To Mr. Rogers “A Beautiful Day” in the Neighborhood Included Telling The Truth to Kids

“It’s hard to imagine anyone sending hate mail to Fred Rogers, but there was one episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood that brought the beloved children’s TV star a bit of blowback: ‘He did an episode about Santa Claus,’ explains filmmaker Morgan Neville. ‘And he didn’t like the idea that there was somebody who snuck into your house in the middle of the night … so he told kids the truth … and a lot of parents wrote a lot of angry letters.’ Aimed at toddlers and preschoolers, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood made its nationwide debut in 1968 and aired for more than three decades. It’s now the subject of a new documentary called Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, directed by Neville.” M. Kelly, NPR

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

 

Mr. Rogers

Excerpt: Mister Rogers Talked Frankly With Kids About ‘Grown-Up’ Issues, By Mary Louise Kelly, NPR

“Santa aside, ‘Rogers generally flew under the radar’ Neville says, even when he was engaging kids in conversations that some adults considered well beyond their years. With a toy trolley, talking puppets and a simple set, the show had low production value, but the host was cutting edge, the filmmaker explains, in respecting the emotional intelligence of children; helping them grapple with ‘grown-up’ issues such as death, divorce and disturbing current events…”Most of us have a relationship with Fred Rogers that predates our memory …’ Neville says. ‘It’s very deep in us and he speaks to us almost like our own inner child.’

Trolley gets pulled over for speeding, has a few words, but soon gets on his way.

On being ‘cutting edge’ in respecting the emotional maturity of children: What he’s doing is not just providing joy for children but really trying to allay fear. When he looked at children what he realized is that most adults condescend to children.

Along with his trusty puppet, Daniel Tiger, Fred Rogers explained a complex world to kids in terms they could understand.

When bad things happen they say, ‘Don’t worry about it,’ or ‘It wasn’t anything.’ And kids are way too smart and intuitive to not know when those things are happening. So what he decided to do is to level with kids — to really speak to them honestly and say, ‘Yes something bad happened, but let me tell you why, and let me explain it in age-appropriate terms.’ Because he really felt that fear was was the most destructive force in our society.

Some Difficult Topics Mr. Rogers Discussed on His Show:

Mister Rogers invited Officer Clemmons to share a wading pool at a time when that could still be considered radical. John Beale:Focus Features

On the episode when Mr. Rogers invited an African-American police officer, played by François Clemmons, to rest his feet in a wading pool on a hot day. That’s his subtle way of saying: There’s nothing wrong with sharing a pool with a person of a different race.

[After Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1968] Fred knew that children would be home and they would know that this bad thing had happened. And so he quickly put together an episode that aired [ahead of the televised funeral] … where he could explain to people how to speak to their children about something as horrific as an assassination.

 

Fred Rogers

He did it again and again. He did things around the Challenger disaster, the Gulf War, 9/11, Reagan’s assassination attempt. … He really felt like it was in those moments he was really doing the best of what he wanted to do. That that’s when people really needed him.”

 

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

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. 

II. While Reading Activities

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. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood had many interesting episodes.
  2. One particular episode brought the beloved children’s TV star a bit of blowback.
  3. Many times he engaged  kids in conversations that some adults considered well beyond their years.
  4. Mr. Rogers helped  them grapple with grown-up issues.
  5. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood made its nationwide debut in 1968.
  6. The show has aired for more than three decades.
  7. What he’s doing is not just providing joy for children really trying to allay fear.
  8. Kids are  very smart and intuitive.
  9. He really felt that fear was was the most destructive force.
  10. Mr. Rogers was a profound, deep, willful and  intellectual person.

Color Vocabualry Map by Enchanted Learning

 

Reading Comprehension: Fill-ins

Directions: The following sentences are from the article. Choose the correct word for each blank space from the word listor make up your own words.

He ___that ___was going to be this ___that was going to be___ and also that there were going to be generations of___being raised by this___ and somebody had to use ___to do something more than just sell ___and toys to kids.

