For Grades 9-12 THE WEEK OF Dec. 06, 2021

1. New Virus Variant

The coronavirus has been a difficult disease to fight because it keeps producing mutations called “variants” that present new challenges to doctors, drug companies, governments and health officials. The latest, which has been named the omicron virus after the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet, was discovered in South Africa on November 25 and since has been detected in more than 20 other countries, including the United States. The World Health Organization last week warned that the omicron variant poses a “very high” global risk to spread further and urged nations to step up efforts to slow its transmission. These include educating health workers on ways to detect the variant, along with familiar steps such as promoting vaccinations, booster shots, mask-wearing, avoiding crowds and frequent hand washing. In addition, the United States and other nations have imposed travel restrictions on nations from southern Africa in an effort to curb spread of the disease. In an address from the White House, President Biden said the variant is a “cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” because “we have more tools to fight the variant than we’ve ever had before.” The omicron variant continues to make news in the United States and around the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about steps the U.S. and other nations are taking to protect people from the virus. Use what you read to write a short editorial outlining the most important next steps the United States and other nations should take, and why.

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. Malala, College Grad

In 2014, at the age of 17, Malala Yousafzai became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner ever for campaigning for girls’ education in the Asian nation of Pakistan. Two years earlier she had survived an attempt to kill her by a terrorist working for the extremist Taliban group that now controls neighboring Afghanistan. After recovering from a gunshot wound to the head, she became an activist for girls’ education, women’s rights and human rights. Now, nine years after being shot, she has achieved a new milestone. She has graduated from college with a degree in philosophy, politics and economics from the world-famous University of Oxford in London, England. Her Oxford graduation ceremony was initially set for May 2020, but had to be delayed because of the coronavirus epidemic. Now 24, Yousafzai said this summer she is “deeply worried” about the fate of women, minorities and human rights activists in an Afghanistan ruled by the Taliban. Malala Yousafzai is a worldwide leader as an activist for girls’ and women’s rights. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about girls or women seeking greater rights somewhere in the world. Use what you read to write a letter to Malala Yousafzai asking her to speak out on this situation and explain why.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

3. Stowaway!

It’s been well documented that residents of the Central American nations of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras have been so desperate to escape poverty in their homelands that they have walked hundreds of miles in an effort to gain entry to the United States. Late last month, a man wanted to leave Guatemala so badly he took an even more dangerous approach. He hid himself in the landing gear compartment of a jet flying from Guatemala City to Miami, Florida — and survived! The 26-year-old man, whose name and nationality were not released, was arrested in Miami by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers after the three-hour flight. It is rare people survive attempts to “stow away” with the landing gear of airplanes. Temperatures in that part of the plane can drop to 65 degrees below zero at high elevations and stowaways risk death from the cold, lack of oxygen, being crushed by the equipment or falling to their deaths when the compartments open for landing. Migrants are taking great risks to reach and enter the United States, but they often are blocked at the U.S. border. In the newspaper or online find and closely read stories about migrants from Central and South America who are traveling to the border in the hope of being allowed in. Use what you read to write an editorial summarizing U.S. policy on migrants, whether you agree with it and what changes you would make, if any.

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.

4. Making It Happen

Getting a job after graduating from college is one of toughest challenges many young adults have ever faced. In the European city of London, England, a 24-year-old who had been frustrated by Zoom interviews, tried an unusual approach — and got results. Haider Malik had been unsuccessful looking for a job since the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic, despite holding a first-class degree in banking and finance from Middlesex University, the Mirror newspaper reports. So he set up a pop-up stand at a train station in the busy financial district of Canary Wharf and started introducing himself and handing out resumés. People started giving him business cards and one man took a photo and posted it online. Almost immediately it went viral, and less than three hours after Malik had started, he got a text asking him to come in for an interview — in an hour. Malik took down his sign and went in for a face-to-face interview for a position as a treasury analyst at the Canary Wharf Group. Three days later he was called for a second interview with the Canary Wharf Group, and he was offered a job the same evening. Getting a job often begins with writing a letter introducing yourself and detailing your qualifications for a position. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read an advertisement for a position that would interest you. Use what you read and personal knowledge to write a letter of introduction telling why you would want the job and why you would be good at it.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; citing textual or visual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

5. Letter-Man Reunion

For high school athletes, letter jackets are prized possessions and a source of pride for achievements in different sports. In the state of Arizona, Jed Mottley ordered one for earning a letter in varsity football, but he never picked it up because he couldn’t afford it as a teen in a single parent household. Twenty-eight years later, he has been reunited with the jacket he picked out and designed. He has his older brother Josh to thank. By pure luck, Josh ran across Jed’s jacket in a thrift shop 180 miles from the high school Jed attended in the city of Scottsdale. Best of all, it was priced at just $25, far less than the original $300 it would have cost, CNN News reported. Josh Mottley said his brother's bright red jacket was the first thing he spotted in the store, and he quickly snapped it up. Then he called his brother to give him the news. The jacket had the name “Jed” stitched under the left pocket, “94” stitched under the right pocket, and a football on the right arm. The jacket was donated to the thrift shop by a man who had it in a shop he had to close in the city of Mesa just 20 miles from Jed’s high school. People are often reunited with prized possessions they have lost or been separated from. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about such a reunion. Use what you read to write a summary of how the reunion came about and why it was important to the person involved.

Common Core State Standards: Citing textual or visual 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.