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For Grades K-4 , week of Nov. 27, 2017

1. Toys of the Season

The winter holiday season is the biggest time of the year for buying toys. Almost half of all shoppers say toys will be on their shopping list, and really popular items will again be hard to find. So what will be the most popular toys this year? Electronics of course, such as the Nintendo Switch, which lets you play video games anywhere you go. And there will be space-themed updates of popular items like Lego sets. There also will be some “surprising” toys that make users “work” to get rewards. Hatchimals Surprise, for example, challenges kids to hatch an egg before seeing which cute fuzzy creature is inside. The L.O.L. Big Surprise, meanwhile, features four dolls and accessories that must be unwrapped one by one, a process that can take hours. What toys interest you most this holiday season? As a class, discuss toys you have heard about that interest you. Then use the newspaper or Internet to find ads for new holiday toys. Pick one that you would like and write a paragraph explaining what you like about the toy and why you would like to have it. Discuss specific features of the toy in your paragraph.

Common Core State Standards: Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; 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.

2. Hand-Made Gifts

The winter holidays are a time of giving, and a 10-year-old from Indiana has been working for months to make his gifts something to remember. Zander Hite has teamed up with his grandfather to hand-make 250 wooden cars and trucks to give to children in need. He got the idea from his grandfather Darl, who gave him $20 last Christmas and challenged him to “make a difference.” Zander used the money to buy wood to make wooden cars and trucks like those he had played with himself. He and his grandfather worked after school and weekends to cut out the cars and trucks from wooden boards and a local woodworking club contributed the wheels to go on them. Zander Hite is making a special effort to improve the holidays for other children. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone else who is doing something special for others for the holidays. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, thanking the person for his/her effort and explaining how it could inspire others to do something special for other people.

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

3. A Listening Rover

The three rover spacecraft the United States has sent to the planet Mars have sent back thousands of pictures that show what the “Red Planet” looks like. The next Mars rover will also report what the planet sounds like. The rover will be equipped with microphones, and for the first time will send back the sounds heard during the craft’s landing and its movements on the planet next out from Earth in the solar system. Previous rovers had microphones but they were never activated and used. The next rover is scheduled to be launched in the year 2020 and land on Mars in February 2021. Space missions are always looking to learn more about planets, stars or solar systems. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a space mission. Use what you read to draw a series of comic strips showing what the mission is learning and how that helps scientists.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

4. Buggy Art

Vincent Van Gogh was one of the most famous artists in the world, and his paintings have been studied closely for nearly 130 years. A new study, however, has turned up something no one ever saw before in his painting called “Olive Trees.” Buried in the thick paint Van Gogh loved to use is a grasshopper — a real grasshopper. The insect was discovered as part of a project examining 104 paintings at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri. Museum officials said the grasshopper likely landed in the paint when Van Gogh was painting outdoors in the summer of 1889. It couldn’t be seen until the image of the painting was enlarged for study. Now it’s famous. Artworks often contain details that viewers find interesting. In the newspaper or online, find and study a photo of an artwork or a photo of an indoor or outdoor scene. Write a list of small details you can see in the artwork or photo. Write a paragraph explaining which details make the work or photo more interesting to viewers. Are any details surprising to you?

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.

5. $100,000 Reward for Cats

Some people really love their pets, but a couple in Michigan has taken that love to a new level. After their four cats went missing when a fire destroyed their home, Will and Lauren Powers offered a $100,000 reward (or $25,000 each) for the return of the cats. Two of the cats are world record holders, according to the Guinness World Records organization. Arcturus, of a species known as the spotted Savannah, has been certified as the world’s tallest domestic cat at 19.05 inches. Cygnus, a fluffy Maine coon cat, is record holder for longest tail at 17.5 inches. The other cats, Sirius and Yuki, are not record holders but priceless to the Powers couple. Arcturus, Cygnus and Sirius are all named for stars in space. People love their pets and will do amazing things for them. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone doing something amazing for a pet. Use what you read to write a poem, rap or rhyme about what this person did, or something your friends or family have done for a pet.

Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts.