performing arts for lifetime achievements. This year’s honorees are led by hip hop singer and actress Queen Latifah, African American singer Dionne Warwick, actor and comedian Billy Crystal, singer-songwriter Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees and opera star Renée Fleming. Latifah, who is 53, thought she might be a bit young to be named a Kennedy Center honoree, but then she reflected on the fact that her first album came out when she was just 19. “I guess I did start kind of young,” she said. “So maybe it’s right on time.” Who would you honor in the performing arts if you could make a choice? Would it be an actor, a singer, a dancer or TV star? In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about an artist you thinks deserves an honor for significant achievement. Use what you read to write a proposal for honoring this person, telling what they have contributed to their field and why that is significant. Share ideas and discuss as a class.

2. Down-Low Arrest

Teen boys who get annoyed when teachers tell them to “pull up your pants” when walking school hallways might react differently after hearing the story of a 30-year-old man from New York City. The man was arrested for a robbery after being identified by his underwear — which could be seen because his pants were hanging low. Surveillance videos distributed by police showed that the robber was wearing brightly colored briefs with a large letter R in white and the year 1990 in yellow, the Associated Press news service reported. A tipster identified the man as Fathy Hussein and led police to his online Instagram account. The caller also told police where Hussein and the other robbers had tried to sell cell phones taken from customers at a store in the Queens neighborhood. Video from the sale site showed Hussein wearing the same underwear visible above his down-low pants, and police arrested him at his home. Suspects in crimes are sometimes captured in odd, funny or unusual ways. Or they do something that police and observers feel is incredibly dumb. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about such an arrest. Use what you read to write a humorous letter to editor calling attention to the way the suspect was captured and why you find it funny.

3. Ka-Ching for Napoleon

One of the big holiday movies in theaters this month is the war movie telling the story of the French general and emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Starring Oscar winner Joaquin Phoenix, the movie “Napoleon” generated nearly $80-million in ticket sales in its first five days to lead the worldwide box office. The real-life Napoleon also has been generating millions of dollars outside of theaters. A hat belonging to this leader of France in the early 1800s sold last month for more than $2-million at an auction. The sale price broke the previous record for a Napoleon hat and was more than double what had been expected from bidders at the auction, the AFP news group reported. The hat, known as a “bicorne” (“two corner”), is black with an insignia in the French flag colors of blue, white and red. Napoleon is believed to have worn the hat sometime between 1808 and 1815 during the middle of his reign as leader of the European nation. Wealthy people often spend great amounts of money to purchase rare or unusual items. Such purchases are sometimes criticized by people who wish such amounts could be used to help people in need. With a partner, use the newspaper or Internet to find and closely read stories about one high-priced purchase of a rare item. Use what you read to research how that amount of money could be used to help people or communities. Be as specific as you can (how many teachers could be hired, children fed, etc.). Present your findings to the class and discuss.

4. Safety Pioneer

When it comes to safety, people often take for granted things they use every day. Seat belts in cars, for example. Smoke detectors. Baby seats. Burglar alarms. This month, the world is celebrating the 100th anniversary of a safety device that has saved the lives of millions of people — the three-position traffic signal that tells people when to stop, go or exercise caution. The signal that became today’s red, green and yellow traffic lights was invented by Garrett Morgan, an African American man who had to fight for recognition in his own time due to racial discrimination. Before Morgan’s invention, intersections only had signals telling drivers to stop or go, CNN News reported. Because cars had only recently been invented, this caused a lot confusion and crashes. Morgan realized that a “caution” signal between stop and go would give people a chance to adjust to changes in commands. He patented his invention in November 1923 and later sold it to the General Motors auto-making company for an unheard of $40,000 (more than $700,000 today). “Garrett Morgan saw a problem, came up with a solution, and 100 years later we are all still using some variation of his original invention,” one safety expert said. New products and inventions are constantly providing people new ways to do things. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a new product or invention. Use what you read to write a consumer column, explaining how the invention has helped individuals, businesses or other organizations.

5. Drone Records

Small, unmanned drone aircraft were first developed for military missions, but now they are used for all kinds of jobs. Drones now are used for such diverse purposes as police surveillance, aerial photography, product deliveries and entertainment. Two record-breaking examples of drone entertainment were on display this month at a drone show in the state of Florida. Sky Elements, a company specializing in drone light shows, broke world records for the largest aerial image of a flag formed by drones and the largest aerial logo formed by drones, UPI News reported. The company used 1,600 drones to create an image of the American flag and its own logo. The previous record for the largest aerial image of a flag was set by 998 drones in March of this year in the Middle East city of Dubai, and the previous record for a logo was set at the same event by 1,500 drones. Drones are a new technology that is changing the way people and businesses do things. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about technology fields that will be increasingly significant in the future. Use what you read to write a letter to a younger student, telling why this would be a good field to get into as an adult.