WORD LIST:sugar, device,transformative, television, realized, device, children, television ,

 

Grammar: Using Adjectives  to describe pictures    

Directions: Have students choose a picture from the article  and write a descriptive paragraph using adjectives.

For a review of Adjectives visit ESL Voices Grammar

III. Post Reading Activities

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 for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them  discuss 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 topics mentioned.

  1. The article states, “[Mr. Rogers] in respecting the emotional intelligence of children helped  them grapple with ‘grown-up’ issues such as death, divorce and disturbing current events.” Do you think this was a good idea on the part of Mr. Rogers? Explain why or why not.
  2. The article further states that Mr. Rogers “really felt that fear was was the most destructive force in our society.” Do you agree with this statement? Do you think that fear is still a destructive force today? Explain your answer.
  3. With your group create a special neighborhood. Draw pictures of the way you think it would look. Describe the rules of the neighborhood (for example Mr. Rogers always made everyone feel accepted in his neighborhood).

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: Culture | Tags:

The Women and Children on Skid Row

“To capture the specific horror of Los Angeles’ homeless crisis, one just needs to enter the 50-block perimeter of downtown known as Skid Row. The sidewalks have disappeared, buried beneath endless rows of sagging tents and what spills from them: stuffed animals, clothing, a bicycle tire, blankets, condoms and hypodermic needles. The residents of Skid Row walk in the street, especially the women… dodging cars that speed up just to get through this place.” G. Hillard, NPR

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

A pink umbrella peeks through a collapsed tent home on L.A’s Skid Row. NPR

Excerpt: Women Of LA’s Skid Row Tell Their Stories Through The Anger, Despair On Their Faces By  Gloria Hillard, NPR

“LAPD Officer Deon Joseph has been working on these streets for 20 years…Joseph says there’s no difference between day and night anymore. Most of the crime happens out of sight, in the tents, which have been taken over by the gangs.‘Whenever I see a new face, especially a woman, I tell them the rules: don’t borrow money from anybody because once you do that you are bought and paid for, he says.

A mentally ill homeless woman cries out while holding a pay phone after running through several blocks of downtown Los Angeles, yelling and screaming. (Jae C. Hong:AP)

In the evening homeless women stake out their spots on Skid Row in front of the closed Downtown Women’s Center. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News:SCNG)

Just like the new condos five blocks away, the sidewalks have become expensive real estate. Joseph says the landlords are the gangs. In order to stay on the block, he explains, one woman here was forced by the Grape Street Crips to give up her entire Social Security check every month… ‘They are you or me divided by circumstance,’ says Georgia Berkovich, of the Midnight Mission. ‘A catastrophic illness in the family that depletes their savings…Financial issues and the lack of affordable housing are increasingly impacting women.

A homeless women and her children walk to their Skid Row shelter. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News:SCNG)

 

No one never imagines they’ll end up on these streets, Berkovich says. ‘First you would stay with friends and then you’d stay with family and maybe you’d wear out your welcome and you say ‘we’ll just stay in our car.’

A [homeless] woman dances near the entrance of the LAPD’s Central Station before hitting the Skid Row streets screaming. (Photo Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News:SCNG)

The next step, Berkovich says, is usually a shelter. But most of the shelters are full. So, you get a tent. ‘But now the drug dealers and pimps have taken over your tent,’ she continues.

Victoria Evans, a former bus driver who ended up homeless after caring for her daughter and then surviving two bouts of cancer. Evans now has a culinary degree and works. Sarah Reingewirtz,

Many of the women on the street pull suitcases behind them. Joyce Robles is one of them. She’s wears a heavy camouflage jacket on this very hot day. Robles, 51, says her husband passed away about three years ago. She has been living on the streets for two. ‘I’ve been raped, I’ve been stabbed,”‘she says, “it’s been hard out here for me.’

