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Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

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  • Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Join in with Topical Tuesdays and get fascinating news stories with free teaching activities every week.

All of the news is hand-picked from the excellent current affairs magazine for children, The Week Junior, and the creative resources that go with this are written by experienced teachers.

We’ve made it so the activities can be used for 10-minute writing warm ups and for homework, but you’ll find plenty of ways to extend each Topical Tuesday into much bigger projects – should they capture the imagination of your class.

If your class is excited by the current affairs stories in Topical Tuesdays then you can build on this thirst for knowledge with a school subscription to The Week Junior.

Click here to discover the latest offers and to see how children can be inspired by world events.

In the meantime, check back here each week to find the latest free news story and classroom activities to download.

1. Virtual MPs

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 27/4/20

MPs meet in virtual Parliament for the first time.

Last week, on 21 April, virtual debates were held in the House of Commons because of social distancing regulations set out because of the coronavirus outbreak.

It’s a first for the 700-year history of Parliament, to have MPs meet online.

Not everyone was taking part via the internet, however, as up to 50 MPs were allowed inside. Any more than that and you wouldn’t be able to keep everyone at a safe 2m distance from each other.

Screens were placed around the chamber for those who were taking part via Zoom.

But not everyone will get to take part at all, as the limit for Zoom meetings is 120 people, meaning a maximum of 170 will take part in total.

  • With many people working or learning from home now, has this shown that distance-learning and working is extremely viable? Once the lockdown is lifted, should we not consider this as a bigger part of our future? Debate with your family
  • Write a list of rules for online school lessons. You can make them as serious or funny as you like
  • Write a poem about an online school day, with alternate lines rhyming
  • Write a factfile about your local MP, including details such as their political party, when they were first elected, etc

Click here to download.

2. NHS

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 20/4/20

The Government has drawn more criticism in this week’s story, for not providing NHS staff with enough PPE (personal protective equipment) such as masks, gloves and other protective clothing during the coronavirus crisis.

To help minimise the risk of people on the frontline of working with people with Covid-19 (or even just suspected cases) from contracting the virus, the government’s own guidelines say that they should wear an apron, gloves, a surgical mask and eye protection.

However, supplies are running low, according to the British Medical Association, and most items can only be used once.

  • Debate whether politicians should spend more time with people like doctors, nurses and other service workers so that they can make better-informed decisions that affect them in parliament
  • Write an open letter to the NHS staff helping people through this crisis encouraging and thanking them for their work
  • When did you last go to the doctor or a hospital? Write a recount describing the experience.
  • Research what qualifications you need to become a doctor in the UK

Click here to download.

3. Orangutans and otters

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 14/4/20

This week’s story features a heartwarming tale of an unusual friendship.

In Pairi Daiza zoo, in Brugelette, Belgium, orangutans and otters have been seen playing together.

Mathieu Goedefroy, who works at the zoo, said “It makes life fun for both species.”

The two animals live in the same area of the zoo, and the otters like to come out of the water to keep the great apes entertained.

  • Discuss whether we still need zoos when we have nature documentaries, and animals are obviously far happier in their natural habitats. Alternatively, are zoos still essential for breeding programmes, rescuing animals and education?
  • Write a funny or serious conversation between the orangutan and the otters as a scene in a stage play.
  • Write a fact file about either species, with information on their natural habitat, diet, behaviour and any threats they face.
  • Write a recount of the last time you went to a zoo, farm or other venue which featured live animals.

Click here to download.

4. World's oldest man turns 112

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 6/4/20

Bob Weighton, the world’s oldest man, recently celebrated his 112th birthday.

Weighton lives in Hampshire, and has three children, 10 grandchildren and 25 great grandchildren. He was born on 29 March 1908, which is coincidentally the exact same day as the UK’s oldest living woman, Joan Hocquard, who lives in Dorset.

He has lived through 22 UK Prime Ministers and five ruling monarchs. He met his wife in Taiwan, where he was teaching English classes, before working as a codebreaker during the Second World War. Once the conflict was over, he returned to teaching in England before retiring in 1973.

