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For Grades 9-12 , week of Sep. 25, 2011

1. Support Your Thoughts

Troy Davis started a firestorm of protests, not only in the United States, but around the world. A jury sentenced the 42-year-old Georgia man to death for the killing of a Savannah, Georgia, police officer. New evidence in the case brought many stays to his execution, and people from all over the world stepped up to get the execution stopped - including the entire European Union, Pope Benedict XVI and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Last week, Davis was executed by the state of Georgia, but the debate over the case continues. With the newspaper or the Internet, find an article about someone facing the death penalty. Do research about the case and write an opinion piece as to whether or not you would support the person's execution.

Core Standard: Writing arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

2. Investing in the Future

Few Americans living in 1957 will ever forget the Little Rock Nine. Newscasts and front pages showed pictures of nine, well-dressed African American students entering Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, surrounded by soldiers from the National Guard. They were doing what no other black students before them had done. They enrolled in an all-white school. Three years earlier the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregation was unconstitutional, but leaders in Arkansas didn't follow the law. Today, the Little Rock schools are still under the court order to desegregate, and that order comes with money to run programs to help all students learn. Now some Arkansas lawmakers want to stop those payments, even though many in the state claim that would hurt students who need help the most. Find an article in the newspaper about school funding and special programs for minorities. Prepare a multi-media presentation on one program's history and importance for students in need.

Core Standard: Using technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing products, taking advantage of technology's capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.

3. Haves and Have Nots

As Congress fights over cuts to government programs, there are real people and lives involved in the nation's financial problems. The Associated Press recently sent out a team of reporters to find the people most affected by the downturn in the economy and in the most need of programs on the chopping block. They found people with multiple degrees living far below the poverty line. They found families who used to earn $100,000 a year lining up at food pantries and living in shelters after getting laid off. Recently, the U.S. Census Bureau released figures showing a record 46.2 million people in the United States are living in poverty. Search the newspaper for stories about people in your community living in poverty. Using the stories as a jumping off point, debate the issue of government cuts to programs in light of the nation's economic problems.

Core Standard: Responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, synthesizing comments, claims and evidence made on all sides of an issue.

4. Oh, the Irony of It

You're slapping out the beat to a song in your head while your teacher is trying to talk about the concept of irony. "Yeah, that's not too annoying," she says to you. What she actually means is that it is annoying beyond belief. It is the exact opposite of what she is saying, and it is a good example of what she is trying to teach you - irony. Writers and speakers use irony in many ways. Sometimes they use words that mean the exact opposite. Sometimes they write about events in which you expect things to turn out one way, but turn out completely differently. Search the newspaper for stories, features or columns that use irony. Discuss as a class how the writers effectively use irony to get points across.

Core Standard: Interpreting figures of speech (e.g. verbal irony, puns) in context.

5. In Layman's Terms, Please

Writers whip out phrases like "binary systems," "gravity perturbations," and "subset of immune cells called plasmacytoid dendrite cells" and the average reader has no idea what they are talking about. One of the keys to being a good reporter - especially on the science beat - is being able to explain complex ideas in language the average person can understand. Search your newspaper for science stories. Find an article that interests you, but one that you might not understand that well. Print it out, and using various reference materials, determine the meanings of the words. Then rewrite the article in simpler language. Share your article with your classmates.

Core Standard: Determining the meaning of symbols, key terms and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context.