How Christmas Came to the Santa Maria Flats By Elia W. Peattie

“Peattie’s Christmas story will be appreciated by both children and adults. The Lease includes restrictive rules: no running, jumping, and nothing else that might satisfy children’s natural liberties. But it also includes a ‘clause’ about no peddlers or agents entering the building. Is Santa allowed to make deliveries to the children or not?”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

There were twenty-six flat children, and none of them had ever been flat children until that year. Previously they had all been home children. and as such had, of course, had beautiful Christmases, in which their relations with Santa Claus had been of the most intimate and personal nature.

Now, owing to their residence in the Santa Maria flats, and the Lease, all was changed… Though, to be sure—as every one of the flat children knew—they were in the greatest kind of luck to be allowed to live at all, and especially were they fortunate past the lot of children to be permitted to live in a flat… The twenty-six children of the Santa Maria flats belonged to twenty families.

All of these twenty families were peculiar, as you might learn any day by interviewing the families concerning one another. But they bore with each other’s peculiarities quite cheerfully and spoke in the hall when they met. Sometimes this tolerance would even extend to conversation about the janitor, a thin creature who did the work of five men. The ladies complained that he never smiled…’if only the janitor would smile. But he looks like a cemetery.’

Santa Maria Flats

Only Kara Johnson never said anything on the subject because she knew why Carlsen didn’t smile, and was sorry for it, and would have made it all right—if it hadn’t been for Lars Larsen.

Dear, dear, but this is a digression from the subject of the Lease. It was in the Lease not to run—not to jump—not to yell. It was in the Lease not to sing in the halls, not to call from story to story, not to slide down the banisters…It was in the Lease, too, that no peddler or agent, or suspicious stranger was to enter the Santa Maria, neither by the front door nor the back…It was this that worried the children.For how could such a dear, disorderly, democratic rascal as the children’s saint ever hope to gain a pass to that exclusive entrance and get up to the rooms of the flat children?

“You can see for yourself,” said Ernest, who lived on the first floor, to Roderick who lived on the fourth, ‘that if Santa Claus can’t get up the front stairs, and can’t get up the back stairs, that all he can do is to come down the chimney. And he can’t come down the chimney—at least, he can’t get out of the fireplace.’

Roderick could see for himself. There was an inch-wide opening down which the Friend of the Children could squeeze himself, and, as everybody knows, he needs a good deal of room now, for he has grown portly with age, and his pack every year becomes bigger, owing to the ever-increasing number of girls and boys he has to supply…Nevertheless, hope springs eternal, and the boys each and individually asked their fathers—tremendously wise and good men—if they thought there was any hope that Santa Claus would get into the Santa Maria flats, and each of the fathers looked up from his paper and said he’d be blessed if he did! Nobody could laugh because a boy was found crying!

The girls cried too—for the awful news was whistled up tubes and whistled down tubes, till all the twenty-six flat children knew about it. The next day it was talked over in the brick court, where the children used to go to shout and race. But on this day there was neither shouting nor racing. There was, instead, a shaking of heads, a surreptitious dropping of tears, a guessing and protesting and lamenting.

All the flat mothers congratulated themselves on the fact that their children were becoming so quiet and orderly… It was decided, after a solemn talk, that every child should go to its own fireplace and investigate. In the event of any fireplace being found with an opening big enough to admit Santa Claus, a note could be left directing him along the halls to the other apartments.

A spirit of universal brotherhood had taken possession of the Santa Maria flatters. Misery bound them together. But the investigation proved to be disheartening. The cruel asbestos grates were everywhere. Hope lay strangled! … No one suspected the truth, though the children were often heard to say that it was evident that there was to be no Christmas for them! The day before Christmas was gray and dismal. There was no wind—indeed, there was a sort of tightness in the air, as if the supply of freshness had given out… There appeared to be no stir—no mystery. No whisperings went on in the corners—or at least, so it seemed to the sad babies of the Santa Maria…

Even the janitor noticed it. He spoke about it to Kara at the head of the back stairs, and she held her hand so as to let him see the new silver ring on her fourth finger, and he let go of the rope on the elevator on which he was standing and dropped to the bottom of the shaft, so that Kara sent up a wild hallo of alarm.

