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For Grades 9-12 , week of Feb. 06, 2023

1. No Free Speech

In the United States, citizens are guaranteed freedom of speech by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Other nations do not allow people to speak freely and offer their opinions. In the European nation of Russia, a teenager is now facing years in jail for posting criticism online of the war Russia is waging in neighboring Ukraine. Nineteen-year-old Olesya Krivtsova is being held under house arrest for social media posts that authorities say discredit the Russian army and justify terrorism, CNN News reported. She is also facing criminal charges for discrediting the Russian army by reposting critical material in a student chat room. Krivtsova, who is a student at Northern (Arctic) Federal University, could face up to three years in prison for discrediting the Russian army and up to seven years in prison under the charge of justifying terrorism. Her legal defense team hopes for a softer punishment such as a fine, however. While under house arrest in her mother’s apartment, Krivtsova is banned from going online and using other forms of communication. “Olesya’s case is not the first, nor is it the last,” her lawyer told CNN. Freedom of speech does not just involve things people say. It includes free expression in books, newspapers, music, movies, TV shows, artworks and even cartoons. In the newspaper or online, find and list examples of people exercising freedom of speech in different ways. Use what you read to write a personal opinion column detailing how life would be different if freedom of speech did not apply in these cases.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

2. Super Bowl Stars

Next Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday, and football fans all over the nation are gearing up to see whether the Kansas City Chiefs or the Philadelphia Eagles will win the National Football League championship. The game could be the most closely fought in years. Both the Chiefs and the Eagles are the top-ranked team in their divisions. Each has won 16 of 19 games in the regular season and the playoffs. Each is led by a quarterback who is a candidate for league Most Valuable Player — and for the first time both quarterbacks are African American. On top of that both teams have stars at multiple positions beyond quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs and Jalen Hurts of the Eagles. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about players who will be performing in Sunday’s Super Bowl. Use what you read to write a short sports essay, predicting which player you think will have the biggest impact on the game. Share with the class and discuss.

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.

3. Goodbye, Splash Mountain

For more than 30 years the Splash Mountain water ride has been a popular attraction at Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California. Now, however, the ride has been shut down in both places for a makeover that will change its theme and remove elements that audiences now find offensive. The offensive elements in the ride had their roots in a 1946 Disney movie “Song of the South,” which has long been criticized for its portrayal of African Americans and plantation life after the Civil War. With animated and live-action characters, the movie presented a demeaning and stereotypical picture of Black Americans and Black life, critics said. The Splash Mountain attraction employed the animated characters, songs and locations of the movie in its presentation. Now, just in time for Black History Month, that has ended, and Splash Mountain will become Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, the Washington Post newspaper reports. The new theme is a complete shift for Disney. It is based on the animated film “The Princess and the Frog,” which featured the company’s first Black princess. All across America, businesses, organizations and communities are re-examining how their practices reflect bias, stereotyping or discrimination against African Americans. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one community’s efforts. Use what you read to create a five-minute TV news report about the community’s efforts and the reaction they have gotten. Write the text for your report and read it aloud to make sure it does not run longer than five minutes. Choose images from the newspaper or Internet to illustrate your report.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

4. Teen Sensation

Teenagers make news in a lot of ways, and some of them are truly spectacular. Take the case of Isabeau Levito, a 15-year-old from the state of New Jersey. A skater since she was 3 years old, Levito soared to the U.S. women’s figure skating championship last week, with a performance that one commentator gushed was as smooth and light as “fluffy whipped cream.” It was “perfection, precision” and “a gold-medal performance if I ever saw one,” said the commentator, who was none other than 1998 Olympic champion Tara Lipinski. Isabeau (pronounced “EASE-a-bo) won the title with a flawless performance in the “free skate” long program, after leading by just two one-hundredths of a point after the short program in the competition. She ended up winning by 10 points. “I’m just so happy and proud of myself,” Levito told the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper. “This was my goal coming into the event, and I just feel so happy that I performed the way I wanted to.” An 11th grader who takes classes online, Levito is now looking ahead to representing the United States at the 2026 Winter Olympics. Teen athletes often make news with memorable or outstanding achievements. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one teen athlete who has done this. Use what you read to create an artwork or poster showcasing this athlete’s talents and achievements. Write a copy block explaining how your artwork or poster reflects the athlete’s personality and style.

Common Core State Standards: Integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

5. Bikes Under Water

All over the world people ride bikes to have fun and get exercise. In many places, they also use them to get around instead of driving cars. One of those places is the European nation of the Netherlands, where tens of thousands of people use bicycles each day to get to school, work or stores. The problem is, where do you park all those bikes? The city of Amsterdam has come up with an unusual solution. It has just opened a giant bike garage — under water. The garage is located under a basin off the IJ river on Amsterdam’s waterfront and cost $65-million to build. The garage, which can hold 7,000 bikes, is located next to Amsterdam’s Central Train Station, which serves about 200,000 passengers a day. About half of those people use bicycles after getting off the train, the Business Insider news service reports. There are an estimated 900,000 bicycles in Amsterdam, a city with a population of 920,000. This month Amsterdam will open a second underwater garage that will add another 4,000 parking spaces for bicycles in the city. The underwater bicycle garages in Amsterdam are an example of people building unusual structures to provide services or solve problems. In the newspaper or online, find and study stories and photos involving another project that does this. Use what you find to write an assessment of the project: How it was built, why it is unusual and how successful you think it will be.

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

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