LAPD Officer Deon Joseph

You can guess how long people have been here by the anger or despair on their faces, their clothing, the way they walk.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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 chart by J. Swann

 

II. While Reading Activities

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. Many women show despair on their faces.
  2. Los Angeles is in the middle of a homeless crisis.
  3. Most of the crime happens in the tents.
  4. Just five blocks away the new condos are being built.
  5. One woman had to give up her entire Social Security check every month.
  6. They are you or me divided by circumstance.
  7. Sometimes  a catastrophic illness in the family depletes their savings.
  8. Lack of affordable housing  is one issue that is increasingly impacting women.
  9. When the shelters are full women are forced to live in tents.
  10. Many women say that the shelter is only temporary.

Vocabulary Organizer by Against All Odds

 

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.

Greer and her party/partner, who is deaf/deer, thought life/lie would be easier/easily for them in Los Angeles. They were dripped/dropped off at the Greyhound station just blocks/boats away. They had never heard of Skid Row.  After a couple of days on the street/straight they were grateful a shock/shelter took them in.

 

 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. We just got here from Louisville like three month ago.
  2. They say the shelter is only temporary.
  3. One hopes that is true.

 

II

  1. Deon Joseph has been working on these streets for 20 years.
  2. A few feet away a woman is trying to clean up the litter  on front of her tent.
  3. I know it’s too old to be down here, but things happen.

 

III

  1. Many of the woman on the street pull suitcases.
  2. Joyce wears a heavy camouflage jacket.
  3. She has been living on the streets for two years.

 

III. Post Reading Activities

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them  answer and discuss 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 topics mentioned.

  1. Is there a large population of homeless people in your city or your country?
  2. Are there many women and children who are homeless?
  3. Are there shelters  for  homeless people? 
  4. What is being done to help the homeless?
  5. With your group members think of ways citizens can help homeless people.

 

3-2-1-Writing

Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic 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: Social Issues | Tags:

Mali Spider-Man Saves Young Child!

“The 4-year-old boy seemed to be suspended from a balcony. An adult standing on a nearby balcony seemed powerless to help. Disaster seemed the only possible outcome.Then, to the nimble rescue on the streets of Paris on Saturday evening, came a young man whom some French people have started to call the Spider-Man of the 18th referring to the arrondissement of Paris where the episode unfolded. With a combination of grit, agility and muscle, the man hauled himself hand over hand from one balcony to another, springing from one parapet to grasp the next one up. A crowd that had gathered before he began his daring exploit urged him ever upward…” A. Breeden and A. Cowell, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post  with Answer Key

Mamoudou Gassama Paris Spiderman

Excerpt: Paris ‘Spider-Man’ Saves Young Boy. Cue Debate on Migrants.By Aurellen Breeden and Alan Cowell, The New York Times

“Finally, after scaling four balconies, the man reached the child and pulled him to safety. And suddenly, an act of individual courage and resourcefulness began to play into Europe’s fraught and polarized debate about outsiders, immigrants and refugees.

The man, identified as Mamoudou Gassama, 22, is a migrant from Mali, a troubled former French colony in northwest Africa, who journeyed through Burkina Faso, Niger and Libya before making the dangerous Mediterranean Sea crossing to Italy and arriving in France in September, without documentation. 

Mamoudou Gassama with French President Macron Photo- Al Bawaba

On Monday, after his heroic rescue of the boy, he met with President Emmanuel Macron. Now, he will get the requisite documentation to live legally in France. ‘I told him that in recognition of his heroic act he would have his papers in order as quickly as possible,’ Mr. Macron said in a statement on Facebook after meeting with Mr. Gassama at the Élysée Palace in Paris.

Mr. Gassama will be one of a lucky few in a country with increasingly tight immigration rules and a generally skeptical attitude toward migrants who are seeking primarily economic benefits. In 2017, only five people were granted residency papers for “exceptional talent” or ‘services rendered to the community,’ according to statistics from the French Interior Ministry. In 2016, there were six.