  • Research the last 10 prime ministers Bob has lived under, and the first five. When were they in office, and what political party did they lead?
  • School has probably changed a lot since Bob was there. Write a pretend letter to him describing how you think it’s different, and what you think might still be the same.
  • Write a set of instructions on having your plans altered due to unforeseen events. How do you stay cheerful and work around the problem?
  • During Mr Weighton’s school days, the world suffered wars, disasters and a major outbreak of a dangerous virus, which is exactly what we’re dealing with today. Debate whether we haven’t learnt anything over the last century, or if we have made progress and improvement despite great setbacks?

Click here to download.

5. Clocks spring forward

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 31/3/20

At 1am on 29 March, the clocks went forward by one hour, marking the start of British Summer Time (BST).

The clocks change to BST, also known as Daylight Saving Time, every year on the last Sunday of March.

It is done so that people can make the most of the extra hours of daylight there are during the summer.

The first person in the UK to suggest BST was a man called William Willett, who wrote about the idea in 1907. The change was introduced in 1916.

  • The clocks go back in Autumn, as if you get to live a whole hour over again. If you could pick any hour of your life to experience again, what would it be and why? Write a recount about it.
  • Write a funny limerick about the clocks changing.
  • Find out what the reasons were for changing the clocks in the UK and why William Willet felt so strongly about it
  • Is changing the clocks twice a year still useful today? What do you think?

Click here to download.

6. Covid-19 acts of kindness

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 24/3/20

This week’s news looks at the acts of kindness people have been showing to each other as we all try to stem the outbreak of the coronavirus.

From a postcard scheme where healthy people can provide their address to quarantined neighbours and offer to run errands for them, to professional football clubs across the UK donating the food that they had prepared for match days that were cancelled, there have been all sorts of kind acts.

  • Find your five favourite quotes on kindness and write why your favourite is a particularly powerful message.
  • Write a letter to someone over 70 who has had to isolate themselves. Make sure it has a kind, reassuring tone that will make them feel hopeful, remembered and entertained.
  • Write an acrostic poem with the word K I N D N E S S.
  • Debate whether people are right to show these acts of kindness, or if this should be left to professionals, to best prevent the spread of the virus

Click here to download.

7. Coronavirus

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 17/3/20

This week’s story looks at the spread of the coronavirus, which causes Covid-19, and the effect it has has in Italy.

The Italian government has placed the country in quarantine, in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, with people being banned from travelling and being asked to stay at home.

As well as banning public gatherings, like sporting events, all schools and universities have been closed to stop young people from getting sick. Lessons will be carried out online as best possible.

  • Debate as a class whether you think online learning is possible now. Wouldn’t it be cheaper than keeping schools open? Or are there other benefits for children to all learn together in one place?
  • What should people know in order to prevent the spread of the disease and stop themselves getting sick. Write a set of instructions to let them know.
  • Write a letter to a pen pal in the UK, imagining that you are a child in Italy whose school has closed due to the coronavirus. Explain what it’s like to have to stay home, good and bad.
  • Research some facts about what people throughout history used to believe caused disease, and what they used in an effort to cure them.

Click here to download.

8. Children not connecting with nature

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 10/3/20

A new study from the National Trust has shown that children and young people’s wellbeing was improved by engaging with activities connected to the natural world, and that they were happier if they were relaxing outdoors.

However, it also showed that more than three quarters of children aged between eight and 15 rarely or never listen to birdsong, and that they never watch the Sun rise (90%), look at clouds (79%) or smell wildflowers (83%).

In order to combat the problem, the National Trust has launched a week-by-week Get Connected to Nature programme, full of tips for activities that take between 20 seconds and 20 minutes to complete, to help children connect with nature.

You can get this free nine-week plan here.

  • Discuss whether you think activities in or about nature should be part of the school curriculum, or whether it should be a personal choice as to whether you engage with it or not.
  • Think about a time you spent in nature and write a recount of it, including all the sights, sounds and smells you experienced.
  • Write an informal, persuasive letter from nature to you, asking you to look after it. It can be funny or emotional.
  • Write fact files (perhaps even including a sketch) for three to five species of bird you have seen where you live.

Click here to download.