But the janitor emerged as melancholy and unruffled as ever, only looking at his watch to see if it had been stopped by the concussion… It seemed to the flat children that they had been asleep but a few moments when there came a terrible burst of wind that shook even that great house to its foundations. Actually, as they sat up in bed and called to their parents or their nurses, their voices seemed smothered with roar.

Sounds of falling glass, of breaking shutters, of crashing chimneys greeted their ears—not that they knew what all these sounds meant. They only knew that it seemed as if the end of the world had come.  After a terrible time the wind settled down into a steady howl like a hungry wolf, and the children went to sleep, worn out with fright and conscious that the bedclothes could not keep out the cold.

Dawn came. The children awoke, shivering. They sat up in bed and looked about them—yes, they did, the whole twenty-six of them in their different apartments and their different homes. And what do you suppose they saw—what do you suppose the twenty-six flat children saw as they looked about them?

Why, stockings, stuffed full, and trees hung full, and boxes packed full! Yes, they did! It was Christmas morning, and the bells were ringing, and all the little flat children were laughing, for Santa Claus had come!

He had really come! In the wind and wild weather, while the tongues of the wind licked hungrily at the roof, while the wind howled like a hungry wolf, he had crept in somehow and laughing, no doubt, and chuckling, without question, he had filled the stockings and the trees and the boxes!

Dear me, dear me, but it was a happy time! It makes me out of breath to think what a happy time it was, and how surprised the flat children were, and how they wondered how it could ever have happened.

But they found out, of course! It happened in the simplest way! Every skylight in the place was blown off and away, and that was how the wind howled so, and how the bedclothes would not keep the children warm, and how Santa Claus got in…And of course all the parents thought and said that Santa Claus must have jumped down the skylights.

By noon there were other skylights put in, and not a sign left of the way he made his entrance—not that the way mattered a bit, no, not a bit…In closing it is only proper to mention that Kara Johnson crocheted a white silk four-in-hand necktie for Carl Carlsen, the janitor—and the janitor smiled!

Read full Story here

Author Elia W. Peattie (January 15, 1862 – July 12, 1935) was an American author, journalist and critic. Wikipedia

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 improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

Directions:  Have students examine the photos, then create a list of  words and  ideas that group members think might be related to this article. Next, answer the following questions:

  1. Look at the picture what would you call this building?
  2. Have you ever lived in flat?  An apartment? A house?
  3. Which did you like better?
  4. If you are from another country what are the names of buildings where people live?
  5. Have you ever wished for a gift  but thought that you would  not receive ti?
  6. In the U.S. small children believe in Santa Clause. Do children in your country believe in Santa?

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. There were twenty-six flats in the building.
  2. The Lease was a strange  one.
  3. The Lease was a strange forbiddance, a ukase issued by a tyrant
  4. The children were lucky to be permitted to live in a flat.
  5. All of these twenty families were peculiar.
  6. The ladies would often gossip in the vestibule.
  7. “If only the janitor would smile.
  8. This is a digression from the subject of the Lease.
  9. But the janitor emerged as melancholy.
  10. They said that Santa Claus must have jumped down the skylights.

 

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. There was twenty-six flat children.
  2. They had the greatest kind of luck.
  3. There were many flats in the great city.

II

  1. Cecil were evicted, along with his parents.
  2. He looks like a cemetery.
  3. People wanted a cheerful janitor.

 

III

  1. It was over the Lease not to run and not to jump.
  2. The boys and the girls cried at learning the news.
  3. All the flat mothers congratulated themselves.

 

Reading Comprehension 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.

‘You can see for yourself!’ said Ernest ___.Roderick could___for himself. There was an inch-wide opening down which the Friend of the Children could ___himself, and, as___ knows, he needs a good deal of room now, for he has grown___with age, and his___every year becomes bigger, owing to the ever-increasing ___of girls and boys he has to supply.

