For Grades K-4 , week of Jan. 09, 2012

1. Wicked Weather

Extreme weather made lots of news in 2011, and Yahoo! News has made a list rating the biggest weather stories. Coming in at Number 1 were the blizzards that dumped near record amounts of snow on the East Coast last winter. Severe droughts and wildfires in Oklahoma were Number 2, followed by the spring tornado outbreak in the Midwest, the Joplin, Missouri, tornado disaster, Mississippi and Missouri River flooding and the nation’s summer heat wave. Meteorologists who study the weather said 2011 was a La Nina year, which meant that cooler ocean temperatures led to shifts in the nation’s weather patterns. Follow the weather pages in your newspaper for one month and chart extreme weather across the nation. Take turns giving daily weather reports and discussing the impact of severe weather on families and communities.

Core/National Standard: Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

2. Water, Water Everywhere

People, plants and animals all need water to live. Look through today's newspaper and see if you can find three different ways to use water or ways that people and water connect with each other. Use what you find to write a Haiku poem about water. A Haiku (HI-koo) is a three-line poem that has five syllables in the first line, seven in the second and five in the third.

Core/National Standard: Using various language conventions to express ideas; describing uses of water; writing creatively.

3. Park Beauty

The granddaddy of American canyons was named a National Monument 104 years ago on January 11, 1908. Then-President Theodore Roosevelt gave the Grand Canyon the status of a National Monument as part of his goal to preserve America’s natural wonders. The canyon’s isolated location meant it wasn’t well known by European settlers until 1869, when John Wesley Powell led a group of 10 men on a trip down the Colorado River, which winds through the canyon. After visiting the canyon, Roosevelt said, “Let the great wonder of nature remain as it now is. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is keep it for your children, your children’s children and all who come after you.” Search your newspaper for stories about National Parks or Monuments, state parks or local parks. Or find one at the website Using pictures and words, make a travel brochure for one area that interests you.

Core/National Standards: Writing informative or explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; adding drawings or other visual displays when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts and feelings.

4. Curious Banana Sam

He sounds like Curious George, and Banana Sam, a squirrel monkey, had quite an adventure to start the new year. The monkey, which makes its home in the San Francisco Zoo, was taken from the monkey exhibit by thieves, who cut through a gate and made holes in the mesh surrounding the area. Banana Sam was found “hungry, trembling and thirsty” in a nearby park, according to an Associated Press story. He was found by a visitor to the park, who coaxed the monkey into his backpack. The man called the police, and the monkey was returned to the zoo. Search your newspaper for a story or classified ad about a missing animal. Write and illustrate a fictional story about an adventure that animal might be having.

Core/National Standards: Writing informative or explanatory texts; adding drawings or other visual displays when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts and feelings.

5. My Word Is ...

Sometimes people need something on which to focus to help them get through events in their lives during the New Year. Some people choose a specific word to guide their feelings. For example, someone might choose the word “grateful” for his or her word of the year. When they are feeling down, angry or scared, they will try to remember everything they are grateful for rather than focus on what is going wrong. Search your newspaper for positive stories that have encouraging words in them. Choose a word to be your word for 2012. Write down its definition and synonyms. Then explain why you chose this word.

Core/National Standards: Determining or clarifying the meanings of words by consulting general and specialized references.