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For Grades 5-8 , week of Sep. 25, 2011

1. Use Your Tools

Learning a new language pushes a person's comfort zone. You have to stop, translate in your head and then try and say the words without sounding like a 5-year-old. That's essentially what you are doing when you learning new words in English, too - especially in subjects like science. You stop, you sound it out in your head, try and say it in class, and hope you don't sound like a 5-year-old. One of the best tools in your learning tool box is your dictionary. It not only gives you the definition of words, but it shows you exactly how to pronounce them. Find an article about science in the newspaper. Or find an example online. Print it out and highlight the words you don't know. Get out a dictionary and find out how to pronounce the words and their definitions.

Core Standard: Consulting reference materials, both print and digital, to find the pronunciation of a word or determine or clarify its precise meaning.

2. Swimming Against the Stream

For members of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe of Washington State, the dam holding back the Elwha River wasn't just about environmental concerns. It was about a way of life. "They are killing the fish, and they are taking away from our culture and our eating the fish," said Adeline Smith, an elder in the Native American tribe. All of that will soon change, according to a Reuters article. Two dams blocking the natural flow of the river are being torn down, opening up the river to fish again. In the past, about 300,000 salmon migrated from the Pacific Ocean up the river to spawn. Builders of the dam did not include a fish ladder to help the salmon move upstream, disrupting the salmon life cycle. The project to remove the dams won't be cheap: It carries a price tag of $325 million. Find a newspaper story about an environmental project or problem in your area. Write a summary of the story.

Core Standard: Determining the central idea of a text and analyzing its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas, provide an objective summary of the text.

3. A Bright Spot

Recently Target stores offered a variety of new items from the Missoni brand. So many shoppers wanted the items that Target's computer system crashed from the number. Is this a bright spot in an otherwise bleak economy? That's the question Susan Tompor of the Detroit Free Press tackled in her column. She quoted several sources in her column, including people from the Charles Schwab investment firm, Comerica Bank and the Federal Reserve. The experts offered differing views on the possible implications of the rush on Missoni items and how it might reflect the willingness of consumers to start spending again. Tompor ended her column giving her opinion that it is a "bright spot." Search your newspaper for opinion columns. Analyze the content of one column, its sources and the point of view of the author. Discuss it as a class.

Core Standard: Determining an author's point of view or purpose in text and explaining how it is conveyed in the text.

4. Using Others' Words

Politicians and leaders often pluck verses from the Bible and lines from famous literature to add spice and meaning to their speeches. President Barack Obama often refers to Americans needing to be their brother's keepers. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. alluded to John Steinbeck's novel "The Winter of Our Discontent" in his "I Have a Dream" speech. Just recently, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee alluded to the story of David and Goliath in a political speech. Find newspaper articles about presidential candidates. Cut or print them out and make notes of all biblical and literary allusions and discuss them as a class. Keep a scrapbook of speeches through the fall.

Core Standard: Interpreting figures of speech (e.g. literary, biblical and mythological allusions) in context.

5. The Root of the Matter

"The compound is a potent antibacterial and has shown efficacy in treating human cancers and an eye condition known as macular degeneration, which causes blindness." What the heck are they talking about in that sentence? Well, if you know some prefixes, suffixes and word roots, you can figure out a lot of those tough words. For example, "com" means "together," so compound means put together. Search the newspaper for long words you might not know. Using a dictionary or word root list, figure out the meanings of the words and write them down.

Core Standard: Using common, grade-appropriate Greek and Latin affixes and roots as clues to the meaning of a word.