9. Beavers reduce flooding

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 3/3/20

Researchers have discovered that beavers help reduce flooding and pollution, and can boost populations of fish and other wildlife.

One of the biggest things they noticed was that there were 37% more fish in ponds created by beavers’ dams than in areas without beavers.

Why is this? Well, the tangled branches of the dams trap soil and pollution, such as manure and fertiliser, that runs off land nearby.

On top of this, the dams also slow the speed at which flood water flows downriver after heavy rain, reducing the risk of flooding to farmland and vulnerable villages.

  • Debate whether we should introduce beavers into other areas of the country to help the environment, or if this would just cause other issues.
  • Create a persuasive advert convincing European beavers of the benefits of working in the UK to help look after our rivers.
  • Write a humorous song or limerick about a beaver moving here from Europe.
  • Write a brief account of an example where an animal has been introduced into a habitat and what effect it had.

Click here to download.

10. Mysterious sounds from outer space

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 25/2/20

Scientists have picked up a mysterious signal coming from a galaxy 500 million light years from Earth.

We first discovered signals like these back in 2001, and they are known as FRBs – fast radio bursts.

Since they were discovered in 2001, there have been over 100 of these powerful radio emissions – called FRBs (fast radio bursts) – observed, but because they mostly last only a second they’re hard to study.

This new one, however, is the first to have a regular cycle, which lasts 16 days.

Scientists are not sure what creates the bursts, but think they may come from giant stars that have collapsed and died.

  • So, we have detected some signals from a galaxy far, far away. Or not. Why do we even bother? It can’t be cheap to set up these special telescopes and monitor what they pick up. Isn’t there a better way to spend money? Or is it important to listen for messages from beyond our solar system? What do you think? Discuss as a class or in groups
  • Write a 200 word piece about the signal being a message from aliens. What are they trying to tell us?
  • Why should aliens come to Earth on holiday? Create an advert persuading them to visit our planet that really sells the benefits of coming here
  • Look up the nearest star system to ours and create a fact file for it. How far from us is it? How long would it take to get there?

Click here to download.

11. Tom and Jerry turn 80

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 18/2/20

Tom and Jerry, the famous animated cat-and-mouse duo, turned 80 this week, celebrating their anniversary on 10 February.

These notorious enemies first appeared in a nine-minute short film in 1940, title Puss gets the Boot, and have appeared in more than 150 cartoons overall.

It was made by animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, the pair behind Hanna-Barbera Productions which created the likes of The Flintstones, Scooby Doo, Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear.

This original film was even nominated for an Best Animated Short award at the Oscars.

But while Tom and Jerry are still very popular today, some of the older cartoons (like many from that era) are criticised for showing certain characters being treated unfairly because of the colour of their skin.

This PDF resource includes this article, as well as accompanying activity ideas:

  • Discuss whether you think cartoons like Tom & Jerry, which show a lot of violence, should be allowed? Studies show children who watch them are more likely to be violent in real life, but should those sensible enough to not copy the actions be punished just because some do?
  • Help Tom get his own back on Jerry by writing a set of instructions on how he could play a good trick on him, rather than getting outwitted again.
  • Write a persuasive letter as Tom or Jerry to the other, saying that you want to make peace. Make sure to apologise for your past behaviour.
  • Survey your family and friends to see who their favourite cartoon characters of all time are, then present your findings.

Click here to download.

12. Uncovering history

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 11/2/20

The Topical Tuesday this week revolves around the strange occurrence of taking a 4,000-year-old skeleton to the dentist.

When a tree in Dorset was ripped up by a storm, it revealed a crushed skeleton, and Nancy Grace was straight on the case.

Nancy is a a detective and storyteller who finds clues from the past, and part of the National Trust’s archaeology team.

As an archaeologist, she spends her days researching past human activities from clues that are left behind underground, and this was one of the most memorable from her 33-year career.

She took the lower jawbone to a dentist, where an X-ray revealed signs of gum disease, and that this person was about 26 when she died, around 4,000 years ago.

  • Discuss whether we still need to spend time digging up the past. Don’t we already know enough about how people used to live?
  • Write a diary entry as if you were an archaeologist 4,000 years from now just discovering today’s items. Describe the interesting things you find, and what puzzles you.
  • Write a funny recount as this lady 4,000 years ago as you visit your Stone Age dentist.

Click here to download.

13. Animals and the environment

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 4/2/20

A recent report produced by 14 local wildlife trusts and other charities that looked into the planned HS2 rail line between London and the West Midlands has shown that the project will put several species at risk of extinction, including barn owls and rare bats.

The route of the high speed train link, which also goes on to Manchester and Leeds, will reportedly cause damage to almost 700 local wildlife sites, over 100 ancient woodlands, five internationally protected wildlife sites and other places of special scientific interest.

The project, which could cost £106 billion or more, has been criticised by experts who have been gathering information for the Government about whether it should go ahead.

  • It has long been agreed that we need to do more to help the northern areas of our country prosper, and the HS2 is a major project designed to do just that. Debate whether you think this is worth the cost, both financially and environmentally?
  • Think of an experience you’ve had with local wildlife and write a recount using descriptive language both of the landscape and/or animals as well as your feelings
  • Write your own version of William Wordsworth’s poem, ‘Daffodils’ based on a natural scene that has inspired you
  • Research and write factfiles for at least three wild animals found near you. For an extra challenge, try to choose ones that are endangered or threatened and outline things that could be done to protect their populations.

Click here to download.

14. Atlantic Ocean rowing record smashed

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 28/1/20

This week’s big story is about three brothers from Scotland – Ewan, 27, Jamie, 26, and Lachlan, 21 – who broke three world records for rowing across the Atlantic.

The MacLeans not only beat the record for the fastest time for a trio to row across the ocean, but utterly smashed it. They did it in just 35 days, six days quicker than the previous record.

They also became the youngest trio to row the ocean, and the first set of three brothers to do it.

The brothers are using their success to raise money for several charities, including Children First – a charity for young people in Scotland.

  • As a class, or in groups, discuss whether we should celebrate achievements like this, or whether such strength and determination could be better used more practically elsewhere
  • Write a diary entry as one of the brothers from the day they completed the race. Describe the emotions you felt and the effect it has had on you physically and mentally
  • Based on Row, Row, Row Your Boat, write a three- or four-verse poem about this story
  • Look into the first people to cross the Atlantic in various modes of transport, such as rowing boat, iron ship, aeroplane, balloon and so on. Who were the main people involved, and when was each crossing made?

Click here to download.

15. Meghan Markle and Prince Harry

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 21/1/20

This week’s activities focus on the news that on 13 January, the Queen announced she would allow Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle to reduce their royal responsibilities.

The couple had released a statement on 8 January saying they wanted to “step back as senior members of the royal family” and it is believed that they wish to split their time between the UK and Canada.

Harry and Meghan are looking to focus on new projects, including their own charity, and hoped this move would enable them to raise their son, Archie, with “an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born” while also providing space to “focus on the next chapter”.

They said that although they still want to perform some royal duties, they want to explore opportunities to earn money and support themselves.

Currently, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are expected to undertake certain royal duties, and in return they are paid a vast sum of money from the Sovereign Grant, money which the Government past to the Royal Family.

The total Sovereign Grant last year was £82.2 million.

However, most of Prince Harry’s money is given to him by his father, Prince Charles, whose income comes from the Duchy of Cornwall – a collection of farms, land and rental cottages in several places across the UK.

  • As a class, discuss whether you think Harry and Meghan should be allowed to step back from royal duties. They are paid for the privilege, after all. Or should everyone have the freedom to choose their career and life?
  • Write a pretend letter to the Queen, explaining why you would make a good candidate to take over the role. What parts would you be most interested in and qualified for?
  • Write a short poem about this news, serious or funny, set to the tune of God Save the Queen
  • Look into the kings and queens of England since 1800 and make a list of them all. Then list all royal family members currently in line to the throne

Click here to download.

16. New Year's honours

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 14/1/20

More than 1,000 people, including celebrities, politicians, sports stars and members of the public, have been celebrated in the New Year’s Honours List.

The list recognises people who have done outstanding work in their communities or in their professions. They are chosen by the UK Government each year.

After the announcement was made, the Government was forced to apologise because its online list of those receiving honours revealed their full home and work addresses.

The list included celebrities and some people who work in the military and the Ministry of Defence (a Government department that looks after the UK’s defence and security), whose addresses should have been kept secret.

This PDF resource includes this article, as well as accompanying activity ideas:

  • While most people probably agree that it is important to recognise public service and exceptional achievement, debate whether it’s time to change the sorts of honours we give? For a start, we don’t really have an empire anymore, and many bad actions were carried out in its name. What do you think?
  • Write a pretend letter to the Government, using persuasive language, nominating someone who you think deserves a special award
  • Write a set of instructions for becoming a knight in the UK. You can make them as serious or humorous as you like. Include the steps you need to take in order to deserve such an honour, as well as outlining what you have to do at the ceremony.
  • The UK is not the only place to offer knighthoods (or something similar). Give an example of another country that awards such honours and briefly describe the ceremony.

Click here to download.


17. New apple variety stays fresh for a year

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 7/1/20

A new super-sweet variety of apple, called the Cosmic Crisp, hit the shops in the US on 1 December. Apple growers from the state of Washington, in the north-western US, say that if you keep it in the fridge it will still be fine to eat a year later.

It’s taken more than 20 years for fruit breeders working at Washington State University to perfect this new kind of apple.

It all began in 1997, when breeders crossed the Honeycrisp and Enterprise varieties to create a tree that produced apples with naturally high levels of acidity (sharp-tasting chemicals) and sugar.

The sugar makes the Cosmic Crisp taste sweet, while the acidity stops the fruit from browning and creates a long-lasting crunchy texture.

By 2025, the growers aim to be selling two billion apples a year.

  • Debate whether creating a new breed of apple is playing with nature, or if it makes healthy food more convenient and reduces food waste
  • Design and write an advertisement for this new breed of apple, using powerful or entertaining language choices
  • Imagine a conversation between items in a fridge when one of these apples is put in. Will they be impressed, jealous or sympathetic? How will the apple feel?
  • Research other examples of cross-breeding, whether it’s for plants or animals. What were the original breeds and which characteristics were the breeders hoping to combine?

Click here to download.

18. Thousand of children don't own a book

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 17/12/19

The National Literacy Trust recently carried out a survey of over 50k children in the United Kingdom aged between nine and 18 years old, which revealed nearly 400,000 young people in the UK don’t own a single book.

Just over 6% of the 56,000 who took part admitted to not having any books at home, leading to an estimate that this is the case for 383,774 children in Britain. Those from disadvantaged backgrounds were the most likely to be in this group.

  • Discuss whether we need to own books? There are libraries and ebooks that save on paper, after all. But of course, not everyone can afford a device for ebooks, and screens before bed has a negative effect on sleep.
  • What’s a good book you’ve read recently? Write a review of it to say why you liked it.
  • Who’s your favourite author. Why not write them a letter to show how much you appreciate and enjoy their work? Think of a few interesting questions to ask them about their books, characters or themselves.
  • Research what the nation’s favourite 10 children’s books are. Make a list, and show which ones, if any, you have read.

Click here to download.

19. Viking Treasure Stolen

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 10/12/19

This week’s big news story involves a historic heist of historic proportions, as George Powell and Layton Davies were jailed for the theft of Viking treasure believed to be worth £12m.

But if you’re picturing an Ocean’s 11-style heist, then the truth is rather more pedestrian.

The two men are avid detectorists, and found the treasure in a field in Herefordshire back in 2015, using their metal detectors.

“What’s the fuss then?” you might ask. Well, the law in the UK means that anyone finding historical objects must report it, and anything found to be treasure is technically the property of the Queen.

The two men instead decided to try to sell the collection of around 300 coins and items of jewellery, and so far only a small portion of it has been recovered.

  • Discuss whether you think the rules of finding historic items are fair? Should it be finders keepers? Should it belong to the landowner? Or do these items belong in places like museums for all to see? Should independent metal detectorists be banned outright? Many historical items can be damaged if not recovered by a skilled archaeological team.
  • Instructional writing: Detail what someone should do if their metal detector finds something of potential valuable, using sequencing conjunctions and imperative verbs.
  • If you found a hoard of treasure while out with your metal detector, how would you feel? Write a diary entry about the day this happened, using powerful vocabulary to describe what you found, and your emotions as it happened.
  • Investigate treasure finds in the UK, listing the three biggest ever, what they were, where they were found.

