Engage students with this week's news, events, and anniversaries.

Each week we offer a civics lesson to help students understand how our government works: Here's this week's lesson:

Symbols of America
If you are looking for whiteboard-ready projects for the younger grades, the Symbols of America site is a great place to start. There are three free downloadable interactive units: The United States Flag, The Statue of Liberty, and the Great Seal of the United States. Each unit begins with an essential question and prompts students to think deeply about the symbols of our nation.

Dec. 11-15, 2017
Language Arts
1. Share this fact with students -- on December 11, 1936, the new king of England gave up the throne to marry the woman he loved. She had been married and divorced before and it was considered scandalous for a king of England to marry her. What would your students do for love? Can they find an act of love in today’s news? Remind them that there are many kinds of love.
Common Core Standard: focus on a topic and strengthen writing as needed

2. Help your students to learn how to avoid plagiarism with this assignment. Explain to students that plagiarism is taking someone else's work and claiming it to be your own. It doesn't matter if the work came from a book or online, students need to understand that if they didn't write it, it isn't theirs to use. Of course they need to understand that they can go online to do research and they can use the information they find if they do so in the right way. This lesson can help them understand how to use what they find online properly. Explain that they can take the information, digest it, then rephrase it in their own words to use it. They can also quote it if they attribute it to the source where it was found. Challenge them to choose a paragraph from today's newspaper and to rewrite it sufficiently enough to use it. Have them exchange with a partner and discuss if the rephrasing is sufficient to not constitute plagiarism. If you'd like students to understand more about plagiarism, for a follow up lesson click here for a ten-minute, interactive tutorial designed to teach college students about plagiarism. It could be useful to grades 6 and higher.
Common Core Standard: integrating multiple sources of information

3. Charles Dickens published his holiday story "A Christmas Carol" On December 17, 1843. Your students are probably familiar with the characters of Ebeneezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim. They may even know the story of the selfish Scrooge’s travels though time to look at his own past and his future to find out what his life will be like if he doesn’t change his ways and become less selfish and more generous to others. Can your students find someone in today’s news who needs to change his/her ways? Have them write that person a letter of advice.
Common Core Standard: analyze a complex set of ideas

1. Lots of shopping takes place this month. But, the economy is not that strong so people will be seeking the best deals. Challenge students to find a good deal advertised in the news and then they should go online and find the same product advertised. Have them compare the deals. What is the percentage of difference in cost?

2. It may be interesting, with all the focus on money and the economy these days, for students to think about why we have money. Explain that money doesn’t necessarily have to be paper bills and coins. People have used a variety of items for money. Everything from sharks’ teeth to stones has been used as currency. But before there was any kind of money, there was still a way people got the goods and services they needed and wanted. They bartered, or traded with each other. Ask students to think about the advantages and disadvantages of a barter system. Allow time for a brainstorming session. Facilitate a discussion. Present these two “what if” situations to illustrate potential problems:
• What if a medical practitioner lived in a village where everyone else owned an apple orchard? Everyone who wanted the doctor to treat them might want to pay in apples. How would the doctor deal with that? Could she live on apples alone?
• What if a person had a goat to trade for goods? Suppose a goat could be traded fairly for a bushel of corn? But what if the person with the corn had only a half-bushel left to trade? How can change be made with a goat?
Ask students to talk about how money facilitates exchange. Have them look through the news for examples of exchange that could happen without money and those that could not.
Common Core Standard: working with money in authentic situations

Science Literacy

1. Share this bit of history with students. On Dec. 12, 1901, Guglielmo Marconi was working with using electromagnetic waves to send signals. In 1901, the quickest way to communicate was via telegraph and that required wires and Morse Code. (a series of taps representing letters to spell out words.). Marconi had previously been able to send a message a distance of 18 miles without using any wires. In 1900 he got a patent for his invention. Then, in 1901, he sent the first wireless signal across the Atlantic Ocean.

