Gay Marriage Wins Supreme Court Vote…Finally!

“In a long-sought victory for the gay rights movement, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in the 5 to 4 decision. He was joined by the court’s four more liberal justices.” A. Liptak, New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Gay Pride Flag waves proudly. MoMA

Gay Pride Flag waves proudly. MoMA

Excerpt: Gay Marriage Backers Win Supreme Court Victory By Adam Liptak NYT

“The decision, the culmination of decades of litigation and activism, came against the backdrop of fast-moving changes in public opinion, with polls indicating that most Americans now approve of same-sex marriage. Justice Kennedy said gay and lesbian couples had a fundamental right to marry.

Married with Pride. abcnews

Married with Pride. abcnews

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family…In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were…As Justice Kennedy finished announcing his opinion, several attendees seated in the bar section of the court’s gallery wiped away tears, while others grinned.

Married with Pride. gb.locinews

Married with Pride. gb.locinews

Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired in 2010, was on hand for the decision and many of the justices’ clerks took seats in the chamber, which was nearly full as the ruling was announced.

The Obama administration, which had gradually come to embrace the cause of same-sex marriage, was unequivocal in urging the justices to rule for the plaintiffs.

Justices for same-sex marriage-Sotomayor, Kagan, Ginsburg, Breyer, Kennedy

Justices for same-sex marriage-Sotomayor, Kagan, Ginsburg, Breyer, Kennedy

Gay and lesbian people are equal, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. said. They deserve equal protection of the laws, and they deserve it now.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article.

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. The decision took decades of litigation.
  2. Polls indicate that most Americans approve of same-sex marriage.
  3. Justice Kennedy said gay and lesbian couples had a fundamental right to marry.
  4. Gay men and women  do not disrespect the idea of marriage.
  5. The  justice’s opinion is couched in a style that is  pretentious.
  6. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment.
  7. The Supreme Court had moved cautiously.
  8. They methodically made careful judicial decisions.
  9. The court did not agree to resolve the issue until January.
  10. The Obama administration come to embrace the cause of same-sex marriage.

Reading Comprehension: Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following paragraphs taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

The court did not ___to ___the issue for the rest of the ___until January, in cases filed by ___and lesbian couples in Kentucky, Michigan, ___and Tennessee. The court heard extended arguments in April, and the ___seemed sharply ___over what the ___has to say about same-sex marriage. ___for the ___said their clients had a ___right to marry and to equal protection, adding that the bans they ___demeaned their dignity, imposed countless practical difficulties and___particular harm on their children.

Word List

Ohio, agree, challenged, Lawyers, justices, Constitution, divided ,
gay, resolve, nation, plaintiffs, inflicted, challenged, fundamental.

 Grammar Focus: Using Adjectives  to describe pictures 

Directions: Have students choose a picture from this lesson and write a descriptive paragraph using adjectives.

For a review of Adjectives visit ESL Voices Grammar

III. Post Reading Tasks

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion/Writing Exercise

Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.

1. The following  two statements were taken from the article. Rephrase each statement in your own words, then discuss the meaning with the members of your group.

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family…In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”

“It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage, Justice Kennedy said of the couples challenging state bans on same-sex marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

2. What are your thoughts about the ruling on same-sex marriage?

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Social Issues | Tags:

Artist Sargy Mann: Making Paintings Without Sight

“In the last weeks of his life, the artist Sargy Mann began writing about his extraordinary career as a blind painter. The last 10 years of his life, after his eyesight had failed completely, were paradoxically his most successful – his final exhibition opened in London this week, two months after his death. Here he reflects on the nature of perception and the visual experiences that continue after the loss of sight.” BBC

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Artist Sargy Mann

Artist Sargy Mann

Excerpt: Sargy Mann: How a blind painter sees-BBC

“…In October 1979 a retinal detachment rendered me quite blind in my right eye and then, shortly afterwards, the retina in my left eye detached. Throughout the 1980s I had numerous operations in my seeing left eye, always leaving me with less sight, worse sight, but – and this was what interested me – changed sight, so that after each convalescence, I had to learn again to see the world and to try to paint it.

Blind Artist Sargy Mann.

Blind Artist Sargy Mann.

In 1989, the eye hospital registered me blind, not partially sighted, but blind. I, on the other hand, on two or more occasions, went into the hospital announcing that I had located a tiny hole or tear in the extreme periphery of my retina.

