For Grades 5-8 THE WEEK OF Nov. 14, 2022

1. Battling for Control

The midterm elections get their name because they fall in the middle of the four-year term of the President of the United States. They are notable for determining which party controls the U.S. House and Senate and for measuring the popularity of the president. In last week’s elections, President Biden and the Democratic Party appeared to have lost control of the U.S. House to Republicans as counting of late ballots continued into this week. But they held control of the U.S. Senate, after narrow wins in the states of Arizona and Nevada, giving them a one-vote advantage in the 100-member Senate. One race remains to be decided in the state of Georgia, where neither the Democratic or Republican candidate won more than 50 percent of the vote as required by Georgia law. A runoff will be held December 6 between incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker. Warnock is senior pastor of the church once led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Walker is a one-time football star in the NFL and at the University of Georgia. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories and commentaries about the battle for the control of the U.S. Senate and House. Use what you read to write a commentary of your own comparing the difference between having Democrats in control or Republicans in control. Discuss 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.

2. Bullying Kills Contract

It's well known that bullying has long-term effects on those who are bullied. It also can have long-term effects on those who do the bullying. Take the case of hockey player Mitchell Miller. When he was 14 and in eighth grade, he and a friend bullied a Black classmate into eating candy that had been put in a bathroom urinal. He pleaded guilty to that offense in an Ohio juvenile court and was sentenced to community service. Fast forward seven years. Miller is now 20 and had just signed a contract to play professional hockey with the Boston Bruins. Yet the Bruins quickly rescinded that contract when the National Hockey League ruled Miller ineligible due to that racial incident and others that took place when the hockey player was a teenager, CNN News and NPR Radio reported. When he signed with the Bruins, Miller said “what I did when I was 14 years old was wrong and unacceptable” and pledged “to use this opportunity to speak out against mistreating others.” He said he had apologized to the boy who had been bullied and said it had been a case of bad judgment. The victim of the bullying, however, said the racial bullying was not a single incident but had gone for years. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman called what Miller did as a 14-year-old “reprehensible” and declared “He’s not coming into the NHL. I can’t tell you that he’ll ever be eligible to come into the NHL.” Schools, communities and now the NHL are taking steps to stop bullying. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about ways people are doing this. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short documentary film, detailing ways to stop or reduce bullying in schools or neighborhoods. Write an outline for your film, including images you would use. Write text for the opening scene.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

3. Screen Time

The coronavirus epidemic brought a lot of changes to the way people work, learn, live and play. One of the most dramatic affected children, teens and pre-teens, according to a new study of the amount of time kids spend using computers and hand-held devices. The study published by the JAMA Pediatrics medical journal found that the average daily “screen time” of children 3 to 18 years old increased by more than an hour and 20 minutes during the epidemic, CNN News reports. The average increased from 162 minutes a day before the epidemic — 2.7 hours — to 246 minutes — 4.1 hours. The average amount of time spent on handheld devices went up by 44 minutes while time on personal computers increased 46 minutes a day, researchers found. The largest increase in screen use was seen in adolescents ages 12 to 18. The researchers acknowledged that the increased use of computers and devices may have been driven in part by remote learning when schools were closed, but they also noted that the increase came at the same time there was a 32 percent drop in physical activity. There has been much discussion about the amount of time teens, pre-teens and younger children spend using computers and hand-held electronic devices. In the newspaper or online find and closely read stories about the views of experts, parents, students and teachers. Use what you read to write an advice column for students your age or younger, outlining what you think is a healthy amount of screen time — and for what purposes.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

4. Hard Hit Wildlife

Droughts and lack of rain have caused great hardships all over the world. One of the most painful has occurred in the African nation of Kenya. Kenya is famous for its incredible variety of wildlife, drawing visitors from around the world who want to see lions, hippos, elephants, zebras, giraffes, wildebeests and dozens of other species. A drought that has been going on for years has been deadly for some of those species, the Washington Post newspaper reports. According to a new report, more than 1,000 animals have died from the drought in recent months, including hundreds of zebras, elephants, buffaloes and wildebeests, which are a kind of horned antelope. Among the zebras affected are Grevy’s zebras, an endangered species with only about 3,000 estimated to be left in the wild. To help wildlife survive, Kenyan officials are putting out hay and water in the hardest hit areas and closely monitoring vulnerable animals. Long- and short-term weather conditions can have great impact on the health of wildlife species. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about species affected by weather. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor detailing the effects of long- and short-term weather on one species. Include ideas on how people could help this species.

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.

5. Help From Macy’s

The Macy’s company is widely known for running hundreds of department stores in the United States and for sponsoring the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. Now the company is seeking to become known as a booster of minority-owned businesses. The company has announced it plans to invest $30-million over the next five years to support businesses run by women, minorities and others who are underrepresented in the retail industry, the New York Times newspaper reports. The investment could lead to loans and other support that could total up to $200-million, the company said. The money would enable minority businesses to expand, buy equipment and market their products through advertising and promotion. Macy’s executives said they want the program to benefit both the vendors it already works with and new ones that need support. “This gives them an opportunity to breathe a little bit, and that’s important in companies that have great ideas …[that] need to take root,” Macy’s chief executive said. By assisting minority businesses, Macy’s hopes to attract more diverse customers and boost income. Businesses often try things to attract new types of customers. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a business trying something to attract new customers. Use what you read to write a business column examining what the company is doing and its prospects for success.

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