WORD LIST: number, portly,  squeeze, pack, tragically, see,  everybody,

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 Questions for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions/statements. 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. Why were the children called ‘Flat’ children?
  2. What was it about the janitor the families didn’t like?
  3. The story states, Only Kara Johnson never said anything on the subject because she knew why Carlsen didn’t smile, and was sorry for it, and would have made it all right—if it hadn’t been for Lars Larsen.” Can you guess what happened with Kara, Lars and Carlsen?
  4. Why did the children think there would be no Christmas that year at the Flats?
  5. Who is the “Friend of the Children” ?
  6. What was the plan the children thought of?
  7. How did the children’s  plan turn out?
  8. In the end, how did Santa get into the flats?
  9. Why do you think the  janitor finally  smiled at the end of the story?
  10. After reading this story name at least one new thing  that you’ve learned. Discuss what you’ve learned with your group members and share as a class.

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

Lesson Plan: The Little Match Girl By Hans Christian Andersen

“Hans Christian Andersen,(April 1805 – 4 August 1875), in Denmark usually called H.C. Andersen, was a Danish author. Although a prolific writer of plays, travelogues, novels, and poems, he is best remembered for his fairy tales. Andersen’s popularity is not limited to children; his stories express themes that transcend age and nationality. The Little Match Girl is among his most famous stories.” Wikipedia

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Han Christian Andersen

Excerpt: “Andersen’s fairy tales, of which no fewer than 3381 works have been translated into more than 125 languages, have become culturally embedded in the West’s collective consciousness, readily accessible to children, but presenting lessons of virtue and resilience in the face of adversity for mature readers as well.

Early Life Andersen’s father, who had received an elementary school education, introduced his son to literature, reading to him the Arabian Nights.Andersen’s mother, Anne Marie Andersdatter, was an illiterate washerwoman. Following her husband’s death in 1816, she remarried in 1818.

Andersen was sent to a local school for poor children where he received a basic education and had to support himself, working as an apprentice to a weaver and, later, to a tailor. At fourteen, he moved to Copenhagen to seek employment as an actor.

Having an excellent soprano voice, he was accepted into the Royal Danish Theatre, but his voice soon changed.

A colleague at the theatre told him that he considered Andersen a poet. Taking the suggestion seriously, Andersen began to focus on writing.

He later said his years in school were the darkest and most bitter of his life. At one school, he lived at his schoolmaster’s home, where he was abused, being told that it was “to improve his character”. He later said the faculty had discouraged him from writing, driving him into a depression…”

The Little Match Girl is a short story by Hans Christian Andersen. The story, about a poor, dying child’s dreams and hope, was first published in 1845.

Source: Wikipedia 

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Level: intermediate-advanced

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

Time:  approximately 2  hours.

Objectives: Students will achieve a better understanding of the story The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen, through  learning literary devices and terms  (e.g., imagery, symbolism, protagonist, themes)  used for analyzing stories.  They will also learn how to  analyze the relationship between characters, and events in the story using these literary devices.

Reading Strategies: Students will make predictions based on the title; draw conclusions and make generalizations about what they have read by utilizing background knowledge, looking for the main ideas, making notes, highlighting or underlining specific information, and by answering discussion questions. They will learn new vocabulary through inference, highlighting unknown words, and using the dictionary.

Materials:

A copy of the story The Little Match Girl

Biography of Hans Christian Andersen.

Examples of  Components for Literary Analysis

I. Pre-Reading Activities

Directions: In groups have students read the brief biography of Hans C. Andersen. Have students focus on his childhood. Some highlights from the life of Hans Christian Andersen will help students make connections to the story.

Students should also know when the story was written: This story was written in the midst of the United States’ and Europe’s industrial revolution (1820-1870’s), during which child labor was commonplace, and there was no “safety net” for destitute children in poor health and homeless.

Source: History of Child Labor

Pre-reading Discussion Questions

Directions: Place students in groups and let them discuss the following questions.