Sargy Mann painting- Bristol Rooftops

Sargy Mann painting- Bristol Rooftops

In May 1990 we moved from London to Suffolk and I almost entirely gave up oil painting from direct observation. I simply couldn’t see and understand enough. Instead I painted, often on large 6ft-wide canvases, from short-term memory and tape recordings that I had made while looking at my subject, and asking questions of whoever might be around at the time.

Painter Sargy Mann recording of the subject on a dictaphone. Photo- BBC

Painter Sargy Mann recording of the subject on a dictaphone. Photo- BBC

Listening to my recording, brush in hand, in front of the painting, these two ways of looking resulted in very different marks on the painting…

Sargy Mann painting. cadogancontemporary.com

Sargy Mann painting. cadogancontemporary.com

Painter Sargy Mann (29 May 1937 – 5 April 2015)

Painter Sargy Mann (29 May 1937 – 5 April 2015)

Of course, I would never have chosen to become a blind painter but I have been thrilled to discover that I can make paintings without sight, and that this activity is far more like a continuation of my painting experience than I could possibly have imagined.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

Pre-reading Organizer By Scholastic

Pre-reading Organizer By Scholastic

II. While Reading Tasks

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Mann had cataract extractions in both eyes.
  2. He discovered an astonishingly beautiful world.
  3. The memory stayed as a sort of talisman.
  4. Mann became interested in the anatomy of the eye.
  5. The ophthalmologists  were helpful.
  6. They cut away a lot of his iris.
  7. His brain adjusted to the much brighter level of ambient light.
  8. He never looked at the painting through the telescope.
  9. The painting looked extraordinary.
  10. There was two different ways of perceiving the art.
Vocabulary Organizer by Against the Odds

Vocabulary Organizer by Against the Odds

Reading Comprehension

True /False/NA-Statements

Directions: Review the following statements from the reading. If a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is  not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they mark it F and provide the correct answer.

  1. Mr. Mann had  a retinal detachment in October 2006.
  2. At age 35, he  had cataract extractions in both eyes.
  3. According to Mann, the only comparable experience was one involving  a car accident that  he had.
  4. In 2008 Mann  had  his first first one-man show.
  5. In 2004  the eye hospital registered him blind.
  6. Mann has three children who also paint.
  7. Mann had numerous operations throughout the 1700s.
  8. Terry Raybould was a painter friend.
  9. Mann’s final exhibition opened in Russia.
  10. Mann  painted  from short-term memory and tape recordings.

 Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I

  1. After one operation they cut away a lot of my iris.
  2. To began with I had to paint wearing dark glasses.
  3. I learned to adjust for different levels of ambient light.

II

  1. I had my first one-man show.
  2. I  had always preferred painting on bright light.
  3. I went to Portugal and southern India.

III

  1. I worked only through the telescope.
  2. I had occasionally used photomontages before.
  3. I had another exhibition, which also gone well.

III. Post Reading Tasks

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion/Writing Exercise

Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.

1. The following  two statements were taken from the article. Rephrase each statement in your own words, then discuss the meaning with the members of your group.

“Reasonably enough, people always want to know how I arrive at the color in my paintings when I can’t see at all. It is worth mentioning here that most people, I think, dream in full and perfect color. I certainly do, and when one is asleep one is perceptually blind, so the brain can do it – though God knows how.”

“I can imagine colour and colour combinations pretty well and I wonder, is it so very different from a composer or arranger of music working on manuscript paper… I cover the whole canvas from my imaginings, and my knowledge of my pigments and how they look in different combinations.”

Visual Creations Activity

Directions: Have students close their eyes and see if they can recreate various  paintings from memory. Have an art exhibit to show off each painting!

3-2-1-Writing

Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about Sargy Mann from the reading,  two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Arts | Tags:

Abused Children Express Themselves Through Emojis

“What if emojis could relay serious, even scary situations and allow children to get the help they need?… A Swedish non-profit hopes a new set of emojis they released will help children and teenagers signal instances of abuse or communicate their stressful situations to adults when words aren’t enough.”J. Barajas, PBS

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Emoji from BRIS

Emoji from BRIS

Excerpt: New emojis help children report abuse where words fail By Joshua Barajas, PBS

“BRIS, an organization that runs a national children’s helpline, created the Abused Emojis an application that comes with a range of images that depict bad feelings and illustrate mistreatment. BRIS spokeswoman Silvia Ernhagen said the emojis are a door opener for children to talk about these difficult topics.

[The abuse emojis] could be a way of starting to signal that you do need help, but you’re too afraid maybe to put your own words on it because once you put words on it, it starts to get scary, Ernhagen said. Sometimes it’s easier to express feelings with pictures or drawings.