Click here to download.

20. TV debates

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 3/12/19

This week we’re looking at the recent ITV political debate between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Your pupils will look at what a general election is, as well as the important topics in the buildup to the 12 December election that were covered in this debate.

The main points of interest were the future of the National Health Service, and the prospect of Britain leaving the EU.

This PDF resource includes this article, as well as accompanying activity ideas:

  • Hold a debate in your class about voting. With voter turnout being low, should everyone be forced to vote, even if you don’t like any of the parties or candidates?
  • If you were a politician standing in an election, what would your top 5 manifesto pledges be? Write down what you promise to do to improve the country, with persuasive reasons as to why they are good ideas.
  • Should children be allowed to vote? What should the voting age be lowered to? Write pretend letters to your MP with solid arguments as to why you think they should be included.
  • Undertake a research project into your local MP and create a factfile on them. Who are they? What party do they stand for? What are their main policies?

Click here to download.

21. Dramatic flooding

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 26/11/19

In the latest topical Tuesday we’re looking at the heavy rain that caused widespread flooding across parts of northern and central England on 7 November.

At least one person has died; 500 homes have been flooded; and people from 1,200 properties have had to leave their homes.

More rain fell in 24 hours in the counties of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire than would normally fall in a whole month. This caused rivers to flood, and several towns and cities were overwhelmed with water.

Some people whose homes have been ruined by the flooding are angry about what has happened. They say they were given little warning about the floods, and that more could have been done to stop the rivers from bursting their banks.

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, and Jo Swinson, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, have both visited the areas that were worst affected. They say the Government should have done more to help those in need.

The Environment Agency, which works to protect and improve the environment, said it will assess the country’s flood defences to see if they need to be changed.

  • Following these floods, there have been calls for the Government to do more to help. Debate whether you think this is fair, or if homeowners should have insurance that pays for the clean up rather than tax payers. Or is it partly the Government’s fault anyway? Should they be investing in better flood defences?
  • Imagine your house has been flooded by rising river water. Write a recount of what happened, remembering to describe the sights, the smells and your feelings. Don’t forget, flood water is not clean and it ruins anything it affects.
  • Write a powerful acrostic poem using each letter of the word ‘flooding’ to start a new line.
  • 2012 was another very bad year for flooding in the UK. Investigate when the worst of the flooding happened and which areas were worst affected. If possible, find out what action was taken to try and prevent it happening again.

Click here to download.

22. Monkey behaviour

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 19/11/19

The big story this week looks at two groups of monkeys in Southeast Asia, living on islands that are a mere six miles apart.

These long-tailed macaques have been studied by scientists in the way they use stone tools. They carefully select rocks to crack open the shells of various shellfish, so that they can eat the innards.

Strangely, one group would keep their tools for reuse, while the other on the neighbouring island would cast away their stones having used them just once.

Why is this important? Well, these behavioural differences are examples of culture, something that’s typically just a human trait. It implies that different groups of monkeys can develop their own traditions of behaviour in their own environments.

Researchers also believe this could be helpful for any scientists exploring how early humans used stone tools.

  • Debate, if we could communicate with animals, whether we should? Or would that just lead to humans exploiting them even more?
  • Imagine you are a long-tailed macaque who has just discovered how to use stones to get seafood out of shells. Write an advertisement that you would use to persuade your fellow macaques to use stones too
  • Write a short funny sketch in the form of a playscript in which one macaque is trying to get his friend to use stones to crack open shells but the friend doesn’t like the idea of using this new ‘technology’
  • Research another example of animals learning a new behaviour, especially if it shows them adapting to the human world.

Click here to download.

23. Found painting sells for £20m

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 12/11/19

In the latest Topical Tuesday we’re looking at a painting that was found in a French that sold for £20 million.

The painting was created in the 13th century, and became the most expensive medieval painting ever sold.