  1. Have you ever seen underaged children selling items on the street in today’s society?
  2. Have you (or someone you know) ever had to sell items to get money to eat or pay rent? To help your family?
  3. Have you met people so poor they had to sell small items on the street?
  4. If you could help some people during the Christmas or New Years season would you?

 

Stimulating Background Knowledge

Prediction Organizer Charts

Directions: Students may use these reading charts by Pace High School as  pre-reading, while-reading and post-reading tools to aid their comprehension of the events and characters in the story.

Prediction Outcomes Chart

 

II. While Reading

Vocabulary Word Inference

Directions: Place students in groups and have them infer the meanings of the words in bold font taken from the story.

  1. No one had given her a single farthing.
  2. They were very large slippers, which her mother had hitherto worn.
  3. One slipper was nowhere to be found; the other had been laid hold of by an urchin.
  4. The poor little thing lost them as she scuffled away across the street.
  5. She did not venture to go home.
  6. Grandmother, told her that when a star falls, a soul ascends to God.
  7. She drew another match against the wall nd in the lustre there stood the old grandmother.
  8. Old grandmother, so bright and radiant, so mild, and with such an expression of love.
  9. And the matches gave such a brilliant light that it was brighter than at noon-day.
  10. No one even dreamed of the splendour in which, with her grandmother she had entered on the joys of a new year.

Reading Comprehension: Questions From the Story

  1. When does the story take place?
  2. Why were her slippers so large?
  3. Why didn’t she want to go home?
  4. Why did she light the first match?
  5. Why did she light the entire bundle of matches?
  6. What happened to the little girl at the end?
  7. What did the little girl see before she died?

Using Charts for Guidance

Directions: Use the following chart to help make predictions about the characters in the story

 

Character Prediction Chart

 

Questions forCharacter Analysis

From whose point of view is the story being told?

Who is the protagonist in this story?

Give a brief description of the following characters using the chart above:

The Father:What kind of man do you think he is?

The Mother: What do you think the mother was like?

The Grandmother: Describe the grandmother.

The Little Match girl: What kind of person is she?

 

Questions for Literary Analysis

  1.  What are some of  the themes in the story?
  2. Provide examples of how  Andersen uses imagery.
  3. Does  Andersen provide symbolism the story? How?

 

Questions For Reflection

  1. Do you think Andersen’s personal life affected his writing  this story of a poor matchstick girl? In what way?
  2. During the writing of this story, it was legal for underaged children to work. Can underage  children still work today? Why or why not?
  3. What  can kids who live in poverty today do to make money?
  4. How is what kids do today to earn money different (or the same) as the little matchstick girl?
  5. If you met the little Match girl how do you think you could help her?
  6. If you could speak to her father, what would you say to him?  What would you say to her grandmother? Her mother?
  7. How did the ending make you feel?  Is this how you expected the story to end? Why or why not?

Ideas for Writing Assignment

Write a story where the grandmother is still alive.

Write a story where the little girl’s mother is still alive.

Write an ending describing the father’s reaction when he discovers his daughter is dead.

Write a different ending for the story.

ANSWER KEY

The Tug of War Within the Deaf and the Hearing Communities

“Your whole life, they’ve been trying to take you away from me,” my father says to me, referring to the deaf community. But the deaf community could just as easily say the same about my father.” S. Katz, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Credit- Katherine Lam, NYT

Excerpt: Is There a Right Way to Be Deaf? By Sarah Katz, The New York Times

“More than 90 percent of deaf and hard-of-hearing children are born to hearing parents like mine, who have little to no experience interacting with deaf people. When it was discovered that I was profoundly deaf at six weeks old, my parents faced a common decision: Should they adapt themselves to their deaf child, learn sign language, and embrace deaf culture, or have their deaf child adapt to hearing culture, give her cochlear implants or hearing aids, and train her in the precarious art of lip-reading?

My parents chose the former, believing that sign language would provide me with equal access to the opportunities afforded my hearing twin brother. So, when I was 6 months old, my parents welcomed educators from a local deaf school into their home to give signing lessons. Over several months, my mother learned to sign with me…Using sign language, I communicated a lot — even more than my brother. But then something strange happened. I began speaking. Aloud. In English.