He said:
Shortly before midday I placed the single earphone to my ear and started listening. The receiver on the table before me was very crude -- a few coils and condensers and a coherer -- no valves, no amplifiers, not even a crystal. But I was at last on the point of putting the correctness of all my beliefs to test. The answer came at 12: 30 when I heard, faintly but distinctly, pip-pip-pip. I handed the phone to Kemp: "Can you hear anything?" I asked. "Yes," he said. "The letter S." He could hear it. I knew then that all my anticipations had been justified. The electric waves sent out into space from Poldhu had traversed the Atlantic -- the distance, enormous as it seemed then, of 1,700 miles -- unimpeded by the curvature of the earth. The result meant much more to me than the mere successful realization of an experiment. As Sir Oliver Lodge has stated, it was an epoch in history. I now felt for the first time absolutely certain that the day would come when mankind would be able to send messages without wires not only across the Atlantic but between the farthermost ends of the earth.

As your students can see, Marconi's experiment changed the course of the world of communications. Have students find a communication device advertised in today's news. They should write an essay about how they predict that device will change over time.
Common Core Standard: analyze ideas

3. Ask students if they know why license plates in North Carolina include these words: “First in Flight.” Among the aviation pioneers were brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright. Although they lived in Ohio, when they wanted to test their flying machine, they headed to the Outer Banks of North Carolina where wind conditions were good for flying. On Dec. 17, 1903, they flew their longest powered, controlled flight – 852 feet – and changed the world forever. Have students use the weather information in today’s newspaper to find where one would go to test a flying machine. Is North Carolina still a good choice? Why? Then have students look through the news to determine the impact of flight on global development. Are there stories in today’s news that wouldn’t be there if humans didn’t have the ability to fly? Is it a better or worse world as a result? Allow time for a debate. Students should use facts from the news to support their opinions about the importance of flight.
Common Core Standard: analyzing a complex set of ideas

Social Studies
1. If this is the season of goodwill and brotherhood, can your students find someone in the news today who exemplifies those ideals? Have them find a story about that and find the 5 Ws – who, what, when, where and why.
Common Core Standard: use pertinent descriptions, facts, and details to accentuate main ideas or themes

2. Explain to students that the first ten changes, or amendments, to the U.S.. Constitution are called The Bill of Rights. They were ratified on December 15, 1791. That’s why Dec. 15 is Bill of Rights Day. Review the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution and discuss the rights that they guarantee to Americans. Then have students find newspaper pictures showing each of these rights in practice, either being upheld or violated. Allow time for a discussion of the right in the photo. Finally, have students choose one article from the news that addresses a constitutional issue and summarize it. Send students online to play the Bill of Rights matching game.Bill of Rights matching game.

3. December 10 is Human Rights Day. What do your students think is the most important right? Can they find a story about it in today’s news? One of the world's foremost champions of Human Rights and equal rights was Nelson Mandela, who died on Dec. 5, 2013. Take time to speak with students about this great leader who literally changed the course of the world. He believed in equal rights and even stated that he was willing to give his life for the cause. After spending years in prison for his radical activities, he was released and elected president of South Africa in their first free election. For information about Mandela, click here.
Common Core Standard: analyze a complex set of ideas

4. On December 14, 1911, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the first person to reach the South Pole in Antarctica. While some countries have science labs there for research, people don’t live permanently in Antarctica. It’s the southern-most continent in the world. Invite students to look through the local news and to find five facts that are true of your area and would also be true of Antarctica. Then have them find five facts that are true in your area but not true of Antarctica. They can click here to learn more about this fascinating place.
Common Core Standard: compare and contrast

5. The “Boston Tea Party” was an event held on Dec. 16, 1773. Citizens were angry about changes in tax law in the colonies, specifically as they pertained to tea. So, they raided three British ships that were docked in the Boston Harbor and threw 342 chests of tea overboard in protest. Ultimately, this act of revolution led to the larger revolution that created America. Are taxes making news today? Challenge students to search the news to find out if there is any news about taxes or about protest in the U.S. What issues are people protesting about? What do you think of the protests?
Common Core Standard: writing arguments to support claims with reasons and relevant evidence

Lessons written by Deborah Drezon Carroll. Carroll taught for ten years in Philadelphia, PA and is the author of two parenting books. She also coordinated the Newspaper in Education department of the Philadelphia Inquirer for 16 years.
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