Lesson Plans


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:

Invite students to think about some of the rules they follow each day in school. Ask them to list the people of authority in school. Have them consider what might happen in school if there were no people with authority. What if all the people in charge were certainly not there? Allow time for a discussion.

Then have them consider who are the people of authority in our society. Who are the people involved with making laws, enforcing laws, the people who have anything to do with laws, courts, education, etc. How would we know what our rights were? Would we have rights? Who would enforce them?

Students should understand that authority empowers people to provide order and security to people. They are the people who manage conflicts peacefully and fairly and protect rights and freedoms.

Feb. 12-23, 2018

Language Arts
1. Another great writer for students to meet as part of Black History Month is Maya Angelou. Students can go online to learn more about Angelou http://mayaangelou.com but you can also share this bit of biographical information before they read the poem. Angelou grew up in extreme poverty. A brutal attack left her speechless for years. She became a mother in her teens and went on to careers as a dancer, an actress, an activist and, of course, a poet and author. She was chosen to write and perform the inaugural speech for President Bill Clinton.

Here is an excerpt of her poem, "Still I Rise." Allow students to read it and talk about its meaning.

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Why do your students think that President Clinton chose Angelou to write his inaugural poem? If your students were elected president and they had to chose one person in today's news to make a speech or to write a poem for the inaugural event, whom would they chose and why? As a bonus, here's a song, Rise Up. Play it and allow students to compare the lyrics to Angelou's poem.
Common Core Standard: drawing conclusions

2. This lesson teaches students argument mapping. This activity is terrific for helping students build an “argument” with supporting details. Assign them to choose an issue from today’s news to debate. They should draw facts and details from the news to support their side. If students have computer access, you may want them to go online to use this fantastic free tool for creating an “amap,” or argument map. The tool enables students to take a position and to fill in supporting details to create the map. It’s very cool and easy to use. You can choose a simple topic like which is the funniest comic strip or a more weighty one like whether President Obama is doing a good job.
Common Core Standard: determine the main idea of informative text

3. Congratulate your students. They have just signed a book deal. They are writing a book based on a story in today’s newspaper. Each student should design a book jacket telling the title of the book and what it is about. If they’d like to create the jacket online, they can click here.
Common Core Standard: use technology to produce and publish writing

4. Ask your students to brainstorm things that they think are worth preserving. They could be landmarks or institutions in your community or even personal items. Have them locate five items in the news that they believe are worthwhile for preservation. They should write an essay about the things they chose along with justification for each.
Common Core Standard: draw conclusions

6. With Presidents Day (Feb. 19) comes a fun writing activity. Invite students to read some of the Help Wanted ads to see how they are written. Discuss the way in which some ads may include a brief description of the job and the character attributes needed to do the job. Then have each student write and read aloud a Help Wanted ad for president. Do they think the current president has what it takes?
Common Core Standard: drawing conclusions

1. You can invite students to pull facts from the news that lend themselves to graphing (e.g., the sports statistics, jobs in the Help Wanted ads, homes for sale). Assign students to collect the data and to create a bar, line, or picture graph to depict that information.
Common Core Standard: create a graph to represent data

2. The first telephone book was published in New Haven, Connecticut on February 21, 1878. Do your students even know what a telephone book is? Allow time for a survey and a show of hands. In honor of the occasion, direct students to look through the advertisements for five phone numbers that have different area codes. (No 800 numbers please.) They should make a list of the numbers from less to more. Then they can research online to find the locations of each area code. It may be interesting to poll the class to find out how many students have ever seen a phone book. Ask why students think phone books aren't as popular and as ubiquitous as they once were.
Common Core Standard: work with data relevant to everyday life

3. Skip counting is a great way for students to learn to compute and it even helps reinforce the learning of the times tables. For a unique skip counting challenge, ask them to skip count by 3s through the newspaper and write down the first word on each landing page.
Common Core Standard: use a variety of counting strategies

4. The students can use the Classified ads to furnish a new apartment with pre-owned items. That’s great for the environment and affordable, too. First, have them estimate the amount they’ll need to spend and then have them “go shopping” in the ads. They should find the best deal on home furnishings and appliances and total the amount they’d need to spend on a one-bedroom apartment. Was their total more or less than they estimated? Who in your class got the most bang for the buck?
Common Core Standard: understand quantities in economic situations

