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for Grades 9-12

Apr 23, 2018
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For Grades 9-12 , week of Apr 23, 2018

1. Sentenced to Read

When teenagers commit crimes, judges struggle deciding what kind of sentences they should get. They want the sentences to be strong enough to be remembered, but not so strong as to be over the top. When a group of Virginia teenagers sprayed hate graffiti on a historic black schoolhouse, the judge sentenced them to read books that would help them better understand the history of symbols like swastikas and phrases like “white power” and “black power.” Among the books the students chose from were “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “12 Years a Slave” and “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which explore racial discrimination; “Night,” which examines the Holocaust, and “The Tortilla Curtain,” which explores immigration issues. Two of the five students sentenced were white and three were non-white, the Washington Post newspaper reported. As a class, discuss ways that books you read and movies you see can help you better understand social issues like discrimination or prejudice. Then talk about books you have read or movies you have seen that helped you better understand an issue. Use points from the discussion and your own knowledge, to write a book or movie review, explaining how one that you have seen or read helped you understand an issue, and could help others.

Common Core State Standards: Responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement; writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

2. Pets to College

When students go off to college, they often feel homesick, lonely or anxious. To ease the transition, some colleges are now allowing students to bring their pets along with them to school. The goal is to integrate students “into the learning environment” in the best way, said Debbie Below of Southeast Missouri State — and pets can help do that. Rules vary from school to school, but college animals must be housebroken house pets and roommates have to approve. Regulations also protect students who are allergic to animals. Both large and small colleges are trying the “pets to college” idea, and some even are promoting it as a selling point for students. Little Stephens College in Missouri even proclaims on its website that “here, we treat pets like royalty.” Pets can have many positive benefits for people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a pet having such an effect. Use what you read to write a personal opinion column discussing how this pet helped a person, and how pets have helped people you know.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

3. ‘Dilly Dilly’

It started out as a way to sell beer, but the phrase “Dilly Dilly” has taken over America. It is now used thousands of times a day in schools, offices, and especially sports arenas. When the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl, skywriting planes spelled out “Philly Dilly” over their victory parade. When Villanova won the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, the local newspaper declared “Villy Villy” on its front page. The “Dilly Dilly” phrase has turned up in the names of sports plays and on hats and T-shirts and other gear. And of course it continues to sell Bud Light beer, the brand the phrase was cooked up to promote. The best advertising slogans are ones that stick in your head. In the newspaper or online, find examples of product slogans that are easily remembered by people. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper examining why these slogans stick with people and how that benefits the companies that use them. For added fun, brainstorm ideas for slogans for your school, sports teams or products you use or like. Discuss as a class.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

4. Online Taxes

To pay for government services they provide, many states charge a sales tax on products and services sold by businesses. People who shop online, however, often do not pay a sales tax if a business does not have a physical store or operation in their state. That could change, if the U.S. Supreme Court decides to overturn a 1992 decision it made long before Internet shopping became popular. In a case brought by the state of South Dakota, the High Court is being asked to require all businesses to collect state sales taxes on products and services sold, even if they do not have a physical presence in a state. South Dakota officials say the 1992 decision is outdated because Internet shopping is now common and online websites have replaced physical stores in many cases. State governments say they are losing out on nearly $14 billion a year in tax revenue, and local business leaders say they are put at a disadvantage when online companies don’t have to collect the taxes. Most major online businesses like Amazon, Target, Apple and Walmart already collect sales taxes for states that have them. States use tax revenues to pay for government services, and when there not enough revenues some services face cuts. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a state considering cuts in services. Use what you read to write an editorial assessing how the cuts could affect people and whether taxes should be raised to avoid them.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing.

5. Gun Control

In the New England state of Vermont, Governor Phil Scott has been a gun owner since he was 13 and highly rated by the National Rifle Association. But after a man planning to shoot up a local high school was arrested two days after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Scott decided he had to act. “I had to ask myself, ‘Are we truly doing everything we can to make our kids and communities safer?’” he said later. What he did was to sign new laws tightening controls on gun ownership. The laws ban the possession and sale of “bump stocks” that turn guns into automatic weapons and prohibit bullet magazines holding more than 10 rounds for a long gun and 15 for a handgun. Gun buyers also must be at least 21, unless they have passed the Vermont hunter safety course or are in the military or law enforcement. States across the nation are debating what steps should be taken — if any — in response to mass shootings in schools and communities. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the debate. Write a summary of points made by each side and make a prediction on what you think will happen in one instance.

Common Core State Standards: Citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.