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For Grades 9-12 , week of May 09, 2022

1. Abortion

For nearly 50 years, the issue of abortion has been one of the most divisive in the United States. Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the landmark Roe v. Wade case in 1973, Americans have been bitterly divided about whether abortion is a legally protected medical procedure or an attack on unborn children. In the Roe case, the Supreme Court ruled that privacy protections of the U.S. Constitution gave women the right to make their own decisions about whether to have an abortion without excessive government restrictions. Now, a Supreme Court with new members appears poised to overturn Roe and open the way for states to approve a wide range of abortion restrictions. A leaked draft of a decision in a Mississippi abortion case indicates that the High Court is positioned to overturn Roe as being “egregiously wrong from the start” and to declare that the matter should be regulated by individual states. Approval of the draft appears to be narrow, with five of the nine justices supporting it. The original Roe decision was supported by seven of nine justices. Final approval has not been given to the draft opinion, and court watchers note that individual justices could change their minds before a final vote later this year. The leak of the draft Supreme Court opinion has sparked debate and demonstrations from both sides of the issue. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about what each side is saying and doing. Use what you read to write a commentary on how the draft abortion decision would change life in America for better or worse, if approved as written.

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. Banning Grass

Like other states in the American West, Nevada has been experiencing an extreme drought and water shortage over the last several years. Now it has taken a step to save water that is a first for the nation. It has banned “non-functional” lawns and landscaping. Homeowners, neighborhood associations and businesses must remove lawns that that have been installed for purely aesthetic appearances and replace them with natural landscaping that reflects the surrounding Mojave Desert. The desert landscaping will use far less water than green lawns supported by irrigation systems that draw from the Colorado River and Lake Mead, the New York Times newspaper reports. Both the Colorado and Lake Mead are at record low levels due to years of drought and lighter than normal rain and snowfall. Removing grass and replacing it with rocky soil and desert plants such as cactuses is not popular with everyone. Though there are some exceptions — such as sports playing fields — some residents say it will transform the character of communities for the worse. In the city of Las Vegas, “non-functional” grassy areas include spots for walking dogs, which residents say serve a significant function for pets that need to do their business. All over the American West states and individual communities are taking steps to use less water. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about different efforts. Use what you read prepare an oral report on different approaches and which you think will be the most successful. Present your report to the class.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

3. Doubling Down

In the city of Mansfield, Texas, school officials have been seeing double this year. And sometimes they’ve even been seeing triple! In a first for the Mansfield Independent School District, the senior class boasts a whopping 35 sets of twins — and one set of triplets! The district outside the city of Dallas has nine high schools and 2,600 high school students, but there have never been so many multiple-birth siblings, school officials say. According to national statistics, twins occur about once in every 250 births, which should account for 10 or 11 pairs in a student body the size of Mansfield’s. Instead, the district has more than three times the national average, according to local TV station KTVT! “It’s really amazing,” one parent told the station. “We’re really blessed.” In every graduating class there are interesting stories to tell about the students or the class as a whole. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read examples. Then talk about your class or the students in it. What would be an interesting story a newspaper or TV station might tell about individual students or the entire class? Stories could focus on individual or group achievements, interactions with the community, or personal or family challenges that have been overcome. Write the beginning of a “human interest” feature telling one story. If you don’t know what you could write about classmates, write a story about your own life, challenges or achievements.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

4. Taco Bonanza

Do you like tacos? If you do, a Texas-based food delivery company has just the job for you. The Favor company is looking for a big eater to sample tacos all over the state as its first ever “Chief Taco Officer.” The lucky employee will receive $10,000 for taste-testing tacos and documenting the experience on social media during June and July. The Chief Taco Officer will drive across Texas, eating tacos delivered by Favor for at least two meals a day in each city, CNN News reports. The taste-tester will stay two days in each place and receive free hotel accommodations and transportation, plus free food delivery from the company for a year. Applicants interested in the job can make a video application on Favor’s website before May 12. Businesses often come up with interesting ways to interact with customers or potential customers. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about different things businesses are doing. Then pick a business you like and brainstorm an idea for connecting with the public in a different way. Write a business letter outlining your proposal, detailing why it would interest the public and how it could help the business.

Common Core State Standards: 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. Love Story

One of the great things about TikTok and other social media is how they can connect the past to the present. Consider the case of Mort Block, who once wrote a sweet and beautiful love song for his future wife Susan. They had just met way back in 1958, and he wanted to let her know how much he missed her while he was off at sea in the U.S. Navy. He was an amateur trumpet player, so he put his words to music in a song he called “My Love.” He never recorded it, but 64 years later his grandson has turned it into a TikTok hit. Matt Block fell in love with the song when his grandfather showed him the sheet music during a visit to Mort Block’s Pennsylvania home. “I said, ‘Poppy, we need to release this, we should get it recorded,’” Matt Block told the Washington Post newspaper. Matt got together with a group of jazz musicians and recorded “My Love” for an album coming out in September. Then he released it on TikTok in March in a version that can be viewed here. In less than two months, “My Love” has been viewed online more than 1.5-million times, and Mort Block has amassed 15,000 TikTok followers. “Hard to put into words how incredible it is to drop my first single at 82 years old!” he said. Music can connect people in special ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about songs or musical artists you like. Pick one song and write a review telling how the words and music connect to listeners. For added fun, re-write the words to connect with someone you love or care about. Share your revised song with the class.

Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; reading prose and poetry orally with accuracy, appropriate rate and expression on successive readings.