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for Grades 5-8

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For Grades 5-8 , week of Nov. 20, 2017

1. Swift Success

Taylor Swift is one of the most popular entertainers in the world, and her new “Reputation” album has proved it. “Reputation” sold more than 700,000 copies on its first day and went on to become Swift’s fourth album to sell a million copies in its first week. With “Reputation” Swift becomes the only artist to have four different albums sell more than a million copies in a week. “Reputation” also set a new first-week record for Swift for sales, while becoming the top selling album for 2017 in the United States. Swift’s previous best seller in its first week was her 2014 album “1989,” which sold 1.29 million copies. Taylor Swift connects with fans through both the melodies of her music and message of her songs.

Common Core State Standards: With the newspaper or Internet, find and closely read a story about a musical artist you like. Are you drawn to the music or the message of this artist’s songs, or both? Write a music review for the newspaper, explaining why you like this artist. Be sure to support your opinions with evidence from your reading or prior knowledge.

2. Wind and Solar

In an effort to reduce air pollution, more and more communities are turning to wind and solar power to reduce the use of fossil fuels like coal and gas. In a middle school in Virginia, students are learning how to do it first-hand. Lanier Middle School is part of a pilot program testing a combination wind/solar generator for electricity, and at the same time students are learning the technology and engineering of renewable energy sources like wind, solar, hydroelectric and geothermal power. Students are also building wind turbine models and recently won second prize in a national wind turbine competition. “Renewable energy is going to be huge,” teacher Robert D’Souza says. Renewable energy is getting increased attention across the United States and around the world.

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.

3. Don’t Touch the Treat!

All over the world people love their favorite snack foods. And if a company wants to change one? Watch out! The Italian company that makes Nutella and Tic Tacs treats found that out recently when word got out that the recipe for its sweet Nutella spread had been changed. Nutella, which tastes like a mix of chocolate and hazel nuts, is popular all over the world, and especially on the continent of Europe. The change wasn’t big: The new recipe has 8.7 percent powdered skim milk instead of 7.5 percent, and also contains 56.3 percent sugar instead of 55.9 percent. But fans were outraged. “OMG!! They are changing the recipe of #Nutella !!!” wrote one fan on the Twitter social media service. “HOW DARE THEY!! Leave the sugar & coco alone!!!” As a class, discuss your favorite snack foods and what you like about them. Then find and closely read a story or ad about one you like a lot. Write a humorous or serious poem detailing how you would react if you found out your favorite snack was going to be changed. Read your poems aloud — with feeling!

Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts.

4. Opioid Alternatives

The opioid drug crisis being felt across the nation has been fueled in part by doctors prescribing opioid painkillers to patients. Too many patients become addicted to the painkillers and then move on to street drugs like heroin, risking overdoses and death. A new study, however, suggests that many patients who are prescribed opioids for pain would do just as well with milder drugs. The study compared the effectiveness of opioid painkillers with non-opioid painkillers for emergency room patients who had sustained sprains, strains or fractures of the arms or legs. Researchers found that non-opioid painkillers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen were just as effective after two hours as opioid painkiller combinations — even for patients who had broken a bone. Ibuprofen is found in over-the-counter drugs like Advil or Motrin, and acetaminophen is in Tylenol. The opioid drug crisis is having an effect in communities across America. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about ways the crisis is affecting communities. Use what you read to write a short editorial offering ideas about efforts you think could be most effective dealing with the problem.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

5. No-Nukes Pope

Since becoming head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has not been shy about offering opinions on controversial subjects. This month he did it again, endorsing a United Nations treaty calling for the elimination of atomic weapons, and warning that their use would be “catastrophic” for humanity and the environment. At a conference at the Catholic Church headquarters at the Vatican, the Pope acknowledged that countries with such weapons feel they need them to keep enemies from using them. But he said that approach “creates nothing but a false sense of security.” Pope Francis openly shares his opinions about many topics. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a topic that is important to you. Pretend you have been given a chance to interview Pope Francis about this topic. Write out five questions you would like to ask him. Share with the class and explain why you would want answers to the questions.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.