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

Thanksgiving Week - Dec. 4, 2015

Language Arts
1. It may be fun for students to try writing Acrostic poems using the word THANKSGIVING. Have them skim the newspaper for a word about the holiday that begins with each letter of Thanksgiving.
Common Core Standard: apply literature standards to poetry, write fluently

2. The first issue of Life magazine debuted on Nov. 23, 1936. Inside the magazine was a photo of a doctor delivering a newborn baby with the clever caption, “Life Begins.” Invite students to use their imaginations to come up with clever captions for several Thanksgiving-related photos found in today’s newspaper. Have the students study the same photo and brainstorm lots of different choices for fun captions. The class can vote on the best one for each photo.
Common Core Standard: draw evidence to support reflection

3. Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to let your students’ creative juices flow. Writing about this holiday is easy because they probably already know quite a bit about it. They can include what they know into what they write. Before they begin this writing assignment, allow the class to brainstorm a list of words or phrases describing what they know or feel about Thanksgiving. They may want to incorporate some of those into their essays.
Common Core Standard: write routinely over time

4. There are lots of choices for writing prompts about this fun holiday. Assign students to choose one of these and enjoy the writing experience. They should write at least two complete paragraphs on the topic of their choice:

  • Is Thanksgiving is an important holiday?
  • Use words you find in today’s newspaper to write a haiku about Thanksgiving or the holiday season.
  • Find a news story about a traditional Thanksgiving. How does it compare to your family’s traditions at this time of year?
  • Imagine that the Pilgrims are setting sail with five things from today’s newspaper. Which five things would you choose for the voyage? Why?
  • If you could only learn about Thanksgiving from what you saw in today’s newspaper, what would you think the holiday was about?

Common Core Standard: draw evidence to support reflection

5. Share this with students. Writer Mark Twain (real name Samuel Clemens) was born Nov. 30,1835. His books have become American classics and are still studied in schools, despite the fact that his book about “Huckleberry Finn” was banned in some places for being racially controversial. (The main character is white and befriends an African American.) Before his death, Twain wrote his life story which he called, “a complete and purposed jumble.” He insisted that it not be published until 100 years after his death. It was published in 2010 and was a bestseller. Invite students to choose one of these Twain quotes and to find a story in the news that relates to the quotation in some way. They should write a paragraph explaining how the quote is relevant to the news story they chose. They can exchange paragraphs with a partner and peer edit.

Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today.
Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.
It's no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.
It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.
Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.
Man is the only animal that blushes - or needs to.
Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.
Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.
We are all alike, on the inside.
Common Core Standard: focus on a topic and strengthen writing as needed

6. On December 1, 1891, the sport now known as basketball was created. Send students online to find out how. Then have them find a basketball story in the news and summarize it. They should identify the verbs in the story and in their summary.
Common Core Standard: refer to details and examples in text

7. Scottish writer Thomas Carlyle was born on December 4, 1795. He wrote, “A well-written Life is almost as rare as a well-spent one.” Have students find a well-written paragraph in today’s news. They should write about why they chose it.
Common Core Standard: determine the meaning of words and phrases in text

8. Invite students to skim the newspaper and choose the top five stories of the day. They should write a two- or three-sentence summary of each story, creating a newscast of the day. They can go online to this cool tool to create a short news animation. ws:start:WikiTextUrlRule:502:http://www.xtranormal.com/ http://www.xtranormal.com/ ws:end:WikiTextUrlRule:502
Common Core Standard: explore a variety of digital tools

1. The day after Thanksgiving is known as “Black Friday” in the shopping world. While the origin of the term is not clear, it may be a reference to financial profits and losses. Businesses often record negative amounts in red ink and positive amounts in black ink. Put simply, when businesses were profitable, they were “in the black.” It may be that “Black Friday” became known that because so many stores made money on that day because there were so many shoppers. These days, “Black Friday” has become synonymous with good sales, designed to attract lots of shoppers. Those deals are frequently advertised in the newspaper. Challenge students to “go shopping” in today’s newspaper, seeking the best way to spend $1,000. Students can read or hear an article read aloud about Black Friday at this link.
Common Core Standard:
Solve real-life and mathematical problems using numerical and
algebraic expressions and equations.

2. For a more specific shopping lesson, try this. Have students choose one advertised item that they’d like to buy. For example, they might want an HD or Smart TV. They should find all of those ads in today’s newspaper and make a chart showing the stores and the prices for that item. After reviewing their chart, which store offers the best deal on that television?
Common Core Standard: Solve real-life and mathematical problems using numerical and algebraic expressions and equations.

3. Anders Celsius was born on Nov. 27, 1701. He was an astronomer, who, among other things, developed a temperature scale, also known as centigrade. In the U.S. the Fahrenheit scale is used but it’s good for students to be able to convert between both scales. Have students choose a list of five temperatures from the weather page. Those will be represented in the Fahrenheit scale. To convert to Celsius, have them add 40 to the number. Then they should multiply the new number by .55555 and then subtract 40.
Common Core Standard: convert within a given measurement system

For example, to convert 32° Fahrenheit to Celsius, add 40 to 32. That’s 72. Multiply 72 by .55555. That equals 39.9996. Round to the nearest whole number, 40. Then subtract 40. 40 – 40 = 0. 32° Fahrenheit = 0°C.

