Express Your Concerns: Models and Approaches

Current events and short, reflective pieces provide stimulus and models for student expression — and possible school community activities. Students can use these nonfiction works to analyze, interpret and practice rhetorical strategies. 
Download Classroom Worksheets (PDF) 

The month of May is a great time to reflect on the past months — the beginning of a new school year, the goals and excitement of student development, the times of color and activity as well as those of calm and snow-bound thoughts, the excitement of spring, the requirements of exams and end-of-year discoveries of what was learned.


The first resource guide, “8 Essays and More Activities,” is focused on the short, reflective essay. The topics are all ones that the writers think could easily be discarded. The suggested activities are jumping off stimulus for student ideas. Something for Summer looked ahead to activities for the summer months and might be considered for students' summer work. Teachers might also look ahead to the KidsPost Summer Book Club, open to students ages 5-14, announced topic and suggested authors.


Unlike most of our resource guides that have one focus, “Learn, Act, Write” provides several topics that are currently in the news and are also evergreen in their interest. Health concerns focus on the measles outbreak to illustrate handling of topics and the Think Like a Reporter activity gives guidelines for writing about health issues. The Constitution is both a Broadway hit that is reviewed and a current hot topic for pundits, politicians and media who oberve and report on the White House and Congress tangle over documents and testimonies. Litter and time banks are two more points for discussion and debate — and possible school community projects.


All provide vehicles to express your concerns — in writing and actions.


May 2019

Health Resources
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Think About Your Culture
English, Debate, Social Studies

What is meant when someone talks about “American culture”? Are these areas that define the American identity? Distinctions from other countries or regions? Are these associations with food, dress, attitudes or annual events?

After some discussion, ask students to list five to ten items, events, or ways of thinking that they consider to be definitely American. Or definitely a New York, Midwestern, Southern or Southwestern U.S. cultural perspective.

Students might be asked to write in 50-75 words about an aspect of American culture. This may be in the first person or third person voice. They may choose to be persuasive, interpretive or analytic. They may employ a rhetorical strategy such as comparison and contrast, definition or classification, and process.


Do Some Spring Cleaning
Composition, English, Philosophy, Social Studies

The Outlook section of The Post on April 25, 2019, featured its 11th annual Spring Cleaning issue. We have reprinted all eight short essays that cover a variety of items that the writers believe should be thrown away to de-clutter our lives. Discussion of Eight Things to Toss could include the ideas presented by the authors, the tone used an the voice of the piece.

For each of the eight essays activities have been suggested. These range from creating a word or phrase to writing a survey to poll people in different age ranges on their email habits. Teachers might have fun with the punctuation marks activity or the anecdotes involving perfume.

These short essays can also be used with students to talk about topics that might work with applications for employment or college essays. They do reveal something about the writer, indicate research skills or interests, and demonstrate creativity and critical thinking.

What's Current?
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Review a Play Review
English, Drama, Government, Journalism

Give students a copy of “She’s a playwright. He’s a scholar. Their mutual admiration was ordained and established by the Constitution.” Depending on the age of your students, teachers may wish to read the play review in sections, discuss and answer questions provided in “What the Constitution Means to Me.”

In what ways does this new play, respond to the ideas of Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein?

• Thomas Jefferson indicated in his letters that people were the “ultimate powers of the society” and that education was the “true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”

• Albert Einstein, an immigrant in the U.S., stated, “The strength of the Constitution lies entirely in the determination of each citizen to defend it.”

Provide enough time for students to think about their response to the last question in “What the Constitution Means to Me.” They may include personal examples, historic actions and quotations. When finished, encourage student to share their  responses.

Teachers should note that giving students an overview of the purpose of a play review and components of a play review before reading this review might be helpful to students. Previous Washington Post NIE curriculum guides provided guidelines: “Guidelines for Movie Review Writers” in Harry Potter and “Writing a Book Review” in Reviewing a Whirl of Books. A sidebar in the latter, “The Write Word,” lists words recurring in Book World book reviews.


Consider Currency
Civics, Economics, Personal Finance

At the same time that workers are seeking a higher hourly pay, some communities are turning to an altruistic but equitable way of looking at work. Read “Hours, not dollars, are currency at these banks.”


Give students “Exchange Time Credits for Service” to guide discussion of the writer’s craft and the timebank concept that is presented.

Read About and By the 8

Think Like a Reporter
Health, Journalism, Media Literacy 

Think Like a Reporter: Cover a Health Issue activity provides the steps to follow in covering health issues in your school. We use the current concern about a measles outbreak in the U.S. after health officials thought the disease had been eliminated from the U.S. Any topic can be reported using these steps.


Teachers may wish to read and discuss the Best Format to Present Information step with students. Two Post health articles by Lena H. Sun, National reporter focusing on health, are provided in Current Concerns, one of the two resource guides provided. Sun uses Q&A for one and straight news for the other:

• “How does measles spread? Do I need another MMR vaccine shot? How dangerous is measles? FAQ on the outbreaks.”

• “U.S. officials say measles cases hit 25-year record


Devise an Environment Project
Ecology, Environmental Science, Social Studies, Visual Arts

The spread of plastics on land and sea is a growing concern among environmentalists and communities. Animal lives are being endangered and recreational venues are being polluted.

LITTER,” an excerpt from the informative article, “In the name of art, 1,700 pieces of plastic litter Maryland park,” is provided with photographs to illustrate the installation.

Discussion might include the following:

• Why has Brookside Gardens allowed its lush grounds and clean ponds to be a plastic trash receptacle?