It was discovered as an elderly woman was preparing to move out of her home in the French town of Compiègne. She said she didn’t know where the painting had come from.

  • Debate whether rich collectors should be allowed to keep artistic masterpieces locked away in private homes where the general public can’t see them
  • Write a funny story about something you’ve painted being found years later and sold for millions
  • Have you been to a gallery or museum? Write a descriptive piece about it and the things you saw
  • Research the five most expensive paintings ever sold, listing the title, artist and price, and writing a brief description of each

Click here to download.

24. Kapow

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 5/11/19

This week, we’re looking at how language evolves, and how and why new words and phrases are added to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Updated four times a year, and the October 2019 version includes 203 new words.

This list is dominated by words from the Star Wars universe, including lightsabre and Jedi.

The word kapow (representing the sound of an explosion, gunshot, hard punch or blow, commonly found in comics) also made the list.

Other additions include slang terms, such as sumfin (something), whatevs (whatever), chewy (chewing gum) and chillax (to calm down and relax).

  • Debate whether it’s necessary to evolve the language when we have over 170,000 words already
  • Write a short story that includes the following words: kapow, padawan, ange, nomophobia and summum malum
  • Create your own dictionary definitions for these three imaginary words: breffingle, nopperhast, yoochitrat
  • Investigate and define three English words that originated from each of the following cultures: Anglo Saxon, Norman, Viking and Indian

Click here to download.

25. 50p coins

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 29/10/19

This week’s, the main focus is on the Royal Mint celebrating 50 years since the launch of the 50p coin by revealing the rarest 50p coins ever made.

The first 50p coin was introduced on 14 October 1969. Made in the shape of a heptagon, it was the world’s first seven-sided coin. The initial reaction to it was mixed – one newspaper at the time called it “a monstrous piece of metal”.

The coin was introduced as part of a process called decimalisation. This is when a currency is changed to be based around multiples of 10 or 100.

Students will learn all about this history.

  • Debate whether it’s time to get rid of physical currency for good and become a cashless society
  • Write a persuasive article proposing a famous person or special event that you think should be commemorated on a 50p coin
  • Using ‘Halfway Down’ by AA Milne, rewrite that poem about a 50p piece, as if it is a child’s favourite coin
  • Research five other significant events from 1969, put them in order of importance (in your view) and give a brief, two- or three-sentence explanation of what happened for each

Click here to download.

26. Staying the distance

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 22/10/19

This week’s feature looks at perseverance vs giving up. Its main story is Katarina Johnson-Thompson’s recent gold medal in the heptathlon.

She waited a long time to win a gold medal, and says that her years of disappointment helped her to keep trying and prevented her from giving up.

Other stories include a Russian singer in Los Angeles who reached a new audience when a police officer filmed her busking, and a 17-year-old Syrian who taught himself English by reading the Harry Potter books who has won a scholarship to study in Wales.

This PDF resource includes this article, as well as accompanying activity ideas:

  • Debate whether we should follow Katarina Johnson-Thompson’s example of never quitting, or whether sometimes it’s good to give up. When is the right time, and how do you know?
  • Write a story about a time when you didn’t give up. Describe the emotions you went through.
  • Write a short play script about the possible positive and negative thoughts Katarina might have had, as the proverbial angel and devil on her shoulders
  • Katarina took part in the heptathlon, but in men’s athletics there is an event called the decathlon. Investigate what this is and what’s involved.

Click here to download.

27. Rise of the robots

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 15/10/19

This week’s feature is all about a robot called Atlas. Built by a robotics company in Massachusetts called Boston Dynamics, he is described as being ‘the world’s most dynamic humanoid robot’.

Despite standing at 1.5m tall and weighing 80kg, Atlas is a nimble gymnast, and there are videos to prove it.

This PDF resource includes this article, as well as accompanying activity ideas:

  • Debate whether we should stop trying to make robots and AI smarter at any point. Is there a danger they’ll become smart enough to try to take over?
  • Write instructions for safely performing a forward roll. Imagine your instructions will be converted to computer code to programme a robot to perform the manoeuvre.
  • Imagine you are a robot with feelings. Write a diary entry about the day you were programmed to do a handstand.
  • Investigate how robots are helping humans today, and pick one to write an account about.