Dress pretty, you like?’ my mother recalls me asking her when I was around 3 years old. I did, it turned out, have residual hearing, as later tests confirmed.

But I spoke using classic American Sign Language word order, which involves a grammatical structure closer to French than English — And, although my mother knew that my syntax did not indicate limited cognitive ability, but rather an acute, developing awareness of the language, she began to wonder if sign language was the right choice after all. Was disregarding an aural-oral approach restricting my natural gift of gab?

After more research my parents found what they thought was a middle path. Rather than have me undergo cochlear implant surgery my parents hoped to supplement my sign language education with cued speech, a visual communication system invented in 1966 at Gallaudet University that functions as a supplement to speech-reading (only 30 percent of speech is visible on the lips)…Cued speech can be learned in just 48 hours. My mother was convinced that this bicultural-bilingual approach involving a combination of cued speech and sign language lessons could give me the best of both worlds: full visual access to English and the hearing community, and concurrent access to sign language and the deaf community.

But we apparently couldn’t have it both ways. When the educators from the local deaf school learned that my parents were considering cued speech, they became livid. ‘If you choose cued speech,’ my mother recalls one of them saying, ‘we’re not coming back here.’

In the deaf community, some feel that cued speech, like cochlear implants, threatens deaf culture because they believe it arises from a medical model of deafness, through which deafness is perceived as an undesirable trait that needs to be treated or cured.

A ‘social model,’ on the other hand, suggests that the environment must adapt to the deaf person, whose “natural language” is sign language. The educators even asked my parents to consider sending me to their residential program, where, surrounded by fluent signers, I would absorb sign language at a faster pace and have full exposure to deaf culture… My mother was stumped. On the one hand, she didn’t know if cued speech would work, but desperately wanted to succeed at finding a way to communicate with me quickly and effectively. On the other hand, she didn’t want me to be alienated from the deaf community. My father, however, was resolute: He would not send his child away.

Sign Language Chart-amazon

Together, they decided the promise of cued speech was worth the risk for at least a year at the nearby public school. If it didn’t work out, they would have the deaf school’s residential program as a fallback option.. Throughout my life, I’ve felt like the object of a constant tug of war between the deaf and hearing communities. Although I’m rewardingly self-employed, married and highly literate, I still struggle in hearing-centric environments… Well-meaning hearing people frequently insult me with ‘compliments’ about how well I’ve assimilated, like, ‘I can barely tell you’re deaf!’ (We call comments like these ‘audist’ — akin to ‘racist’ or ‘sexist’ — because they assume deaf people like me must speak aloud and sound like a hearing person to be deemed fortunate or successful.)

On the other hand, when I spend time with deaf friends, I’m often chided by them for not being more fluent in sign language, or otherwise embracing a more culturally deaf way of life. According to them, I’ve succumbed to audism by using my voice to speak more often than my hands, and cued speech to absorb information… I still hold out hope that the deaf and hearing communities will come to a compromise.”

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 improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

Directions: Examine the title of the post and the actual article.  Examine the photos, then create a list of  words and  ideas  that you  and your group members 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. Some people are born deaf.
  2. The class studied aural anatomy yesterday.
  3. They reached an oral agreement.
  4. My mother was stumped by the response.
  5. Researchers look for ways to communicate effectively with deaf children.
  6. She didn’t want me to be alienated from the deaf community.
  7. I’m a 30-year-old who wears hearing aids.
  8. I’ve succumbed to audism by using my voice to speak
  9. She’s often chided by her  deaf friends for speaking.
  10. My father was resolute in his plans for me.

Color Vocabulary Map by Enchanted Learning

Grammar Focus: Identifying 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.

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

___the other hand, when I spend time ___deaf friends, I’m often chided ___them___not being more fluent ___sign language, or otherwise embracing a more culturally deaf way ___life.According ___them, I’ve succumbed ___audism___using my voice___speak more often than my hands, and cued speech___ absorb information.

