For Grades K-4 , week of Mar. 13, 2017

1. ‘March Madness’

This week the “March Madness” of college basketball begins. At this time, fans all over the country are trying to predict which teams will win the NCAA basketball championships for men and women. The NCAA basketball tournaments are among the most exciting in sports because if a team loses one game, it is out. Because of this, every game is hard fought and hotly contested. And there are always upsets, in which a lower ranked team defeats a higher ranked team. In the newspaper or online, closely read stories about NCAA tournament games this week. Were there upset winners in any of the games? Did any players have spectacular performances or make unusual plays? Use what you read to write a sports column highlighting two or three performances that were unusual, unexpected or especially exciting. Try to capture the excitement in your writing by using active verbs and colorful adjectives. Share with the class.

Common Core State Standards: Identifying multiple language conventions and using them; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

2. Government in the News

In the United States the national government is divided into three branches by the U.S. Constitution. The first branch is the Legislative branch made up of leaders elected to serve in the U.S. Senate or the U.S. House of Representatives. The second branch is the Executive branch led by the president. The third branch is the Judicial branch led by the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts across the nation. The three branches of government make news every day. In teams or alone, find and closely read stories in the newspaper about each branch of government. As a class, talk about your stories — and how they affect people in the United States.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions, responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

3. Women Making History

Women have made important contributions to the nation’s history and continue to make news today. In honor of Women’s History Month, search the newspaper or the Internet to find an article about a woman making history by being the “first” to do something. Read the article. Then write a paragraph explaining why the woman’s actions are important and what opportunities they will open up for other women. Write a second paragraph describing the influence the woman’s background or ethnic heritage had on her success.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

4. Freedom of the Press

In recent weeks there has been great debate about the role of the media and the press in reporting on President Trump and other leaders. The president has criticized the media for stories he hasn’t liked. Newspapers and online news organizations have responded that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to report the news independently. At the time the First Amendment was written, freedom of the press covered anything that could be printed on a printing press. Today “the press” is much more than things that are printed. It is also TV news, Internet news, social media, blogs, radio news, and even movies that examine issues and leaders. In teams or as a class, find a story in the newspaper about President Trump or another government leader. Read the story together. Then use what you read to write a sentence describing what the leader is doing to be in the news. Write a second sentence explaining why this is important. Write a third sentence explaining why it is important for the media to be able to report news independently.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

5. ‘Stuffed Animal Sleep-Overs’

What would your favorite stuffed animals do if they got to have a sleep-over at the local library? In West Orange, New Jersey, they’d read, have fun and become celebrities on Facebook! It’s a new way to get kids interested in reading, according to leaders at the West Orange Library. And if it makes them want to visit the library, all the better. The library has been running the sleepover program for four years for beginning readers, and it’s been a big hit. On sleepover day, kids bring their favorite stuffed animals to a late afternoon reading program, kiss them goodbye and leave them to stay overnight. Teenage volunteers then jump into action, taking photos of the animals choosing books, reading together or having fun watching puppet shows. Then they post the photos to Facebook, turning the animals into Internet stars. “We try to engage children in a different way,” the program leader says. As a class, talk about favorite books you have read. Then imagine how a stuffed animal might react to those books during a library sleep-over. Create a picture book telling the story of a stuffed animal reacting to one of the books. Share with the class and tell your story.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events.