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

Language Arts

1. This activity is a terrific one as it involves reading and summarizing the news and using a terrific online tool which will read their written words aloud by converting written words into spoken words.. Invite students to skim the news and to write brief summaries of the three top stories. Then, they can use this tool to have their news summaries read aloud. They can choose from a variety of virtual “readers” and languages. It’s a great lesson and a lot of fun.
Common Core Standard: summarize key supporting details and ideas

2. Visuwords is a terrific website which will create a visual/graphical representation of the connections between words. Challenge your students to create a similar web of word connections. Have them choose one word from the headlines and then skim the article it’s in to create a web of words connected to the headline word. Can they find a noun, a verb, an adverb and an adjective connected to the chosen word? Then have them click on this link, input their word and see what Visuwords does with the same word.

Also check out Lexipedia.com for a similar program with audio pronunciation of words.

3. Tell students that award-winning playwright Neil Simon was born on July 4, 1927. One aspect of writing a play is providing good and clear stage directions. Invite students to write out a few comic strips as if they were plays with the “bubbles” written as dialogue and then the addition of stage directions. For example, Charlie Brown enters from the left and says to Linus, “I was up all night listening to Snoopy snore.” Linus walks over to Charlie and sits down while handing him a blanket. Linus says, “Here, you might need this more than I do.”
Common Core Standard: Use dialogue and descriptions of actions, thoughts, and feelings to develop experiences
and events or show the response of characters to situations

4. Your students probably know that The Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776. That is why America celebrates Independence Day on July 4, the day the colonists declared independence from Great Britain’s rule. But, do your students also know that two of the country’s “Founding Fathers” and former presidents – Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4? They both died on that day in 1826, the 50th anniversary of The Declaration of Independence. It’s an interesting footnote to history. This week is a great one to invite students to go online to learn other facts about our country’s history. Have them begin their search in the news to find one factoid they didn’t know about July 4. Then they can visit the Smithsonian online to read more about these two fascinating men.

After reading about them, have students look for news about President Obama and see if they can compare what they read about Adams and Jefferson to what they read about Obama. How is today’s President similar to the founders? How is he different?
Common Core Standard: compare and contrast

5. On July 4, 1776, the delegates to the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence. A few days later, on July 8, when the document came back from the printer, they invited citizens to come and hear the document read aloud. They rang the Liberty Bell to get everyone’s attention. Although the bell is cracked and no longer rings, it remains a vibrant symbol of our freedom. Invite students to muse about how this announcement might be made today. Have them skim the newspaper to find an item that might symbolize freedom if such an historic announcement happened today. They should write an essay explaining their choice.
Common Core Standard: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience

6. Introduce your students to Artist Frida Kahlo, who was born on July 6, 1907. She lived a tumultuous life and perhaps that is why her paintings were so vibrant. She was a great painter and one of the first women to sell a work to the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. Her work was often reflective of events in her life and also of her beloved Mexico. If your students were challenged to create a painting based on an event or place in today’s news, what would it be? Invite them to sketch the work and to write about the news story that inspired the work. http://www.fridakahlo.com/
Common Core Standard: summarize supporting details and ideas

7. You can help students analyze literature by leading them through a discussion of what makes a good comic strip. Begin by having the class look at the strips and ask which ones they like to read. Then discuss the key elements. Begin with the dialogue. What do the words tell the reader about the scene? What kinds of backgrounds make good scenes? Why? What props are the characters interacting with? How are the scenes in the panels connected to each other? Invite students to create their own strips. A good follow up to this is to have them create comic strips about books they’ve read. It’s a terrific alternative to book reports.
Common Core Standard: utilizing diverse forms of media

8. Ask your students what they know about the types of writing found in a newspaper. Write on the board what they share. Then ask them to choose one newspaper article – a news story about a current event -- to examine in detail. Explain that most news stories are written in the expository style. This is also the style in which students throughout high school and college will usually have to write. In order to understand the style better, have them answer these questions about the writing and the writing style in the news article they chose. How many paragraphs? How many sentences, on average, in each paragraph? Who is the story about and what is one thing you learned about that person? What is the story about and what is one thing you learned about the event?
Common Core Standard: analyze development of text

Finally have them describe the difference in writing style between this article and a recent or favorite work of fiction they have read. They should note the use of facts, the tone, etc. as opposed to the fiction that includes characters’ thoughts and opinions, narrator’s comments, etc. If students were going to write a short fictional story based on the news story they chose, how would it be different? Challenge them to write that story as a follow up to this activity. If they’d like to use a story map to plan their story, they can click here.
Common Core Standard: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience

1. Fraction Scavenger Hunt
Send students into the news to find these fractional parts or corresponding percentages. Have them write the page number on which they found each one, along with a brief description:
A fraction greater than 3/8
A business offering 1/4 off a regular price
A sports team that has lost more than half of its games
An ad that is a quarter of the page
A comic strip that is divided into thirds
A page that is more than 1/3 filled with text rather than graphics
Common Core Standard: interpret and compute quotients of fractions

2. One result of the recent downturn in the economy is that many people are losing their homes to foreclosure. Explain to students that when a homeowner is unable to pay the mortgage, the bank or mortgage lender may take back ownership of the home. Then, banks own the homes and have to resell them, often at a very low price. Have students look carefully at the Homes for Sale ads and scan for the word “foreclosure.” If they find a home advertised as a foreclosure, have them compare and contrast its price and features to a similar home not shown as a foreclosure. What conclusions can they draw?
Common Core Standard: reason abstractly and quantitatively

3. Divide your class into groups of four students. Have each group locate a story in the news that includes numbers. Have the group identify the number concepts used. They should also discuss the importance of numbers to the story. How would that story be changed if there were no numbers?

4. If your news has an obituary section, have students compute the average age of the people who died. What are some ways your students can think of to improve their life expectancy? What are some things people can do in order to help themselves live longer, healthier lives?
Common Core Standard: solve word problems using equations

Science Literacy
1. Your students may be surprised to learn that a man invented the first sewing machine. He was Elias Howe and his birthday is July 9, 1819. In his honor, invite students to find an invention that makes a hard job easier in today’s newspaper. They should write about the invention and explain how it helps people live easier lives. Can they think of ways that invention might be improved?
Common Core Standard: make logical inferences

2. Explain to students that air is constantly moving above the earth. In weather terms, this movement of air is called a front. Simply put, when fronts collide, weather happens. Large sweeping masses of air move across the country. Warm masses can come from the south and cold masses drift down from the north. When two masses of air collide, the stronger, denser mass will push the usually warmer mass out of the way.

The boundary or front of the air mass pushing against the other one is called a front. There are three main types of fronts -- warm, cold and stationary.

A warm front is a slow moving, less dense air mass. Those are shown on a weather map by a red line with red semi-circles pointing in the direction that the front is moving.
A cold front is dense and moves fast. It is shown on a weather map by a blue line with triangle points moving in the direction of mass.

A stationary front is a combination of both fronts and occurs when the two air masses on either side are of equal strength. This type of front usually doesn’t move and can hang over a certain area for days or even weeks. This type of front is depicted as an alternating red and blue line with blue triangles and red semi-circles going in different directions.

Warm fronts usually bring with them fog and clouds. They warm quickly and clear out fast. Cold fronts are often the bearer of rain, wind, and colder temperature. If a cold front collides with a warm front of a significantly different temperature and turbulence is high, the chance for extraordinary storms can occur.

Have students check out the weather report in the news and examine the national map. They should identify incoming fronts and write a prediction. Then can check their prediction against the one in the news. Are they the same? Note after a few days, which prediction was more accurate.

Social Studies
1. The Civil War Battle of Gettysburg was fought from July 1 to 3 in 1863 in Pennsylvania. It was one of the most intense of that war. But that war changed the course of our country. Have students look in the news to find stories that might not be there if the Civil War had turned out differently.
Common Core Standard: integrate and evaluate content

2. President Lyndon Johnson signed the historic Civil Rights Act into law on July 2, 1964. It made it illegal to discriminate based on race in jobs, education and housing. It also ended segregation in public schools. Of course, it didn’t solve all problems involving race in America. Challenge your students to find a story about race in today’s news. They should write a 5-W summary and explain how the story is connected to the Civil Rights Act or other civil rights issue. They can use this cool online tool to help them create a mind map of their essay.
Common Core Standard: Use words, phrases, and clauses to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among
claim(s), reasons, and evidence.

3. We have several political parties in the U.S. but the two most popular are the Democrats and the Republicans. The Republicans became an official party on July 6, 1854. Can your students find a Republican in today’s news? Have them write four questions they’d like to ask that person, based on the contents of the story.
Common Core Standard: create focused questions

4. Explain to students that President Ronald Reagan made history when he appointed Sandra Day O’Connor to the Supreme Court on July 7, 1981. She was the first woman to serve. Now Justice O’Connor has retired from the Court but she is still working to educate people and support our legal system. iCivics is a web-based education project designed to teach students civics and inspire them to be active participants in our democracy. iCivics is the vision of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is concerned that students are not getting the information and tools they need for civic participation, and that civics teachers need better materials and support. At that site, students can play a variety of online games while they learn about civics. One of the games has them role play being the president. Before they play, have them find mention of the president in today’s news and to write three facts about what he is doing. Then, they can go online and take their turn being the President.
Common Core Standard: select relevant facts
Topic: Transitions

Before you became a critical reader/writer, you may have received a note from your teacher on a paper you wrote. It may have said, “Use transitions.” If so, you learned that you now need an arsenal of words to ease a reader from idea to idea.

Here’s a quick review of transitions, organized by their types:
1. Time:
After screeching through the turn from Main Street onto Broad, the speeding car barreled through a red light at the Old Fort Parkway intersection.
Hitting speeds of up to 80 mph, the car then careened up Broad Street, finally smashing into a utility pole near Thompson Lane.

2. Repetition:
Our neighbor Shelly said she has tried and tried to call attention to the problem.
She has written 25 letters to various government officials.
She has made countless phone calls.
She has even taken time off work to stake out the mayor’s office.

3. Contrast and/or comparison:
Officials insist the campus has plenty of parking spaces.
However , cars could be seen Monday parked in grassy medians, in front of fire hydrants, even on the sidewalks.

4 . Pronouns and demonstrative adjectives:
“This ordinance absolutely must pass,” the mayor declared.
He threatened to resign in protest if it short didn’t.
That ultimatum irked the council members, who promptly decided to call his bluff.

6. Conjunctive adverbs :
Developers are applying for a permit to build a landfill on the site.
Meanwhile , environmentalists are organizing opposition to the plan.
Here are a few of the many examples of this last type:
· accordingly
· consequently
· moreover
· therefore

Find examples of transitions in the news.

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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