BRIS hopes the emojis expand a child’s vocabulary to communicate without words. In one emoji, a familiar poop symbol sits atop a child’s head. It’s similar to saying that you feel like crap, Ernhagen said.”

If you need help or have questions about child abuse, call the Child help National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) then push 1 to talk to a counselor. The Hotline counselors are available 365 days a year to help kids, and adults who are worried about kids they suspect are being abused.

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming

Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about  the topic of abused children.  Next, have students look at the pictures in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article. List these ideas on the board. Students can use a brainstorming chart by UIE for assistance.

Brainstorming chart by UIE.

Brainstorming chart by UIE.

II. While Reading Tasks

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Bris is a non-profit organization.
  2. The application has images that depict bad feelings.
  3. The images also illustrate mistreatment.
  4. This is a way for children to signal they need help.
  5. For some it’s easier to express feelings with pictures.
  6. These are not a typical set of joyful emojis.
  7. Nothing comparable exists in the US.
  8. The skull represents a child contemplating dark thoughts.
  9. BRIS hopes the emojis will expand a child’s vocabulary.
  10. There’s also one for verbal abuse.
ELLteaching 2.0 vocabualry chart

ELLteaching 2.0 vocabualry chart

Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

BRIS, an organize/organization that runs/ruins  a national children’s helpline, create/created theAbused Emojis, an application/apply that comes with a range/ranges of imagine/images that depict bad feelings and illusion/illustrate mistreatment. BRIS spokeswoman Silvia Ernhagen said the emojis are a “door opener” for children to take/talk about these difficult topics.

[The abuse emojis] could be a way of starting to signal/sign that you do need help, but you’re too afraid maybe to put your known/own words on it because once you put words on it, it starts to get scary/scared.

 Grammar Focus

Using Adjectives  to describe pictures  

Directions: Have students choose  several pictures  from the article and write a sentence describing the emotion.

III. Post Reading Tasks

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion/Writing Exercise

Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.

1. The following  two statements were taken from the article. Rephrase each statement in your own words, then discuss the meaning with the members of your group.

“BRIS hopes the emojis expand a child’s vocabulary to communicate without words. In one emoji, a familiar poop symbol sits atop a child’s head. It’s similar to saying that you feel like crap.”

“The emojis would allow nonverbal or pre-verbal children, as well as children from different cultures, to overcome any language barriers.”

2. Do you think the new emojis will be helpful to young children? Explain why or why not.

3. With your group members think of other emojis that may be helpful.

3-2-1-Writing

Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about emojis from the reading,  two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Technology | Tags:

Chimps Can Cook!

Chimpanzees have the cognitive ability to cook, according to new research, if only someone would give them ovens… scientists from Harvard and Yale found that chimps have the patience and foresight to resist eating raw food and to place it in a device meant to appear, at least to the chimps, to cook it.” – D. Frank and J. Gorman NYT

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Research reveals that Chimps prefer cooked food. Photo utahthepeoplespost

Research reveals that Chimps prefer cooked food. Photo utahthepeoplespost

Excerpt: Chimpanzees Would Cook if Given the Chance…by David Frank and James Gorman New York Times

“That is no small achievement. In a line that could easily apply to human beings, the researchers write, Many primate species, including chimpanzees, have difficulty giving up food already in their possession and show limitations in their self-control when faced with food.

But they found that chimps would give up a raw slice of sweet potato in the hand for the prospect of a cooked slice of sweet potato a bit later. That kind of foresight and self-control is something any cook who has eaten too much raw cookie dough can admire.
The research grew out of the idea that cooking itself may have driven changes in human evolution, a hypothesis put forth by Richard Wrangham, an anthropologist at Harvard and several colleagues about 15 years ago in an article in Current Anthropology, and more recently in his book, Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human.
He argued that cooking may have begun something like two million years ago, even though hard evidence only dates back about one million years. For that to be true, some early ancestors, perhaps not much more advanced than chimps, had to grasp the whole concept of transforming the raw into the cooked.
One obvious difficulty in creating an experiment was that chimps have not yet figured out how to use fire, and the scientists were wary of giving them access to real cooking devices. So the scientists hit on a method that presents the chimps with problems that emulate cooking…two plastic bowls that fit closely together with pre-cooked food hidden in the bottom tub.
When a chimpanzee placed a raw sweet potato slice into the device, a researcher shook it, then lifted the top tub out to offer the chimp an identical cooked slice of sweet potato… The chimps showed a number of indications that, given a real cooking opportunity, they had the ability to take advantage of it. They resisted eating raw food and put it in the device, waiting for cooked food.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

KWL Chart

Directions: Have students use the KWL chart to list the information they already know about chimps. Then students discuss the information they would like to learn about chimps. Later in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about the topic.