Mr. Macron said in his statement that the Paris firefighters were ‘eager to welcome’  Mr. Gassama into their ranks. He added that he had invited Mr. Gassama to apply for French citizenship, ‘because France is built on desire, and Mr. Gassama’s commitment clearly showed that he has that desire.’ 

True to the words of French President Emmanuel Macron that African Spiderman, Mamoudou Gassama, would be employed as a firefighter in France, …

 In Paris, makeshift encampments of migrants under bridges and in parks are regularly evacuated by the police, only to grow again. ‘When they are in danger, we give asylum, but not for economic reasons,’ Mr. Macron said of immigrants, according to the news agency. ‘But in your case, you did something exceptional.’

This was not the first time in recent years that France celebrated an immigrant’s heroism. In January 2015, 24-year-old Lassana Bathily was widely praised for hiding customers in a cold-storage room after a gunman attacked a kosher supermarket near the Porte de Vincennes, in eastern Paris.

Lassana Bathily receives the medal of courage Center Simon-Wiesenthal.

As France struggled to cope with the terrorist attacks at the supermarket and at the offices of the satirical news weekly Charlie Hebdo, his actions provided much needed solace. Mr. Bathily, a Muslim from Mali, was granted French citizenship later that month, and he currently works at Paris City Hall…The boy saved by Mr. Gassama was alone in the apartment while his father went grocery shopping, said François Molins, the Paris prosecutor. The boy’s mother was not in Paris at the time.

Mr. Molins told the BFM television news channel that the father had taken a long time to return home because he had decided to play the smartphone game Pokémon Go as he was leaving the store. The father was taken into police custody on Sunday, and an investigation has been opened for “failure to meet parental obligations.” A conviction on that charge carries a sentence of up to two years in prison. The parents have not been identified, as is customary in French criminal inquiries.”

 

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

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. 

II. While Reading Activities

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. Finally, after scaling four balconies the man reached the child.
  2. With a combination of grit, agility and muscle, the man hauled himself from one balcony to another.
  3. A crowd that had gathered urged him ever upward.
  4. Mamoudou Gassama, 22, is a migrant from Mali.
  5. After his heroic rescue of the boy, he met with President Emmanuel Macron.
  6. In Paris, makeshift encampments of migrants are regularly evacuated by the police.
  7. Mr. Macron said that when  immigrants are in danger, France gives them asylum.
  8. Many people admire the bravery of Mamoudou Gassama.
  9. The boy’s father  is devastated because he realizes what he did.
  10. The father will be charged with neglect.  A conviction on that charge carries a sentence of up to two years in prison.

Color Vocabulary Map by Enchanted Learning

 

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentencestaken 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.

I ___the ___of Mamoudou Gassama, said Raphaël Glucksmann, the ___editor of a left-leaning literary review, in a post on Facebook. And I ___of a ___where it wouldn’t be necessary to___ a ___to save the ___of a child, at the ___of one’s own life, to be treated like a___being when you are a migrant.

WORD LIST:admire,human,scale, bravery, building, risk, country, dream, life, managing,

 Grammar Focus: Prepositions

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

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

I told him that ___recognition___ his heroic act he would have his papers ___order as quickly as possible.

___Monday, sitting ______Mr. Macron ___one ___the palace’s many gilded rooms, Mr. Gassama, wearing jeans and a short-sleeved shirt, told the French president ___the rescue.

Mr. Macron himself has taken a tough approach ___immigrants.

 

III. Post Reading Activities

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 for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them  discuss 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 topics mentioned.

  1. What makes  a man or woman a hero?
  2. Have you ever been a hero to someone?   If yes, explain why.
  3. Describe what you think the character of a hero should be.
  4. Do you think sports figures, actors, or rock groups are heroes?  Explain why or why not.

