, week of
June 05, 2017
1. Victory for Black Voters
The U.S. Supreme Court has thrown out maps drawn for two U.S. congressional districts in North Carolina on the ground the state legislature illegally used race as a factor in setting the boundaries. The ruling is a triumph for black North Carolina voters who had argued the plans reduced the influence of African American voters by packing them into districts that already had a high percentage of African Americans. Putting African Americans into districts that were predominantly black already reduced their influence in other districts, critics said. The ruling sends the matter back to the North Carolina legislature, which must draw new districts that will meet court approval. The ruling could have implications for the 2018 midterm elections, because Democrats and Republicans are evenly divided in North Carolina. Voting rights and regulations are in the news in many states. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about efforts to protect voting rights or change regulations. Use what you read to write an editorial giving your view on one case and how it should be handled.
Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.
2. A Great Year for “SNL”
The 2016 presidential race and the election of Donald Trump gave a huge boost to the comedy and satire show “Saturday Night Live.” With skits taking aim at Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, the NBC show had its most-viewed season in 23 years. Performances by Alex Baldwin as Trump and Kate McKinnon as Clinton gave the show an average 7.5 million viewers for its live shows on Saturday nights, a number up 32% from last year. The show’s audience was boosted further by appearances by Melissa McCarthy as Trump press secretary Sean Spicer and Larry David as Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders. “Saturday Night Live” uses satire and comedy to make fun of the news or call attention to the actions of newsmakers. In teams or pairs, find and closely read stories about a person or issue in the news. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a comedy skit that would poke fun at the person or issue and get people to think about it in a new way. Write an outline for your skit, including points you would want to make.
Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.
3. A Rap Thesis
Harvard University is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world. Yet this spring, senior Obasi Shaw did something no student had done in Harvard’s 381-year history. He created a rap album as his senior thesis for Harvard's English department. “I was definitely very shocked that they accepted it,” said Shaw, a 20-year-old from the Atlanta suburb of Stone Mountain, Ga. But his album not only was accepted, it earned the equivalent of an A-minus grade and honors status for Shaw at graduation. The album — called “Liminal Minds” — has 10 tracks, each of which looks at a different facet of what it’s like to be black in America. The word “liminal” means “caught between states” or having “in-between status” — and in Shaw’s view that describes the status of African Americans in the United States. Rap and poetry can be used effectively to comment on issues or the news. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an issue important to you. Use what you read to write a short rap or poem about the issue. Share or perform your rap with the class and discuss.
Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts.
4. Quadruplets to College
Picking a college is a big decision for students and their families. And it’s an even bigger decision when you have to choose for four students at once. That’s what happened to the Ciacciarella family in Naugatuck, Connecticut this spring, whose quadruplets Anna, Sofia, Vincent and Michael all graduated from high school last month. But when the dust had settled after dozens of applications, all four decided to attend the same school — Quinnipiac University in nearby North Haven. Though attending the same school, the quadruplets will not all study the same subject. Sofia wants to major in biology, Anna will major in English, Vincent will study communications, and Michael will take up civil engineering. Choosing a college is a big decision for high school seniors. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a college or university. Then visit the website of the college online. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short essay describing programs the college is most known for, and the type of student who would benefit most from going there.
Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.
5. Social Media Risks?
More than 91 percent of teens and young adults regularly use social media, and according to a new study that can take a toll on their emotional and mental wellbeing. New research from the Royal Society for Public Health in Great Britain has found that some social media platforms can increase the negative impact of such things as depression, anxiety, self-identity, loneliness and body image. Instagram was rated the most detrimental for emotional and mental health, followed closely by Snapchat, according to the study. Researchers said Instagram users showed higher anxiety on the issue of body image, particularly women, because it “makes it easy for girls and women to feel as if their bodies aren’t good enough” compared to photo-shopped images they see on social media. In addition, the study noted, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter can raise FoMO anxiety — “Fear of Missing Out” on things that are trending. As a class, discuss social media that you use and the positive and negative aspects of different platforms. Use points made in the discussion to write a news story about the pros and cons of social media, as viewed by your class.
Common Core State Standards: Responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.