KWL Chart from Creately.com

KWL Chart from Creately.com

II. While Reading Tasks

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Cooking is no small achievement.
  2. Many primates  have difficulty giving up food in their possession.
  3. Chimps have  shown foresight and self-control.
  4. Chimps would give up a raw slice of sweet potato.
  5. Cooking itself may have driven changes in human evolution.
  6. A device that emulated cooking was used in the experiments.
  7. They resisted eating raw food.
  8. The experiments showed that chimps had the patience for cooking.
  9. The use of fire was the major impetus.
  10. Chimps understood the transition from raw to cooked food.

Word Map Education Oasis

Reading Comprehension

Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

When a chimpanzee placed/place a raw sour/sweet potato slice/slip into the devious/device, a researcher shook it, then lifted the top tub out to offer/off the chimp an identical cooked slice of sweet potato.

It was known/noun that chimps proffer/prefer cooked food, but it was an open question whether/weather chimps had the patience/patients to wait/wade through the pretend shake and bake process.

 Grammar Focus

Preposition Exercise

Prepositions:  in, for, of, with, by,  on, at, to, as, into, around, over,  from, during,

Directions: The following sentences are from the news article.  For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices presented. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.

The research grew out ___the idea that cooking itself may have driven changes___ human evolution, a hypothesis put forth___Richard Wrangham, an anthropologist___Harvard.

One obvious difficulty___creating an experiment was that chimps have not yet figured out how___ use fire, and the scientists were wary___giving them access___real cooking devices.

III. Post Reading Tasks

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion/Writing Exercise

Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.

1. The following  three statements were taken from the article. Rephrase each statement in your own words, then discuss the meaning with the members of your group.

“Richard Wrangham, an anthropologist at Harvard….argued that cooking may have begun something like two million years ago, even though hard evidence only dates back about one million years. For that to be true, some early ancestors, perhaps not much more advanced than chimps, had to grasp the whole concept of transforming the raw into the cooked.”

“The chimps showed a number of indications that, given a real cooking opportunity, they had the ability to take advantage of it. They resisted eating raw food and put it in the device, waiting for cooked food. They would bring raw food from one side of a cage to the other in order to put it in the device. And they put different kinds of food in the device.”

“In 1999, when Wrangham proposed the cooking hypothesis, it seemed silly to some to think that the use of fire was the major impetus to convert upright chimpanzee-like creatures into the first species of humans, but this paper makes that scenario the leading hypothesis in my mind.”

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class.

ANSWER KEY

 

Category: Animals

Japan’s Yōkai Folklore Returns!

“Fantastical monsters like the tanuki abound in Michael Dylan Foster’s The Book of Yokai: Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore  one of several books about yokai that have hit American shelves this year…Why the recent crop of yokai books in the United States? Credit generations of Americans exposed to the creatures through a steady stream of Japanese cultural imports. Haruki Murakami has included several in his novels, while hordes have appeared in the films of Hayao Miyazaki (the clicking, bobble-headed kodama, or tree spirits, in Princess Mononoke; much of the cast of Spirited Away.” R. Ito-New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Hiyao Miyazaki's Spirited Away

Hiyao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away

Scene from Hiyao Miyazaki's Spirited Away

Scene from Hiyao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away

Excerpt: Reviving Japan’s Dreaded and Beloved Ghosts. Robert Ito NYT

“In June, Zack Davisson will publish Yurei: The Japanese Ghost (Chin Music Press), a critical look at the history of some of Japan’s most dreaded and beloved spooks. Both are scholarly texts enlivened by images of the beasts in scroll paintings, woodblock prints and original illustrations.

Zack Davisson's book Yurei- The Japanese Ghost (

Zack Davisson’s book Yurei- The Japanese Ghost (

And then there’s Matthew Meyer’s forthcoming The Hour of Meeting Evil Spirits,  an encyclopedic look at yokai that includes notes on each creature’s appearance, behavior and favorite hangouts. Mr. Meyer’s paintings combine the vibrant colors of traditional Japanese woodblock prints with references to Asian horror movies and contemporary manga. The result is a coffee-table book (self-published) that doubles as an illustrated guide, full of legends and obscure yokai trivia.

