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for Grades 9-12

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For Grades 9-12 , week of July 15, 2019

1. So Long, Mad

Long before “Saturday Night Live,” “South Park,” the Internet and The Onion, Mad Magazine was making fun of the rich and famous, politicians, and any other people who took themselves too seriously. With a comic book format, it introduced millions of kids to satirical humor, and for 67 years it inspired generations of comedians. This year, after its next two issues, Mad will cease publishing new material except in occasional special issues. Created in the 1950s, Mad hit a circulation high of 2.8 million in 1973, but has steadily lost followers since then, first to television and then to the Internet. Its parodies of movies and TV shows set the stage for later efforts by “The Simpsons” and “South Park,” and its mascot, the dim-witted Alfred E. Neuman, has comically portrayed everyone from movie stars to presidents. Satire is a kind of humor that makes fun of real events by presenting them in an exaggerated or ridiculous way. Practice writing satire by finding and closely reading a story about an event, issue or person in the news. List ways you could exaggerate or show the facts of the story in a humorous way. Then write a short satirical story based on this news story. (Check the Onion satire website online at if you want to see how satire is written.) Share with family or friends, just for laughs.

Common Core State Standards: Applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

2. Cock-a-Doodle-Doo!

People who move to the country often like the idea of country life more than the actual experience. That is no more evident than in a town in western France, where an early-rising rooster has become the subject of a controversial court case. The rooster named Maurice has been accused of creating noise pollution with his early-morning crowing in the village of Saint-Pierre-d'Oléron, on the Isle of Oléron. The complaint against Maurice was filed by residents who have been living part time in the village and part time in the city for years. They say the crowing problem began with the arrival of Maurice two years ago, and they have asked he be kept indoors in the early morning hours to reduce his crowing. Maurice’s owner, however, says “The solution is for people to understand that the countryside is still the countryside and we must tolerate the crows of the rooster,” CNN News reported. The rooster’s owner has been supported in an online petition signed by more than 120,000 people. The much-watched case went to court this month and a decision is expected by September. More and more people are going to court to resolve situations they don’t like. Sometimes serious issues are involved and sometimes the issues are what judges call “frivolous.” In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone going to court to resolve a situation they don’t like. Use what you read to write an opinion column analyzing whether the case is serious or frivolous.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

3. Threat to the Amazon

South America’s Amazon rain forest is the largest in the world. It is about the size of the United States (excluding Alaska) and bigger than the next two rain forests combined. It is home to more than 16,000 tree species and is often referred to as the “lungs” of the Earth because it produces 20 percent of the oxygen in the atmosphere. The Amazon’s ability to produce all that oxygen (through the plant process known as photosynthesis) may be undermined in the future by people cutting more of its trees for materials and development. Especially the nation of Brazil, which controls two-thirds of the Amazon’s territory. Brazil’s new President Jair Bolsonaro wants to develop the Amazon to help the Brazilian economy, and his policies already seem to be having an effect. Environmental groups report that deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon is 60 percent higher this June compared to last June before Bolsonaro was elected. Trees are being cut at a rate of one and a half soccer fields per minute of every day, the groups told CNN news. Efforts to protect the Amazon rain forest have been going on for years. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about past efforts and new threats. Use what you read to write a short editorial offering ideas on how to balance protection of the environment with economic development.

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.

4. Balloon Service

Providing Internet service to remote areas has always been a great challenge for wireless companies. Now a firm owned by Google’s parent company is turning to balloons to meet the challenge. The company, called Loon, is experimenting with high altitude balloons to provide cell phone and Internet services for hard-to-reach areas. Loon has used the approach to provide emergency service to disaster areas like Peru in South America and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea. Now it is piloting a program to provide ongoing service to people in remote mountain areas in the African nation of Kenya. Providing continuous service is a challenge, since the balloons have to be replaced every five or six months. But if Loon can make it work in Kenya, it will open opportunities for other remote areas around the world. Wireless companies are always trying new ideas or products to serve more people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a new development or product from a wireless company. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend or relative, discussing the importance of this new development.

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.

5. Knife Crimes

In the United States, there has been much debate over what to do about gun violence. In the European nation of England, where few people own or use guns to commit violent crimes, the problem is knives. Knife offenses have risen for five consecutive years in England, and last year police reported 40,577 offenses involving a knife or sharp instrument — 10,000 more than in 2011. In the city of London, homicides increased 14 percent over a year’s time ending in September 2018, and at one point London’s homicide rate topped that of New York City for the first time ever. To curb knife violence, English police now require people who commit knife crimes to wear GPS tracking devices after being released from prison, but officials seem at a loss at how to deal with the bigger problem. In the United States and other nations, government officials are taking steps to reduce violent crime. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about different approaches. Use what you read to prepare a multi-media presentation on approaches you think have the best chance for success. Share with family or friends.

Common Core State Standards: Integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.