Reading Comprehension 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.

In the ___community, some feel that___speech, like ___implants, ___deaf ___because they believe it arises from a ___model of deafness, through which ___is perceived as an ___trait that needs to be ___or cured.

WORD LIST: treated, undesirable, deafness, medical, culture,  threatens, cochlear, cued, deaf,

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 Questions for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions/statements. 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. Are you or someone you know hearing impaired? If yes, can you describe your experiences with non-hearing people? What about your experiences with people who can hear?
  2. Why is the following comment.I can barely tell you’re deaf!” considered to be an insult to deaf people?
  3. Why did the author’s parents choose to have  her learn sign language?
  4. Why is the classic American Sign Language word order structure closer to French than English?
  5. According to the article what is the difference between cued speech and a social model?
  6. The author states, ‘When the educators from the local deaf school learned that my parents were considering cued speech, they became livid. ‘If you choose cued speech,’ my mother recalls one of them saying, ‘we’re not coming back here.’ Why were the educators angry?
  7. What problems does the author face with her friends in the deaf community?
  8. Who is Amy Crumrine, and what solution does she offer to the deaf and hearing communities?
  9. After reading this article name at least one new thing that you’ve learned about the deaf community. Discuss what you’ve learned with your group members and share as a class.
  10. Create a list that of suggestions for ways the non-hearing and hearing people living together in a deaf community might work things out.
  11. As a group search the web and find famous people who are deaf. Write brief summaries of how they have handled being deaf. Share your findings with the class.

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

The Importance of Positive Relationships For Children

“Traumatic events and toxic relationships during childhood can cast long shadows, often damaging mental health well into adulthood.” K. Lazar, The Boston Globe

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Evan Wilcox (left) and Nick Sisler in 2011 (left) and 2019. Photo- Nic Antaya for the Boston Globe

Excerpt:  Positive relationships can buffer childhood trauma and toxic stress, By Kay Lazar, The Boston Globe

“But a growing body of research suggests sustained, positive relationships with caring adults can help mitigate the harmful effects of childhood trauma. And specialists say pediatricians, social workers, and others who work with kids should take steps to monitor and encourage those healthy relationships — just as they’re careful to screen for abuse and neglect.

Otherwise, ‘we will miss attempts to help people recover or heal,’ said Dr. Robert Sege, a pediatrician and researcher at Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center.

In the latest contribution to this research, a study recently published in JAMA Pediatrics, Sege and his coauthors found that supportive childhood relationships dramatically reduced the likelihood of developing depression and other mental health problems in adults.

The researchers studied several types of relationships, including bonds within families, between friends, and those in the community.

The survey included seven specific questions to measure how nurturing those sustained relationships were. Respondents were asked how often as a child they felt able to talk to their family about feelings, felt their family stood by them in difficult times, enjoyed participating in community traditions, felt a sense of belonging in high school, felt supported by friends, had at least two nonparent adults who took genuine interest in them, and felt safe and protected by an adult in their home…Dr. Renee Boynton-Jarrett, a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center, said the growing recognition of the power of positive relationships to foster resilience will help busy physicians remember to ask about promising family, school, and community relationships. Armed with that information, a pediatrician can make more useful recommendations, she said. For instance, Boynton-Jarrett said some families facing particularly challenging episodes might be open to the suggestion that they reach out to relatives or friends for help.

‘Maybe mom has a significant mental health condition, but that child has two aunts who are very engaged, and a grandmother who is also very engaged,’ she said.

If a child seems to lack solid relationships with adult relatives, doctors might suggest parents or guardians look outside the family for support systems that can take root. Caregivers who help kids find these supportive relationships can often see children reap the benefits in real time.

In 2007, Trudy Wilcox was worried about her 8-year-old son, Evan, a lonely third-grader in Cambridge who struggled with speaking, reading, and writing and who was being bullied at school. Wilcox was overwhelmed, often traveling to Virginia to visit her frail parents while also trying to get Evan more assistance in school with his severe learning disability.

