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

July 25-Aug. 5, 2016

Language Arts

1. Explain to students that writing skills aren’t meant only for long essays. The written word can be used sparsely to communicate clearly. Stories can be short and simple or words can be combined with pictures to tell a story. In fact, studying how comic strips are created is a good lesson in concise communication. Have students look at the strips. They should note that comic strips offer short conversations between characters along with what are usually close up looks at the characters. And, because they are comics, they’re supposed to be funny so humor is often involved. Once you’ve taken a good look at several strips and examined how they are constructed, invite your students to plan a strip of their own. Consider telling students that this assignment will not be graded. Maybe that will encourage some additional creative thinking. Begin by allowing time for a brainstorming session about what the students might want to do comic strips about. Would they prefer to draw and write about situations they know like school or home? Or would they like to do fantasy strips about aliens or magical worlds? Once they have a concept or theme, they can decide if they’d like to do the art first or to begin with the words and then create the art. They should understand that comic strips are really carried by the graphics more than the words. (In fact, books created like comic strips are called “graphic novels.”) Once they have a plan, allow time for each student to create a strip. They can complete this assignment by using pencil and paper, or if you’d like them to use an online comic creator tool, click here.

Students can choose a short article and draw a comic strip to present the same information in this more visual representation.

Common Core Standard: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience

2. Teaching students inferences can be interesting when you do it using a news article. Choose a news article to use as part of a whole group assignment. Read the story aloud together, perhaps inviting different students to read while the others follow along. Discuss the article and ask students to brainstorm conclusions based on what they read. What statements in the article led them to those conclusions? Was there a quote from an expert? Is there a chart of visual? Does the story include an analysis? If you’re working with an interactive white board and projecting the article, you may want to invite students to circle or underline the statements that support their conclusions. Create a web chart on the board with the conclusion in the center and the supporting statements emanating from the center on rays.

For example, if the article is about obesity in America, your students may conclude that people are getting fatter and less healthy. Statements that support that conclusion would be, “Every year, more people are categorized as obese.” Or, “In the 60s, 15% of young children were overweight and now 33% are considered overweight.”

Remind students that inferences are ideas that are suggested but not stated as fact. If you then asked students to draw inferences from the obesity article, they might infer that people don’t get enough exercise or that they eat too much junk food, even though those facts might not be stated in the article. To finish the assignment, have students present their inferences to the class and talk about how the inferences led to the conclusions.

Common Core Standard: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas

3. On August 1, 1944, Ann Frank wrote the last entry in her journal. If your students aren’t familiar with Ann Frank, you can share this brief description. During World War II when the Nazis in Germany were rounding up, imprisoning and killing Jews and other minority people, some families went into hiding. The Frank family and a few others hid in a tiny attic and were supplied with food and water by gentile German friends. They lived there for two years until the Nazis discovered them and put them in a concentration camp. The teenage daughter, Ann, kept a diary of her time in hiding. It was found after the war ended and published. It has been translated into 30 languages and read by millions all over the world. It speaks volumes about the resilience of the human spirit because young Ann somehow managed to keep her positive attitude about the world. One entry even said, “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” Write that statement on the board and ask if your students agree or disagree. Have them support their opinion with an argument map using supporting details they find in the news. They can create the argument map manually or online using a tool you can find at this link.

Common Core Standard: Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons.

4. August 4 is President Obama’s birthday. Why not invite students to find a story about him in the news and to choose the parts that are positive so they can write a letter of birthday congratulations and include some newsworthy accomplishments to mention? Consider having them send their good wishes to him at www.whitehouse.gov.

Common Core Standard: Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure in which ideas are logically grouped to support the writer’s purpose.