Write the steps to conversion on the board.

4. Challenge students to determine which sport has the most coverage in today’s newspaper. They can divide into small groups with each group taking a page of the Sports section. They will need to compute the area devoted to each sport. They can make a graph to show the results and write three observations about the graph.
Common Core Standard: represent mathematical problems by graphing

Science Literacy

1. Lots of fitness clubs and weight-loss programs encourage people not to overeat during the holidays. But, they do anyway and then those same organizations reach out to increase their membership in January. Challenge students to develop a strategy to help their family avoid gaining weight this holiday season. They should use grocery ads to design a healthier menu for their family's holiday meals. Also they should look in today's newspaper for physical activities their family can enjoy together during the vacation.
Common Core Standard: delineate and evaluate claims in text

2. Write the term “Recycling” on the board and allow time for a discussion of what it means. Then have students look through the advertisements in the news to create a list of a variety of household items that could be recycled. They should write a short paragraph about whether they recycle in their homes and if they personally participate.
Common Core Standard: Write informative/explanatory texts

3. The first artificial heart transplant took place on Dec. 2, 1982, when American surgeon William DeVries implanted one into the chest of Dr. Barney Clark. Robert Jarvik designed the heart. The patient lasted 112 days. Is there a story about a medical advance in today’s news? Challenge students to find one and to make a prediction about what will happen next. A timeline of heart transplant history can be found here.

Common Core Standard: analyze accounts of a subject

4. December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month. Students can collect articles and statistics on the destructive effects of driving while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. They can check out Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and other organizations online for more information. At this site they can design a poster to persuade people to stay sober.
Common Core Standard: evaluate sources of information

Social Studies

1. While the first Thanksgiving in America was celebrated by the Pilgrims and Native Americans, the actual holiday was not celebrated until Abraham Lincoln's presidency. Have students research the origin of the national holiday and how the celebration has changed over time. They should answer this question: What myths do we have about the first Thanksgiving? What do we know for a fact? Here is an excerpt of Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation:

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

Students can read the whole proclamation here.

2. Send students on a newspaper scavenger hunt for the following Thanksgiving-related items:

  • A food that you'd like to eat for Thanksgiving
  • A place you'd like to visit during Thanksgiving
  • Something that you are thankful this year
  • Information about a Thanksgiving-related event
  • Someone who has reason to be thankful this year
  • The word "thanks" or "Thanksgiving"
  • A symbol of Thanksgiving
  • Something in today's news that you think would surprise the Pilgrims or the Indians
Common Core Standard: conduct short research

3. Native American Heritage Month is wrapping up. For a good culmination activity, invite students to choose from this list of Native American Proverbs and to match one to the circumstances of at least three people in today's news.

4. Invite your students to attend this virtual field trip to Plimoth Plantation to learn about the First Thanksgiving.
Your students may want to send a Thanksgiving e-card.

5. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks made history when she refused to give up her seat on the bus for a white person (which was then the law). She was arrested. Talk with students about the meaning of civil disobedience and how Parks’ action resulted in furthering a good and just cause. Can students find a situation in the news today which would justify a similar act? Allow time for discussion.
Common Core Standard: draw evidence from informational text

6. The U.S. policy known as the Monroe Doctrine was created on Dec. 2, 1823 in a speech given by President James Monroe. The country was still young and this bold stand was that the Western Hemisphere was no longer open to any attempts at colonization and any such actions would be seen as unfriendly. Invite students to go online to read more definitions of Monroe Doctrine and then to look in today’s news to find any stories of foreign news that might somehow relate to this policy.
Common Core Standard: integrating multiple sources of information

7. December contains the birthdays of two men whose names now grace two well-known public buildings: Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, who designed the Eiffel Tower, and Fiorello La Guardia, mayor of New York City, who gave his name to the airport in Queens, New York. Have students look through the local section to find two buildings or places named after famous citizens. They can do some research to discover the stories of the people behind the names. If your school is named after someone, this may be a good time for students to find out about that person.
Common Core Standard: integrate multiple sources of information

8. Ask students to talk about the technology they use on a daily basis. Do they think they have more or less contact with technology than their parents do? It may be an interesting exercise to have students locate several newspaper ads for technology products. Have them determine if the ads are targeted to young people or adults. They can write an analysis of two of the ads they find.
Common Core Standard: develop a topic

9. On Dec. 2, 1988, Benazir Bhutto was sworn in as Prime Minister of Pakistan, becoming the first woman to lead a Muslim nation. Click here to read about Bhutto, who has since been assassinated. Can your students find a woman leader in today’s news? Have them write about the woman they found.
Common Core Standard: organize ideas and concepts

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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