1. A Vaccine for Kids
With schools back to in-person learning, one of the biggest questions for parents is: When will coronavirus vaccine shots be available for young children? Those parents got a partial answer earlier this month, when the makers of the Pfizer vaccine said testing had shown it was safe for children ages 5 to 11. And last week President Biden announced that his administration has obtained enough doses to cover the country’s 28-million children in that age group. The President’s team also announced it has put plans in place to distribute the vaccine as quickly as possible through drug stores, doctor’s offices, health clinics and community health centers as soon as it is approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Officials also are planning to make vaccination shots available at schools and other “community-based sites” in cities that request that. Making coronavirus vaccines available for children is big news in the health world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another piece of important health news for families. Use what you read to write a letter to a family member explaining the news, why it is important and whom it will affect most.
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.
2. ‘Small and Squishy’
The winter holiday season is about to begin, and kids in America and around the world are dreaming about what toys they’d like to receive as presents. Toymakers are dreaming too, but not for the latest dolls, action figures or video games. They are dreaming about shipping containers — and how they can get them. Shipping containers are the unsung heroes of the holiday season, because a huge percentage of toys sold in the United States are made in other countries (85 percent from China alone). This year, due to the coronavirus epidemic, there is a shortage of 20-foot and 40-foot containers that bring toys to the U.S. on giant container ships, CNN News reports. As a result, some toymakers are trying to make the most of the containers they have lined up — filling them with small, squishy toys like stuffed animals and Care Bears instead of large items like dollhouses or play sets. There still will be large toys to buy in stores or online, toymakers say, just fewer of them. And the smaller items that will be available still offer lots of fun. This year the holidays may really prove the old saying that “good things come in small packages.” In the newspaper or online, use the ads and stories to plan some holiday shopping. Pick out toys for three family members or friends that are small, soft or “squishy.” For each, write a complete sentence stating who the gift is for and why you think he or she would like it.
Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.
3. Sky High
The Women’s National Basketball Association was founded 25 years ago, and this fall it did something it had never done before. It crowned the Chicago Sky as league champion after the Sky defeated the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA finals 3 games to 1. The sixth-seeded Sky are the first team in WNBA history to win the championship without being seeded first or second. Guard Kahleah Copper was named Most Valuable Player for the Sky after averaging 17 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in the finals. But the championship was especially meaningful for forward Candace Parker, who had returned to Chicago from the Los Angeles Sparks this season to pursue a championship with her hometown team. Parker averaged 14.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game in the finals, including 16 points and 13 rebounds in the game that clinched the title for the Sky. This is a busy time for professional sports, with teams in the WNBA, National Basketball Association, National Football League, National Hockey League and Major League Baseball all in action. Some cities have teams in more than one professional league. In the newspaper or online use the sports standings and sports stories to learn which cities have the most pro sports teams. Use what you read to write a sports column telling how having more than one successful team can give a community a sense of pride and happiness.
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.
4. A Prince Speaks Out
In the last few months private space travelers have gotten a lot of attention for taking trips into space aboard rockets and spacecraft built by billionaire businessmen. To one leading supporter of the environment, that is not a good way to use resources. Prince William, who is second in line to become the king of England, said in a TV interview that the world needs the “greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to repair this planet,” not focused on “trying to find the next place to go and live.” Prince William, whose father Prince Charles has also worked for years to protect the environment, warned that “If we’re not careful, we’re robbing from our children’s future through what we do now. I want the things that I’ve enjoyed — the outdoor life, nature, the environment — I want that to be there for my children. And not just my children but everyone else’s children.” Prince William and Prince Charles want to preserve habitats, wildlife and the environment so that children of the future may enjoy them. In the newspaper or online, find and study a photo or story of nature or wildlife that you would like to preserve for future children. Use what you find to write a poem about this natural attraction and why it should be preserved. Your poems can rhyme or not but should make people feel how its beauty or power would benefit future children or make their lives richer. Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; reading prose and poetry orally with accuracy, appropriate rate and expression on successive readings.
5. Mystery Fish
When a fisherman in the state of Kansas pulled up his line on the Neosho River recently, he really didn’t know what he was looking at. Butch Smith knew it was a big fish — 4 ½ feet long and nearly 40 pounds, with a wide, flat head and two rows of nasty looking teeth. But he’d never seen anything like it in local waters and called a friend and said “I’ve got something weird here.” He sent the friend a picture and quickly got an answer: That’s an alligator gar. The problem was alligator gars don’t live in Kansas rivers. When Smith contacted state wildlife officials, he got the same answer: Alligators gars don’t live here. And now those officials are turning to science to try to solve the mystery of how this gar got there, the Washington Post newspaper reported. First they will test the fish’s tissues to see what other gar populations it might be related to. Then they’ll test its bones to see what chemicals they contain and compare them to chemicals in the river to determine how long it had been living there. As for Smith, he’s enjoying the mystery. “You spend enough time in the water, anything can happen,” he said. Scientists are often called on to solve mysteries or unusual events. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about scientists trying to solve a mystery. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, telling what the mystery involves, what scientists have learned about it and why that could be important,
Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and making logical inferences from them; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.