5. August 7 is Professional Speakers Day, designed to celebrate people who use their speaking talents to share information. Invite your students to prepare a brief summary of an interesting news story. Have them take turns speaking in front of the class to share their summaries. Here are a few public speaking tips to put on the board:

1. Know your material. Read your summary several times silently before you present aloud.

2. Practice. Rehearse a few times to practice reading slowly, clearly and with expression.

3. Relax. Take some deep breaths before speaking

Bonus: Tell students that the first home sewing machine was patented in 1851. It made peoples’ lives easier and it affected industry, too. But is it the most helpful machine of all time? Which machine found in today’s news – in articles, ads or photos do your students think is the most helpful? Have them stage a debate.

Common Core Standard: summarize text aloud, supporting claims with reason and evidence

1. Challenge students to seek out some sports statistics in the news that lend themselves to being graphed. They should create a graph and present it to the class. They should also write the same statistics using words and numbers and compare the two representations of the same material. Can students understand why graphs are used instead of words? Allow time for a discussion.
Common Core Standard: analyze variables using graphs

2. Write these words on the board: Etaoin Shrdlu (pronounced eh-tay-oh-in-shird-loo)Ask students to guess at their meaning. Give them this hint: it has to do with the exact letters used. Explain that, in fact, these aren’t words at all, but rather, a phrase used by people who study language to show what is thought to be the 12 most-used letters in English. Then invite students to choose ten headlines and to tally the number of times each letter is used. It may be interesting to have each student choose his/her own ten headlines to check. Have them order their letters in terms of most to least used and compare what they discovered to Etaoin Shrdlu.
Common Core Standard: Summarize numerical data sets in relation to their context, such as by reporting the number of observations

3. Have the students locate a page of advertisements for cars. What numeral most often appears in the ones column? Why do they think that might be so? Have them write an explanation for what they found.
Common Core Standard: Understand that a set of data collected to answer a statistical question has a distribution which can be described by its center, spread, and overall shape

4. Have students check the television listings for prime time viewing choices. (8PM to 11 PM) Have them choose 20 choices and categorize them into “Junk Food” and “Brain Food.” What percentage is each?
Common Core Standard: solve a wide variety of percent problems

Science Literacy
1. Explain to students that DNA is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic material of a living thing. All living organisms as well as some viruses contain DNA. The main role of DNA is to store information about the make-up of living things.DNA was first discovered in 1869, when Friedrich Miescher found a microscopic substance in the pus of discarded surgical bandages. In 1937 a x-ray diffraction machine discovered that DNA had a regular structure. Throughout the 1900s many developments have been made and now with just a tiny bit of DNA we are able to track it back to the living organism that left it.

This has been most important in the criminal justice system. When a person commits a crime, there is a good chance DNA, in the form or bodily fluids, skin cells, or hair will be left behind at the scene of the crime. Forensic evidence including DNA is an important tool in determining guilt. There is finally undeniable evidence to prove criminals as guilty. Have students look in news for a story where DNA evidence could be helpful. They should summarize what they find.
Common Core Standard: draw inference from text

2. On August 7, 1978, President Jimmy Carter declared the ironically named Love Canal a disaster area. That section of Niagara Falls, NY became a dangerously polluted place to live as a result of a chemical company dumping poisonous waste into the canal water. Since then laws have been made more strict to keep companies from destroying the environment. But, we still have products that pollute. Cars, for example, still put toxins into the air but at least awareness of the problem has been increased. Have students take a careful look at the automobile ads to find any mention of protecting the environment.

3. Explain to students that hurricane season runs from June 1 – November 1. That means we’re right in the middle of it now. Around the world they’re called different things. Some call them cyclones or typhoons but the scientific term is tropical cyclone. The storms form when the warm air over warm ocean water rises and leaves low pressure below, near the surface. As the warm air continues to go up, “new” air swirls in to replace it and all of this moving and swirling air spins and speeds up in its movement. As it spins faster, an “eye” forms in the middle. When the wind speeds up to 75 miles per hour or higher, it’s a hurricane. They often make news. Invite students to investigate the news to see if there any news stories about hurricanes now. Where are they happening? How hurricanes form video.