Science Literacy
1. In order for students to understand how the physical or behavioral characteristics of organisms help them to survive their environments, it may be interesting to have students make observations using the newspaper. Have them choose several photographs of people and jot down three ways they are adapting to their environment.
Common Core Standard: understanding the characteristics of organisms

2. Tell students that on February 18, 1960, the VIIIth Winter Olympic Games began in Squaw Valley, California although for a time it looked like it might not happen. The problem? There wasn’t enough snow for the events. They actually hired Indian dancers to do a snow dance! Alas, it rained instead. Finally it snowed just before opening day. But, the opening ceremonies were held up for another reason. They needed to wait for then Vice President Richard Nixon to come and open the games but bad weather delayed his flight. Weather impacts the news often. Ask your students to find a story in today’s news where events are being affected by weather. They should write about what they found. They can also check out this year's coverage of the games.

Common Core Standard: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science texts

3. Do your students think it’s important to be scientifically literate? Ask them to work in groups, with each group using a different section of the newspaper, to find any article that relates to science in some way. Ask each group to summarize each story they find and to present their findings to the class. This lesson will show students the wide application of science and how it is relevant to their everyday lives.
Common Core Standard: evaluate content

4. Some experts say that in the future people will be able to eat and take vitamins and supplements that are exactly matched to the needs of their individual systems. Scientists are studying the way metabolism works in order to better understand how food affects the body. Once the understanding is clearer, they will be able to advice people how to eat based on a personal profile. Share this information with students and then ask them to skim the newspaper to find other aspects of health that they would like to see scientists learn more about. They should write essays about their hopes for the future of science in their lives.
Common Core Standard: produce clear and coherent writing with a purpose

Social Studies
1.Valentine’s Day has a rich and interesting history. Invite students to click here to learn more about it. Then, send them into the newspaper to identify a story about love. They should summarize the story and write a definition of love based on the main ideas of the article they chose.
Common Core Standard: synthesize evidence

2. An old letter was discovered sometime during the last few years. A former slave wrote it to his previous master. The master had written to the slave asking him to return to work. Share this story with students as part of your Black History lessons this month. Click here to read this compelling letter.

Common Core Standard: Using primary* and secondary sources* to examine an historical account about an issue of the time,

3. It may be interesting to have students compare the advantages and disadvantages of getting news from print newspapers versus their online counterparts. Begin by asking students where they get their news. Where do their parents get news? Introduce the concept of print and online newspapers. Ask students to think about the advantages and disadvantages of each. They should look through the newspaper for ideas about how they are the same and different. Which is easier to read? Which is easier to obtain? Which is more environmentally friendly? They can make a T-chart of the pros and cons and then share their responses with the class. If possible, bring some print copies to class so that students can compare those to the online version. As a follow-up to the lesson, invite students to write letters to the editor voicing their opinions on improvements they’d like to see in the product they prefer.
Common Core Standard: evaluating the use and credibility of media

Bonus Question for Debate: If the newspaper’s responsibility is to be the “first draft of history” or the “watchdog of government,” or even the “town crier” of community events, does one format lend itself to those tasks better than the other? Why?

4. February 19 is Presidents’ Day this year. What do your students think are the attributes of a good president? Discuss the powers assigned to the President in the Constitution as described here:

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of //Impeachment//.
He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present //concur//; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

Then ask students to find the person in today’s news who would make the best president. If they don’t choose the current president, have them compare the person they selected to him and explain why their choice would be better for the job.

Common Core Standards: present findings and supporting evidence, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing

5. This is a fascinating way to teach students about plagiarism. Tell them that on February 19, 1981, former Beatle George Harrison was ordered to pay a record company $587,000 for “subconscious plagiarism.” One of his songs, “My Sweet Lord,” was found to have three chords in common with an older song, “He’s So Fine.” It wasn’t so much that the court thought Harrison actually stole the riff but that it was in the back of his mind, perhaps, and he used it. Talk to your students about using information they find online and about how to be sure they are not stealing someone else’s work. For practice, have them choose a paragraph from today’s news and rewrite it in their own words. Allow each student to read his/her paragraph aloud and have the class determine whether they think it’s too close to the original. They can click here to view an online tool that detects plagiarism. They may want to plug in a piece they've written to see how it fares.
Common Core Standard: contrasting and synthesizing

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.
Copyright Hot Topics Hot Serials. No portions may be distributed digitally without permission.