    5. The article states, ” [President] Macron said in his statement that the Paris firefighters were ‘eager to welcome’ Mr. Gassama into their ranks. He added that he had ‘invited Mr. Gassama to apply for French citizenship, ‘because France is built on desire, and Mr. Gassama’s commitment clearly showed that he has that desire.’ The article further states, “Some, including groups that help undocumented migrants, criticized the government as hypocritical for praising Mr. Gassama while pushing to deport others like him, calling Mr. Macron’s Élysée invitation a public relations stunt. ‘I admire the bravery of Mamoudou Gassama,’ said Raphaël Glucksmann, the managing editor of a left-leaning literary review, in a post on Facebook. ‘And I dream of a country where it wouldn’t be necessary to scale a building to save the life of a child, at the risk of one’s own life, to be treated like a human being when you are a migrant. 

    In your opinion, did Mamoudou Gassama get the reward he deserved?  Explain your answers.

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

Um, Uh, Huh Could Be Keys To Understanding Human Language

“Has anyone — a parent, teacher, or boss — told you to purge the words ‘um’ and ‘uh’ from your conversation? When these words creep into our narrative as we tell a story at home, school, or work, it’s natural to feel that we can do better with our speech fluency. In How We Talk: The Inner Workings of Conversation, hitting shelves Tuesday, University of Sydney linguist Nick Enfield rescues those words (and everyone who uses them) from censure.” B. J. King, NPR

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Image-tesolcourse.edu.vn

Excerpt: Um, Uh, Huh? Are These Words Clues To Understanding Human Language? By Barbara J. King, NPR

“In so doing, he exposes the fascinating and intricate workings of what he calls the human conversation machine: ‘a set of powerful social and interpretive abilities of individuals in tandem with a set of features of communicative situations — such as the unstoppable passage of time — that puts constraints on how we talk.’

Using cross-cultural data, Enfield shows how rapid is the turn-taking aspect of human conversation. Across 10 languages (from Italy, Namibia, Mexico, Laos, Denmark, Korea, the U.S., the Netherlands, Japan and Papua New Guinea) the rule is clear: Speakers offer an answer to a question posed to them within 207 milliseconds, on average. The range goes from 7 milliseconds in Japanese to close to a half-second in Danish.

Based on speech cues, we anticipate rather than wait for the moment when it’s our turn to speak. We risk losing our turn, or seeming hesitant, if we don’t jump right into the flow. What happens, though, if we’re experiencing some kind of processing delay as we ready ourselves to speak? Perhaps we can’t think of the right term, or we’re struggling to process an unfamiliar word we just heard. After 600 milliseconds, “social attribution” kicks in — that is, the delay becomes a matter of concern for the community of speakers. We may, at this point, utter ‘um’ or  ‘uh’ as a signal that we are working toward producing speech.

The evidence shows we also may use these words intentionally as buffers before offering what are called dispreferred responses, or answers our conversation partners may not welcome. Let’s say a friend asks you to an event that don’t wish to attend, and you’re about to decline. If you slightly delay that bad news by starting out with ‘uh’ or ‘um,’ that’s the conversation machine at work.

Enfield’s overall point here is that these tiny words, far from just being ‘noise’ for scholars to ignore, deserve linguistic study. ‘Huh?’ plays a key role, too, because, judging again from cross-cultural research, it is a human linguistic universal. When we ask ‘Huh?’ in conversation, it can be a mark of cooperation rather than confusion a point that Enfield elaborated on via email (Email responses in this post have been edited for length.):

‘It’s true that ‘Huh?’ can be a sign of confusion. On the other hand, ‘Huh?’ does much more than simply signal a problem. The usual effect of ‘Huh?’ is to get the other person to repeat, confirm, or rephrase what they just said. This is only possible in the highly cooperative context of conversation.’

In How We Talk, Enfield aims to set apart our behavior and language from the behavior and communication of all other animals.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

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 and ask them to think about what they already know about  human language.  Next, have students look at the pictures in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article.  Regroup as a class and list these ideas on the board. Students can use a brainstorming chart for assistance.

