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For Grades 5-8 , week of Oct. 17, 2011

1. Becoming Wordsmiths

"The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter -- it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning." -- Mark Twain

Choosing the right words inspires a writer to explore language and find just the right turn of phrase to make the reader feel they are part of a story. Jennifer Kay and Suzette Laboy of the Associated Press news service exhibited great skill when writing the lead of a story about a family that survived 20 hours at sea. "Four hours into a family fishing trip, rough waves flipped a 22-foot boat off the Florida Keys, tossing eight people overboard. Seven of them ... survived by clinging to their capsized vessel and a small blue cooler for almost 20 hours, suffering exhaustion, jellyfish stings and hypothermia." Look in your newspaper for stories with powerful leads. Take note of the verbs the writer uses and find synonyms of those words in a thesaurus.

Core/National Standard: Consulting reference materials, both print and digital, to determine or clarify the precise meaning of key words and phrases.

2. Writer

On October 18, 1951, Terry McMillan was born. She is a successful writer who writes about the experiences of African American women in the United States. Her books include "Waiting to Exhale" and "How Stella Got Her Groove Back." Find an article about someone interesting who lives in your community in this week's newspaper. Write a fictional short story about a person similar to the article's subject.

Core/National Standard: Writing fluently for multiple purposes to produce compositions, such as stories, poetry, personal narratives, editorials, research reports, persuasive essays, resumes and memos.

3. Monitoring Movement

The National Science Foundation funneled $1 million in grant money to the Scripps Institute of Oceanography to develop a deep-sea seismic network to monitor earthquake activity. In the past, ships have placed earthquake sensors in the ocean that gather data for a predetermined amount of time before being picked up. This system creates gaps in the time earthquake activity is being monitored, however. The new system would provide constant monitoring. That kind of monitoring would be good for places like the Bay Area of San Francisco, California, which suffered one of its deadliest earthquakes on October 17, 1989. The quake measured 7.1 on the Richter Scale, caused 63 deaths and left more than 3,000 people injured. More than 100,000 buildings were damaged. Find a newspaper article about earthquake activity around the world. Or find an example online. Write a summary describing the impact of such sudden movement and changes in the Earth's surface.

Core/National Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts and information

4. We Need Jobs

Flint, Michigan, topped the charts when it came to job opportunities in the 1950s and 1960s. It was the home of the largest auto factory in the world, and it was the center of activities of the United Auto Workers union and the fight for worker's rights. By the early 1970s, however, Flint's economy began to unravel. Skyrocketing gasoline prices and foreign competition hurt the American automobile industry and by the 1980s, Flint had the highest unemployment rate in the country. That rate is still high, which is why both President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden headed to Michigan this month. They went to promote job growth and trade deals. Find a newspaper article about jobs and unemployment. Using the articles, create a Power Point presentation offering a look at the lives of the unemployed.

Core/National Standards: Including multimedia components and visual displays in presentations to clarify claims and findings and emphasize salient points.

5. Farewell, Steve

People around the world agree that Steve Jobs changed the face of technology forever. They have called him a visionary, a leader and a pioneer in computers. Jobs, who died this month of respiratory arrest as the result of cancer, was the co-founder of Apple computers and in recent years took technology to new heights with iPods, iPhones and iPads. He had struggled with health issues for several years, before finally succumbing to pancreatic cancer. Find a newspaper article about Jobs. Or find one online. Write a narrative of his life that details his impact on the world -- and on your own life.

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