• What is the artist’s intent?

• Take a closer look at the photographs. What is your reaction to seeing the scattered plastic?

• Would a similar art installation have an impact on your student body and staff? What if all the plastic that is used in one week by students in your school were gathered in a courtyard? Would this make a similar statement?

• The artist and garden officials “said their goal is to send a message to the public to consider how changing daily habits can help to reduce trash.”

  1. Do you think this art exhibit accomplishes this goal?
  2. What habits would need to be changed?
  3. Do you think it is an admirable goal? If not, what would be your goal?
  4. What kind of awareness would get a positive response from students in your school?
  5. Meet with other students to discuss and devise an event or project that would inform and get student buy-in.


Post NIE Guide Editor | Carol Lange
Post NIE Guide Art Editor | Carol Porter

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In The Know 

Antibodies Proteins found in the blood that is produced in response to foreign substances (e.g. bacteria or viruses) invading the body. Antibodies protect the body from disease by binding to these organisms and destroying them.

Disease spread from one person or organism to another by direct or indirect contact



Protection against a disease. There are two types of immunity, passive and active.

Immunization The process by which a person or animal becomes protected against a disease. Often used interchangeably with vaccination or inoculation.
Infectious A disease or disease-causing organism likely to be transmitted to people, organisms, etc., through the environment
Measles An infectious viral disease causing fever and a red rash on the skin, typically occurring in childhood
MMR vaccine

A combination of live measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, administered subcultaneously to immunize children against measles, mumps and rubella infections


Contagious and infectious viral disease causing swelling of the parotid salivary glands in the face, and a risk of sterility in adult males

Outbreak Sudden appearance of a disease in a specific geographic area or population
Pneumonia Infection or inflammation of the lungs
Quarantine Isolation of a person or animal who has a disease in order to prevent further spread of the disease

(German measles) Viral infection that is milder than normal measles but as damaging to the fetus when it occurs early in pregnancy

Susceptible Unprotected against disease
Unvaccinated Not inoculated with a vaccine to provide immunity against a disease

Vaccination of significantly less than the proportion of a population that should be vaccinated

Vaccine Product that produces immunity therefore protecting the body from the disease. Vaccines are administered through needle injections, by mouth and by aerosol.

A tiny organism that multiplies within cells and causes disease such as chickenpox, measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis and hepatitis. Viruses are not affected by antibiotics, the drugs used to kill bacteria.


Terms found in “U.S. officials say measles cases hit 25-year record” and “How does measles spread? Do I need another MMR vaccine shot? How dangerous is measles? FAQ on the outbreaks.”

  SOURCES: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vaccines & Immunizations Glossary and Oxford Dictionary
District of Columbia Public Schools Academic Content Standards 

The District of Columbia has adopted the Common Core State Standards in reading and mathematics. In addition, DCPS has adopted learning standards in arts, health and physical education, science, social studies, technology and world languages.



Academic Content Standards may be found at

Maryland Academic Content Standards 

English: Reading, Reviewing and Responding to Texts. The student will use after-reading strategies appropriate to both the text and purpose for reading by summarizing, contrasting, synthesizing, drawing conclusions and validating the purpose for reading. (Indicator 1.1.3)


English: Reading, Reviewing and Responding to Texts. The student will identify features of language that create tone and voice. (Indicator 1.3.2)


English: Composing in a Variety of Modes. The student will compose persuasive texts that support, modify or refute a position and include effective rhetorical strategies. (Indicator 2.1.4)


English: Controlling Language. The student will recognize, combine and transform basic sentence patterns to vary sentence structure to emphasize selected ideas and to achieve syntactic maturity. (Indicator 3.1.9)

The Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum Content Standards can be found online at 

Virginia Academic Content Standards 

English. The student will read and demonstrate comprehension of a variety of nonfiction texts.

a) Skim materials using text features such as type, headings, and graphics to predict and categorize information.

b) Identify main idea.

e) Draw conclusions and make inferences based on explicit and implied information.

h) Differentiate between fact and opinion. (Grade 6. 6.6 Reading)


English. The student will read and analyze a variety of nonfiction texts.

c) Analyze the author’s qualifications, viewpoint and impact.

d) Recognize an author’s intended purpose for writing and identify the main idea.

f) Identify characteristics of expository, technical and persuasive texts.

g) Identify a position/argument to be confirmed, disproved or modified.

j) Differentiate between fact and opinion and evaluate their impact. (Grade 9. 9.5 Reading)


English. The student will write in a variety of forms to include persuasive/argumentative reflective, interpretive, and analytic with an emphasis on persuasion/argumentation.

a) Apply components of a recursive writing process for multiple purposes to create a focused, organized, and coherent piece of writing to address a specific audience and purpose.

b) Produce arguments in writing that develop a thesis to demonstrate knowledgeable judgments, address counterclaims, and provide effective conclusions.

c) Use a variety of rhetorical strategies to clarify and defend a position organizing claims, counterclaims, and evidence in a sustained and logical sequence.

d) Blend multiple forms of writing including embedding a narrative to produce effective essays. (Grade 12. 12.6 Writing)



Academic Content Standards may be found at

Common Core Standards 

Reading: Literature. Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.7.2 | Key Ideas and Details)


Reading: Informational Text. Analyze how a text makes connections among and distinctions between individuals, ideas, or events (e.g., through comparisons, analogies, or categories). (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.8.3 | Key Ideas and Details)


Writing. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.3 | Text Types and Purposes)



Common Core standards may be found at