Matthew Meyer’s The Hour of Meeting Evil Spirits

Matthew Meyer’s The Hour of Meeting Evil Spirits

Even more have crept into American homes through video games and trading cards. Pokémon, the multibillion-dollar toy and video game empire, bases many of its characters on yokai. So does the most recent challenge to Pokémon’s cultural dominance, the best-selling video game and anime series Yo-Kai Watch, which makes no effort to hide its creative sources.

Yokai Watch’s popularity increases in the US. Photo-GC Magazine

Yokai Watch’s popularity increases in the US. Photo-GC Magazine

All those monsters — altered and cuteified as they may be — have inspired fans to seek out the original texts…Fans love tracking these evolutions over time, as well as learning every bit of information about as many yokai as they can. This might explain why a lot of these books, scholarly or not, have the look and feel of illustrated encyclopedias, with detailed descriptions of scores of creatures.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

Pre-reading Organizer By Scholastic

II. While Reading Tasks

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Tanuki is the badger-like creatures of Japanese lore.
  2. They are an impetuous bunch.
  3. Both are scholarly texts.
  4. The book’s illustrator, Chip Boles, seemed to have fun.
  5. Mr. Meyer’s paintings  have vibrant colors.
  6. They grow up with these things through anime.
  7. Stories about yokai have been popular in Japan for centuries.
  8. New texts and stories are still being discovered and translated.
  9. There are also beasts whose images remain.
  10. Among the creepiest of yokai are the yurei, spirits of the dead.
Color Vocabualry Map by Enchanted Learning

Color Vocabualry Map by Enchanted Learning

Reading Comprehension

True /False/NA-Statements

Directions: Review the following statements from the reading. If a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is  not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they mark it F and provide the correct answer.

  1. Yokai are mysterious creatures of Chinese folklore.
  2. Interest in yokai books have increased in the United States because of Japanese films, books, and video games.
  3. Tanuki, are types of Japanese food.
  4. In one tale, a tanuki playfully transforms into a steam train.
  5. The book Yurei: The Japanese Ghost looks at the history of some of Japan’s most dreaded and beloved ghosts.
  6. The yokai themselves are scarce in Japan.
  7. The Yokai Character Collection is more pictorial.
  8. A mokumokuren is a type of slipper.
  9. The Hour of Meeting Evil Spirits takes an encyclopedic look at yokai that includes notes on each creature’s appearance and behavior.
  10. Pokémon is a multibillion-dollar toy and video game empire.

 Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I

  1. In June, Zack Davisson will publish his book.
  2. Both is scholarly texts enlivened by images of the beasts.
  3. It has the look and feel of a Dungeons & Dragons manual.

II

  1. The book’s illustrator is Chip Boles.
  2. The result are a coffee-table book.
  3. Pokémon bases many of its characters on yokai.

III

  1. All those monsters have inspired fans to seek out the original texts.
  2. Students is heavily influenced by popular culture.
  3. Why do the centuries-old monsters continue to fascinate?

III. Post Reading Tasks

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?

Discussion/Writing Exercise

Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.

1. The following  three statements were taken from the article. Rephrase each statement in your own words, then discuss the meaning with the members of your group.

“The students who come into the fields of Japanese literature and folklore as undergraduates are heavily influenced by popular culture…They grow up with these things through anime and manga and want to know where they come from.”

“Stories about yokai have been popular in Japan for centuries, from the 11th-century classic The Tale of Genji in which they’re called mononoke, or mysterious things, to contemporary anime series. The yokai themselves are everywhere in Japan, in films and cartoons, on billboards and even on beer bottle labels. The latest yokai craze began in the 1980s and has been going strong ever since, part of a long history of booms that dates back to the Edo period (1603-1868).”

“Relatively few of the thousands of texts and scholarly studies about yokai have been translated from Japanese, which makes these latest books all the more valuable to nonfluent seekers of the original tales…Mr. Foster [a folklore professor at Indiana University and author of  Pandemonium and Parade: Japanese Monsters and the Culture of Yokai] draws from texts and folk tales dating back to Japan’s Heian period, from the works of the 10th-century writer Abe no Seimei (a midlevel bureaucrat who has been reborn in contemporary manga and anime as a young, beautifully androgynous sorcerer) to the tales of the early-20th-century scholar and avid story collector Kunio Yanagita, considered one of the founders of Japanese folklore studies.”

3-2-1-Writing

Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about Japanese ghosts from the reading,  two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.

ANSWER KEY

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