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for Grades 9-12

Jan. 22, 2018
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For Grades 9-12 , week of Jan. 22, 2018

1. Facebook Changes

With more than two billion users, Facebook is hugely popular with people all over the world. It’s also hugely popular with businesses, non-profit groups, political organizations and news publishers. Too popular, in the view of many people, who feel posts from such groups or organizations clog the News Feeds of individual users. To remedy that, Facebook has announced it will change its programming to give more attention to posts from friends and family and less to businesses, brands and other organizations. Over the next few weeks, users will see fewer viral videos, photos and memes and more posts from friends they have interacted with. The goal is to increase “meaningful interaction” on Facebook, founder Mark Zuckerberg said. Facebook and other social media platforms give people a way to share a wide range of information, opinions, photos and videos. In groups, discuss the best things, and the worst things, about Facebook and other social media. Then use the newspaper and Internet to do additional research about the benefits and drawbacks of social media. Use what you read to write an editorial or consumer column on “How to Improve Social Media.”

Common Core State Standards: Responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement; writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.

2. Gerrymandering (Again)

One of the most controversial subjects in politics is how district boundaries for state legislatures and the U.S. House of Representatives are drawn. The boundaries are set by state legislatures and often they are drawn to favor one party over another (depending on which has control). This is known as political “gerrymandering,” and it has been challenged in court in at least four states. This month a federal court threw out a North Carolina map for U.S. House districts on the ground that Republican state legislators unconstitutionally gerrymandered them to ensure Republican “domination” of the state’s congressional delegation. In Pennsylvania, the state’s Supreme Court is weighing a challenge to congressional districts drawn by the Republican-controlled legislature to disadvantage Democrats. And the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up two cases involving politically motivated gerrymandering — one in Wisconsin (where the map was drawn by Republicans) and one in Maryland (where the map was drawn by Democrats). Gerrymandering causes a lot of debate and controversy because it can affect which party controls state legislatures or the U.S. House. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about gerrymandering. Use what you read to write a political column outlining how you think districts for the U.S. House and state legislatures should be drawn to ensure fair representation for all voters.

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.

3. You’re a Work of Art

Taking selfies is one of the most popular uses of smart phones and tablets. And now all those selfies are causing buzz around the world, thanks to a new app from Google. The Google Arts & Culture app can take a person’s selfie, search the Internet and find an art painting somewhere in the world that matches it. People have been flocking to the app since it was introduced, and not just art lovers. People from all backgrounds have been posting and sharing their results, generating even more interest in the app. The matching app has been made possible by facial recognition technology and the constantly growing visual database of artworks in museums and other collections. People are having fun with the new Google art app because it lets them compare real life photos to an artist’s interpretation of what someone looks like. Every artist has a different style showing the appearance of people. With the newspaper or Internet, find images of paintings that different artists have created as portraits of people. Pick one and write an art review detailing how the artist’s style interprets the person’s looks, or reveals emotions the person might be feeling. Share and discuss as a class.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

4. Surviving the Cold

When the weather is unusually cold, wildlife instinctively make adjustments to survive. Consider the alligators in North Carolina that were confronted with harsh and bitter cold this month. When the temperatures at the Shallotte River Swamp Park dropped below freezing and stayed there, the alligators automatically entered a state similar to hibernation in which their breathing and body systems slowed down. Most impressively, just before the water in their swamp froze, they stuck their noses out so they could continue to breathe until the ice melted. At first park officials thought the alligators were tree stumps — until they saw the teeth! Both people and wildlife have to make adjustments to severe weather. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about adjustments that have been made to severe cold. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short documentary film on “Dealing with Cold Weather.” Write an outline for your film, including images you would use. Then write the opening scene. Share ideas as a class.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

5. Lost Monuments

How do you lose a treasured historical monument? The Asian nation of India is asking that question after becoming aware that at least 24 protected temples, tombs, monuments and historic sites have vanished from records or disappeared altogether. Now the Archaeological Survey of India has been tasked with tracking down what happened to the “untraceable” monuments, and whether any can still be saved. The monuments date back hundreds of years in some cases. Some have gone missing due to poor record-keeping; others have been destroyed by looting or natural disasters; some have just decayed. In addition, many Indian monuments are not labeled, so locals do not know of their importance. Many are left completely unguarded. “We have lost sight of the value of these things,” said one historian. Preserving historical sites or buildings helps communities preserve their heritage and culture. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a community seeking to preserve a site or building. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor detailing what would be gained by preserving the building/site, and what would be lost if it were not preserved.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

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