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For Grades 9-12 , week of Dec. 03, 2018

1. G.M. Shutdowns

General Motors is one of the biggest car companies in the world, but soon it will be getting smaller. The Detroit-based auto giant has announced it plans to shut down five plants in the United States and Canada and lay off 15,000 workers. The layoffs includ 15 percent of managers, as well as workers at the plants. The company said it was making the move to free up money to invest in self-driving and electric vehicles. G.M. also said it needed to focus more on producing trucks and sport-utility vehicles, instead of sedan-type cars produced at the plants that will be closed. Cars that will be dropped include the Chevrolet Impala, Cruze and Volt, the Cadillac CT6 and the Buick LaCrosse. President Trump urged the company to reconsider the plant shutdowns and threatened to cut off financial support from the federal government for the production of G.M. electric cars. G.M.’s plans to close plants and lay off workers has caused controversy in Michigan and other states. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the impact of the proposed plans and what people are saying about them. Use what you read to write an editorial analyzing G.M.’s decision, its impact on communities and whether it should be changed.

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.

2. Climate Warning

President Trump doesn’t believe in climate change, but scientists working for 13 agencies of the U.S. government believe differently. In a just released report commissioned by the U.S. Congress, the scientists note that rising average temperatures around the world are connected to human activities, and they warn that global warming will have damaging effects on human health, the environment and even the U.S. economy. The Fourth National Climate Assessment report comes from a team of scientists working together as part of the U.S. Global Change Research Program. They conclude that climate change already “is transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us.” The economic costs could run into the hundreds of billions of dollars, the report notes, and farmers will be especially hard hit. The new climate report has renewed debate on what — if anything — the United States government should do to address global warming. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about proposed steps the nation could take. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, detailing what you think the national government should do.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

3. Football Risks

Football is one of the most popular sports in America, but it is also one that exposes players to risks. A growing number of medical studies has shown that playing football for years can lead to long-term brain damage from concussions and other blows to the head. Now a new study suggests that damage to the brain of young players can be seen after just one season. The study by university researchers in Texas found that young players who experienced frequent hits to the head had symptoms showing that a key process of brain development had been damaged or impaired. The study was small — just 60 students 9 to 18 years old — but 40 percent showed signs of damage, researchers told CNN news. That led researchers to conclude that “repetitive head impact exposure may have a cumulative effect in the … developing brains of youth and high school football players.” Football is a popular sport, but families are now weighing the risks before deciding whether to let teens and pre-teens play. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about families of young players assessing the risks of football. Then pretend you are the parent of a middle or high school student who wants to play football. Use what you read to write what you would tell your child.

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. ‘Knife Angel’

In an effort to reduce violence, the nations that make up Europe’s United Kingdom have mounted an intense campaign to get people to turn in knives that they own. In the U.K., people are six times more likely to use a knife than a gun when committing violent crimes, so police are actively seeking to get knives off the street. Now all those knives have been used to create a powerful, symbolic sculpture called the “Knife Angel.” The sculpture by artist Alfie Bradley is created from more than 100,000 knives confiscated or turned in at 43 police stations. Individual knives make up the wings and clothing of the angel, which stands 27 feet tall. “I hope this sculpture shows the amount of damage knife crime has caused and still is causing around the U.K.,” Bradley said. Art can often call attention to problems or issues facing communities or nations. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an artwork calling attention to an issue. Study photos of the work to see what the artist is trying to achieve. Then closely read a story about an issue or problem in your community or state. Design a public artwork that would call attention to the issue. Present your design to the class and explain how it addresses the issue.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

5. Puppy Love

Lexi Thompson is one of the top players in women’s professional golf, but in the last year she has been hit by a series of personal tragedies. Her mother was found to have uterine cancer after recovering from breast cancer. Her paternal grandmother died. And she had to endure a wave of online criticism when she lost a playoff early in the year after being penalized four strokes for mis-marking her ball on a putting green. The emotional strain got so much that she took a leave of absence from competition. But what helped her get back in the groove the most, she says, was something personal. She got a puppy. The adoption of Leo — a five-pound Havanese and miniature poodle mix — helped her de-stress from the anxieties in her life, and eventually led her back to the winner’s circle. After her break, she won last month’s CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Florida. Animals can often have calming or positive effects on people. As a class, talk about people you know who benefit from their contact with animals. Then use the newspaper and Internet to find and closely read stories about people benefiting from animals. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short documentary film about the benefits people get from contact with animals. Write an outline for your film, including images you would use. Choose an actor or public figure you would like to be the narrator of your film.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.