For Grades 5-8 , week of Apr 23, 2012

1. Families Banding Together

One house. One family. Several generations. In many cultures around the world, this is normal, but not as much in America. The trend of moving out of your childhood home and into a place of your own began after World War II. People also started moving away from their hometowns and extended families to pursue careers. Builders constructed three- and four-bedroom, single-family houses all over the country and created suburbs with parks and good schools. For about 40 years, that has been the norm in America. But that norm is changing. Today, builders are building homes within homes. They are creating homes designed for multi-generational families that include separate suites that provide privacy while still sharing space. Much of the change comes from the increasing number of senior citizens needing help in their older years. Find a newspaper article about issues affecting the elderly or families who are helping them out. As a class, discuss the biggest ways the aging process can affect entire families.

Core/National Standard: Posing questions that elicit elaboration and responding to others’ questions and comments.

2. Chernobyl

On April 26, 1986, poorly-planned experiments at a nuclear power plant at Chernobyl in the nation known as the Soviet Union led to an accident that killed many people and polluted the area. Nuclear energy is only one form of the many energies people use. Use this week's newspapers or the Internet to find pictures and stories that show examples of mechanical, heat, light, sound, electrical, magnetic, chemical and nuclear energies. Cut or print them out and display them on a sheet of paper or poster board. Under each example, explain how people harness and use the energy, and any dangers there are from using the energy.

Core/National Standards: Describing energy and the many common forms it takes (mechanical, heat, light, sound, electrical, magnetic, chemical, nuclear); adding drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

3. Music from the Mundane

Musical instruments cost a lot of money. Beginner trumpets and violins sell for about $400. Drum sets can cost between $1,500 and $5,000. But if you are a student at Centennial Elementary School in Phoenix, Arizona, you can make music using just about anything. Members of the Grade 6-8 band play personalized, spray-painted metal and plastic instruments made from trash cans. They bang on the sides and bottoms of overturned trash cans to create rhythms with their own tones. Plastic trash cans have a different tone than metal trash cans. Big trash cans make different tones than smaller trash cans. There are 22 students in the trash can band and all of them play another instrument in the school’s band. Alone or in pairs, search newspaper advertisements for household items that could be used as musical instruments. Pick one and write out how it would be used. Try and create your own class band that would use homemade instruments.

Core/National Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task, purpose and audience; performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.

4. The Bard’s Greatest Hits

Nobody can pin down the definitive date, but most historians believe William Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564. He came into the world in Stratford-on-Avon in the European nation of England. He went on to become the most famous playwright of all time. He wrote great plays such as “Romeo and Juliet,” “Hamlet,” “Othello,” “The Taming of the Shrew,” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Theater companies around the country and the world perform his plays. Several theater groups are dedicated to just his work and have festivals during the summer months. Search your newspaper’s entertainment section for a local theater group performing a play by Shakespeare or another playwright. Write a paragraph explaining why you think the theater chose to present the play. Then create a Reader’s Theater performance of that same play for your school.

Core/National Standards: Adapting speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

5. I Can Get Behind That!

“Well, that’s my opinion!” How many times have you said that to a friend or family member? Everyone has opinions about most things in life, but how well do they back up their opinions? “Just because,” isn’t a good answer when you are trying to make a case for something in which you believe. That is especially true for adults in professional situations. If you feel strongly about something, you need to have facts and arguments that can back up your opinion. Find a newspaper editorial. Write an essay discussing how the writer supported the arguments made in the editorial with facts.

Core/National Standard: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task, purpose and audience.