G. Cluster Brainstorming-workshopexercises

 

II. While Reading Activities

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. We were taught to purge certain words from our conversation.
  2. Some people are very fluent when speaking.
  3. Enfield exposes the intricate workings of human conversation.
  4. Using cross-cultural data, Enfield shows how rapid is the turn-taking aspect of human conversation.
  5. Based on speech cues, we anticipate when it’s our turn to speak.
  6. The evidence shows we also may use these words intentionally as buffers.
  7. “Huh?” in conversation,  can be a mark of cooperation rather than confusion.
  8. Language arguably supports a uniquely human form of social accountability.
  9. Speakers may sometimes delay bad news by starting out with “uh” or “um,” .
  10. ‘Huh?’ can also be a sign of confusion.

Vocabulary Cluster By Learnnc.org

 

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentencestaken 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.

“Some 7,000 ___are spoken in the___ today, each a ___system made up of many thousands of sounds, words, ___structures and rules. Infants ___these systems natively, without ___insruction, within the first few years of life. Animals do not have___ in this sense. In linguistics, this has ___the search to define what makes this possible across our___, and only in our species.”

WORD LIST: world, species, formal, languages, grammatical, massive,acquire,motivated, language,

Grammar Focus: Word Recognition

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

Language/Linagearguably supposes/supports a uniquely human/humaneform of special/socialaccountability/accountable: with language, we can name/noun or describe a piece of behavior, drawing/draw public attention to it, then characterizing it (as good, bad, not allowed, wrong, great, or what have you)

III. Post Reading Activities

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 for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them  discuss the meanings of the  following statements in their own words. Ask students to provide examples. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class.

In his book How We Talk: The Inner Workings of Conversation, Enfield  states:

“Based on speech cues, we anticipate rather than wait for the moment when it’s our turn to speak. We risk losing our turn, or seeming hesitant, if we don’t jump right into the flow.”

When we talk, we agree to be accountable to each other for doing our respective parts in order to achieve a common goal, that of mutual understanding. Saying ‘Huh?’ draws attention to a possible failing in keeping up with that commitment, one which needs to be redressed on the spot, and we respond to it by helping the other, redressing the possible failing, so that we can move on.”

3-2-1-Writing

Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic 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: Language

Smart Devices Can Hear Hidden Messages That We Can’t

“Researchers can now send secret audio instructions undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant.” C. Smith, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

PCMag UK

 

Excerpt: Alexa and Siri Can Hear This Hidden Command. You Can’t. Craig Smith, The New York Times

“Many people have grown accustomed to talking to their smart devices, asking them to read a text, play a song or set an alarm. But someone else might be secretly talking to them, too.

Photo- Hypegram

Over the past two years, researchers in China and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Inside university labs, the researchers have been able to secretly activate the artificial intelligence systems on smartphones and smart speakers, making them dial phone numbers or open websites. In the wrong hands, the technology could be used to unlock doors, wire money or buy stuff online — simply with music playing over the radio.

A group of students from University of California, Berkeley and Georgetown University showed in 2016 that they could hide commands in white noise played over loudspeakers and through YouTube videos to get smart devices to turn on airplane mode or open a website. This month, some of those Berkeley researchers published a research paper that went further, saying they could embed commands directly into recordings of music or spoken text.

Image- youtube

‘We wanted to see if we could make it even more stealthy,’ said Nicholas Carlini, a fifth-year Ph.D. student in computer security at U.C. Berkeley and one of the paper’s authors. Mr. Carlini added that while there was no evidence that these techniques have left the lab, it may only be a matter of time before someone starts exploiting them. ‘My assumption is that the malicious people already employ people to do what I do,’ he said. These deceptions illustrate how artificial intelligence — even as it is making great strides — can still be tricked and manipulated. Computers can be fooled into identifying an airplane as a cat just by changing a few pixels of a digital image, while researchers can make a self-driving car swerve or speed up simply by pasting small stickers on road signs and confusing the vehicle’s computer vision system.

