Top Critical Reading Lessons of 2019-20: Food Themes

Upper elementary and middle school students—now more than ever—need to develop strong critical reading skills and understand current events in this age of distance learning, fake news, and misinformation. But, educators find it challenging and time consuming to review newspaper articles then create a lesson plan with exercises that are interactive and challenging for students. For 14 years, XTRA Weekly has a solution that saves time for educators by creating a weekly guided lesson plan that’s based on current events from articles from national newspapers that address critical reading, thinking, and writing skills.


To help educators explore better solutions for teaching critical reading skills, we’ve created a five-week series to highlight our favorite lessons from the 2019-20 school year. Best of all, access to these sample lessons are free! In this first of five articles, we’ve provided examples of lessons with food themes that were highly engaging for students… because every kid loves food!

The key benefits of investing time to review our lessons include:

  • Discovering a time-saving weekly guided lesson plan that you can subscribe to next school year.
  • Learning how XTRA Weekly is aligned to Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts.
  • Examining how this ELA resource will help with teaching critical reading, writing, and thinking.
  • Sampling how you can enhance students’ knowledge of current events on a weekly basis.

Our 5-week series will feature the following themes:

  1. FOOD (this blog post, published 7/6/20) – Includes the articles “How to Carve a Spooky Pineapple Jack-O-Lantern”, “5 of the Least Healthy Holiday Dishes”, and “Quinn on Nutrition: An Apple a Day”
  2. HEALTH (published 7/18/20) – Includes the articles “Mayo Clinic Minute: Why scary movies make your heart race”, “Does the coronavirus have you worried about toilet paper?”, and “Tired of self-isolating? Astronauts are used to it.”
  3. HOME (published 8/2/20) – Includes the articles “Study: A lot of good food goes into the fridge to die”, “Stuck at home? Now is the perfect time to learn the language of birds”, and “Ask Mr. Dad: When Enough is Too Much”
  4. SCIENCE (published 8/13/20) – Includes the articles “These students are learning how to fly drones — and they’re only in middle school”, “The dirtiest things you touch”, and “NC man sets his 7th Guiness World Record. This one took giant soap bubbles.”
  5. PETS (published 9/1/20) – Includes the articles “Joan Morris: Should we let our pets lick us on the lips”, “Florida man and his dogs visited 25 nursing homes in cross-country trek for pet therapy cause”, and “You got your flu shot; You also should protect your dogs with the canine flu vaccine”


  • Start a subscription to access a new issue each week during the school year, which contains two weekly lessons.
  • Download the weekly issue via the Internet with 24/7 accessibility.
  • Each lesson contains a current Newspaper Article, brief For the Instructor lesson plan, Questions and Extension Activities for the student, and Answer Key for the teacher.
  • Choose an integrated curriculum geared for your students in either Grades 3-5 (Level 1) or 6-8 (Level 2), or use both levels.
  • Share each lesson with your students, which uses current nonfiction articles from national newspapers to engage students in reading, writing, and critical thinking.
  • Repeat the process weekly during each school year — you’ll get 32 lessons (actually, 64 lessons since each lesson contains both Level 1 and 2 activities).

Now, let’s get started sampling some of the food-related lessons that we created for educators during the 2019-20 school year involving a spooky pineapple, unhealthy holiday dishes, and a nutritious apple.


“How to Carve a Spooky Pineapple Jack-O-Lantern for Halloween” (Level 1, Lesson 7 — 2019-20)

pineapple graphic

Click to view the NEWSPAPER ARTICLE Click to view FOR THE INSTRUCTOR Click to view the QUESTIONS Click to view the ANSWERS Click to view the EXTENSION ACTIVITIES



“5 of the Least Healthy Holiday Dishes” (Level 2, Lesson 12 — 2019-20)

holiday meal

Click to view the NEWSPAPER ARTICLE Click to view FOR THE INSTRUCTOR Click to view the QUESTIONS Click to view the ANSWERS Click to view the EXTENSION ACTIVITIES



“Quinn on Nutrition: An Apple a Day” (Level 1, Lesson 8 — 2019-20)

apple clipart

Click to view the NEWSPAPER ARTICLE Click to view the FOR THE INSTRUCTOR Click to view the QUESTIONS Click to view the ANSWERS Click to view the EXTENSION ACTIVITIES


Now that you’ve discovered why educators love XTRA Weekly, here are the next steps:

  • Join our mailing list to be notified when the subscription for the 2020-21 school year is available for purchase (Annual cost: $500 per school for all teachers or $200 per individual teacher)
  • For the 2020-21 school year, Lesson 1 (Levels 1 and 2) will be published September 14. You’ll be notified at a later date on how to login to to access the weekly lessons.



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