Social Studies
1. Present this definition to students: A treaty is an important part of government that allows countries and nation-states to formally write contracts together. These contracts are sometimes filed under the United Nations so they are legally binding. Two or more countries will get together and create treaties to agree to do or not do something regarding each other. If one side doesn't follow through with the agreement, there will be consequences and penalties. The reason for the creation of treaties is to encourage compromise between nations and avoid war. One famous treaty occurred in 1803 and was called the Treaty of France, or better known as the Louisiana Purchase. The United States, under Thomas Jefferson, purchased a large part, about 23%, of present day middle America from France. The purchase encompassed 15 states and two Canadian territories including: present-day Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, parts of Minnesota that were south of the Mississippi River, most of North Dakota, nearly all of South Dakota, northeastern New Mexico, northern Texas, the portions of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado east of the Continental Divide, and Louisiana west of the Mississippi River, including the city of New Orleans. The purchase price was just over $23 million. This treaty was a landmark event that doubled the size of America and provided a turning point in history. There are many international issues in the newspaper that need the attention of treaties. Have students look in the news to find an international story that they think could benefit from an agreement or treaty.

They should follow these steps of the assignment:
With a partner, write down the issue and the countries involved.
Each person will act as an agent for one of the countries.
Write a treaty with the needs of each side.
Compromise and make an agreement that both parties like.
When it is complete, sign the contract.

Common Core Standard: Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation

2. Explain to students that news articles are supposed to be objective -- that is information presented without opinions. There are places in the news where opinions are welcome and presented. Editorials and reviews contain opinions. And then there are editorial cartoons, where the artist will draw a representation of a news event with an opinion included. Direct students’ attention to today’s editorial cartoon. Walk them through an analysis of the drawing. What symbols are included? Which people are represented? What is the event depicted and the opinion offered? Do they agree or disagree with the opinion?
Common Core Standard: Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions

3. The middle of the summer is a huge time for travel and tourism. Ask your students where they would most like to visit. Then invite them to skim the news to find a story about a fun destination. What is written in the article that makes them want to go there? They can go online to create a travel brochure about the place they chose. How about your area? Have students explored its tourism potential? Invite them to go on a “wiki” field trip using this terrific online tool that has entries about places all over the world. http://www.wikifieldtrip.org/
Common Core Standard: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience

4. News in Pictures is a feature of the BBC website that your students might really like. They can visit the site and then click on "Day in Pictures" to see the offering for today. After checking it out, invite students to clip pdf files of the photos in the newspaper to create their own representation of "Day in Pictures."

Common Core Standard:Conduct short research assignments

5. August 5 is National Night Out. It’s an event designed to heighten awareness about crime prevention in communities. Towns and cities take part by hosting block parties, parades, cookouts, contents, youth programs and more. It makes communities stronger and more cohesive. Ask students if they think your community should participate in such an event. Direct them to look through the news to find reporting about a crime that could have been prevented and to brainstorm the ways that could have happened. http://www.nationaltownwatch.org/nno/
Common Core Standard: Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them

6. Explain to students that on August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. The law was designed to insure voting rights for all by making things like literacy tests and other qualifying exams illegal. It was a huge step in the movement for civil rights. Just how important is voting, anyway? Ask students to find issues in the news that underscore the importance of the right to vote. They should write essays about what they find.
Common Core Standard: comprehend literary nonfiction

7. Sometimes when people don’t get along, they are said to be like the “Hatfields and the McCoys.” Have your students heard that expression? Even so, they may not know the details of that famous feud. Back on August 7-9, 1882, the ill will between two Appalachian families blew up into violence when the McCoy brothers stabbed and shot Ellison Hatfield. The Hatfiled family then kidnapped the 3 McCoy brothers who committed the assault. When Ellision Hatfield died, the Hatfield family killed the three McCoys. The feud continued until the end of the century. Can your students find news of a long-lasting conflict? What is the problem? Can students think of a way it could be resolved peacefully?
Common Core Standard: draw conclusions from text

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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