The proliferation of voice-activated gadgets amplifies the implications of such tricks. Smartphones and smart speakers that use digital assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri are set to outnumber people by 2021, according to the research firm Ovum. And more than half of all American households will have at least one smart speaker by then, according to Juniper Research…There is already a history of smart devices being exploited for commercial gains through spoken commands.

Last year, Burger King caused a stir with an online ad that purposely asked ‘O.K., Google, what is the Whopper burger?” Android devices with voice-enabled search would respond by reading from the Whopper’s Wikipedia page. The ad was canceled after viewers started editing the Wikipedia page to comic effect.

A few months later, the animated series South Park followed up with an entire episode built around voice commands that caused viewers’ voice-recognition assistants to parrot adolescent obscenities. There is no American law against broadcasting subliminal messages to humans, let alone machines…Courts have ruled that subliminal messages may constitute an invasion of privacy, but the law has not extended the concept of privacy to machines.

Now the technology is racing even further ahead of the law. Last year, researchers at Princeton University and China’s Zhejiang University demonstrated that voice-recognition systems could be activated by using frequencies inaudible to the human ear. The attack first muted the phone so the owner wouldn’t hear the system’s responses, either.

The technique, which the Chinese researchers called DolphinAttack, can instruct smart devices to visit malicious websites, initiate phone calls, take a picture or send text messages. While DolphinAttack has its limitations — the transmitter must be close to the receiving device — experts warned that more powerful ultrasonic systems were possible…Mr. Carlini said he was confident that in time he and his colleagues could mount successful adversarial attacks against any smart device system on the market. ‘We want to demonstrate that it’s possible,’ he said, ‘and then hope that other people will say, ‘O.K. this is possible, now let’s try and fix it.’”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

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: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions:  Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

II. While Reading Activities

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. People have grown accustomed to talking to their smart devices.
  2. Researchers can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear.
  3. A group of students showed in 2016 that they could hide commands in white noise played over loudspeakers.
  4. The students wanted to see if  they could make it even more stealthy.
  5. Malicious people already employ people to give secret commands to phones.
  6. These deceptions illustrate how artificial intelligence  can be manipulated.
  7. With audio attacks, the researchers are exploiting the gap between human and machine speech recognition.
  8. There is already a history of smart devices being exploited for commercial gains.
  9. There is no American law against broadcasting subliminal messages to humans.
  10. Courts have ruled that subliminal messages may constitute an invasion of privacy.

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. Researchers in Japan and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands.
  2. Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant are the three major devices listed.
  3. In the wrong hands, the technology could be used to unlock doors, wire money or buy stuff online.
  4. Harvard researchers published a research paper  saying they could embed commands directly into recordings of music or spoken text.
  5. Nicholas Carlini is a  security  guard at U.C. Berkeley.
  6. Mr. Carlini believes that malicious people already employ people to give hidden commands.
  7. The bottom line is that artificial intelligence can be tricked and manipulated.
  8. Smartphones and smart speakers that use digital assistants  will not outnumber people by 2021.
  9. Amazon said it has taken steps to ensure its Echo smart speaker is secure.
  10. There is already a history of smart devices being exploited for commercial gains through spoken commands.

Grammar Focus:

Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  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.

This month, some of those ___researchers published a research ___that went further, saying they could ___commands directly into recordings of ___or spoken text. So while a ___listener hears someone talking or an ___playing, Amazon’s Echo ___might hear an instruction to add something to your ___list.

WORD LIST: shopping, embed, Berkeley, speaker,  orchestra, paper, human,  music,

III. Post Reading Activities

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

  1. Do you use Siri, Alexa and Google’s Assistant regularly?
  2. Do you feel secure about your information?
  3. After reading this article how do you feel about your smart devices? Do you trust them?
  4. Think of ways you can deter malicious outsiders from interfering with your iPhones and other devices.

 

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: Technology