Click here to download.

28. Alien life

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 8/10/19

This week’s feature looks at the possibility of alien life, specifically on a planet known as K2-18b.

It’s not a very catchy name, no. But it’s also known as ‘Super-Earth’ as it is twice as large as our planet, and has eight times the mass.

More importantly, scientists at UCL recently found water vapour in its atmosphere, making it the most likely destination for alien lifeforms.

This PDF resource includes this article, as well as accompanying activity ideas:

  • Imagine we had the ability to travel to K2-18b in a very short time. Debate whether or not we should we go there? Is it important for humans to keep exploring or should we just leave other planets alone?
  • Write a short travel review from the perspective of an alien from K2-18b who had visited Earth for a holiday
  • Write a short, humorous poem about an imagined conversation with an alien from K2-18b
  • The article states that water is essential to all life on Earth. What else does all life have in common? List the seven characteristics of living things. For each one, give an example for both a plant and an animal.

Click here to download.

29. Greta Thunberg and climate action

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 1/10/19

This week’s feature looks at the global climate change action that took place on the 21 September, the International Day of Peace.

Students will discover what the aim of the International Day of Peace is, how climate change affects peace, what the UN is doing about climate change and how young people can get involved.

  • Debate the ethics of the recent schools strike led by Greta Thunberg. Is any issue important enough for children to miss out on education, or is this sort of protest better left to adults? Or are children, the future of this world, the best people to protest its destruction?
  • Put together a five-point plan to get world leaders to do something about climate change
  • Create clever protest signs by writing three slogans to go on them
  • Research a recent extreme weather occurrence that forced people to leave their homes and write a summary of the events

Click here to download.

30. Organ donation

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 24/9/19

This feature looks at organ donation and how it can save lives.

Students will learn about what the major organs do in the body, and how problems with them can affect someone’s health. They will also find out about the first ever organ transplant, and how transplants work.

  • Debate issues around organ donation, such as ‘should we refuse to donate to smokers’ and ‘should people who have looked after their body get priority on donation lists?’
  • Imagine you’ve had organ donation surgery and write a thank you letter to your donor
  • Write an imaginary diary entry for the day you’re about to have donation surgery
  • Investigate heart donation surgery, which is the most complex procedure of all the major organ donation surgeries

Click here to download.

31. Amazon Fires

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 17/9/19

This week’s feature looks at the devastating fires in the Amazon rainforest, and the global protests that are taking place to ensure their protection.

Students will learn what caused the fires, how many fires there have been, why this is so important, how the world has reacted and how Brazil has responded.

  • Hold a debate on whether other nations have a say in how these fires are dealt with, or whether it should be up to Brazil alone.
  • Write an imaginary account of the fires from the perspective of an animal living in the rainforest
  • Write a poem using the metaphor of the Amazon rainforest being the lungs of the world
  • Investigate how much oxygen the Amazon rainforest produces, and how this happens

Click here to download.

32. Life Without Electricity

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 10/9/19

In this week’s article students will learn about a power cut that affected 1,000,000 people in England and Wales, the biggest in a decade.

Activities include holding a debate on our reliance on electricity and whether we should be forced to go without electrical appliances for two hours each day, writing instructions on what to do in the event of a power cut, investigating how much power you use by keeping a mini-diary of all your activities that require electricity, and more.

Click here to download.

33. Plastics, Animals and the Environment

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 3/9/19

This instalment introduces children to the effects of plastic bags on animals in the ocean, discussing how traditional plastic bags can stay around for 1,000 years.

It also looks at what alternatives we have for a greener future.

Click here to download.

34. Volcano Island

Topical Tuesdays – Free weekly news stories and teaching resources from The Week Junior

Date added: 27/8/19

This first instalment introduces children to Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai – an island that sprung from the sea five years ago, and which scientists have just discovered is teeming with life.

How did it get there, and where did the animals come from?

Explore these questions and more in these activities.

Click here to download.

To find out more about The Week Junior and to download its free resources, please go to schools.theweekjunior.co.uk.

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