She knew she needed help, so she reached out to the mentorship program Big Brothers Big Sisters, which paired Evan with Nick Sisler, a gregarious, hockey-loving freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology…The MIT hockey rink became Evan’s oasis. He would tag along with Sisler and fist-bump with all the players as they came off the ice. The players would invite him onto the ice after practice, cheering him on as he gingerly skated down and shot a goal — golden memories seared in his psyche a decade later…What started as something Sisler signed up for to fulfill a volunteer requirement at his college fraternity has blossomed into a 12-year-long friendship.

Sisler, now 30 and the founder of a Boston software company, has taught Evan how to shave and how to lubricate a bicycle chain. He’s also helped him learn how to make friends.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay also provided another trusted confidante — a ‘match support’ person who regularly checked in with Sisler, Evan, and his mother, offering guidance and feedback…

Today, Evan is majoring in math, and he hopes to become a researcher. His conversation skills are still a work in progress. He and Sisler recently grabbed a pizza together and then headed to one of the last Red Sox games of the season…Looking through the researchers’ lens, Evan was lucky: Though he was lonely and bullied at school, he had seven sustained, caring relationships — with his mother, Sisler, his match support person, and his four math teachers.”

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 improving oral skills. 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: Have  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. Traumatic events can damage a child.
  2. Toxic relationships can harm a child’s mental health.
  3. Positive relationships can help mitigate the harmful effects of childhood trauma.
  4. A  child’s bond with family members is especially important.
  5. Childhood experiences, such as neglect, or severe family dysfunction can cause trauma.
  6. The relationships should be nurturing for children.
  7. Doctors should pay closer attention to early childhood adversity and toxic stress.
  8. There is a growing recognition of the power of positive relationships.
  9. Some programs encourage collaboration between community groups and families to help children.
  10. Evan had a severe learning disability.

 

 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. Supportive childhood relationships reduced the likelihood of developing depression.
  2. The researchers studied several type of relationships.
  3. The survey included seven specific questions to measure how nurturing  relationships were.

II

  1. Respondents were asked how often as a child they felt able to talk to their family about feelings.
  2. Armed with that information, a pediatrician can make more useful recommendation.
  3. Trudy Wilcox was worry about her 8-year-old son, Evan.

III

  1. Nick Sisler was a  freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  2. The MIT hockey rink became Evans oasis.
  3. Sisler, now 30, is the founder of a Boston software company.

 

Reading Comprehension

Identify The  Speakers

Directions: Place students in groups. Hand out the following quotes from speakers in the article. Members are to identify the speakers from the article. The first group to correctly  identify all of the speakers wins.

  1. “…specialists say pediatricians, social workers, and others who work with kids should take steps to monitor and encourage those healthy relationships — just as they’re careful to screen for abuse and neglect. Otherwise, we will miss attempts to help people recover or heal.”
  2. “This thinking is catching on…These positive experiences may give kids a flashlight to shine into the future.”
  3. “The growing recognition of the power of positive relationships to foster resilience will help busy physicians remember to ask about promising family, school, and community relationships.”
  4. “I am Evan’s sole parent. We don’t have extended family in the area, and I saw Nick as a friend for Evan, someone who could provide fun, which wasn’t my strong suit,”
  5. “I felt less lonely…He’s a friend who would be beside me all the time.”

 

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 Questions for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions/statements. 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. Have you ever helped a young child who had problems such as a family member or a friend?
  2. For those with children, do you feel that you provide a nurturing and supportive relationship with your child/children? How do you accomplish this?
  3. What were the seven specific questions included on the survey to measure how nurturing a child’s sustained relationships were?
  4. Who is Trudy Wilcox and why was she worried?
  5. What was the name of the program Wilcox contacted?
  6. Who is Nick Sisler?
  7. Are you familiar with  The Big Brothers and Sisters organization? Have you or someone you know worked with them? If so, please describe the experience.
  8. Would you be interested in joining an organization that helped troubled children? Why or why not?
  9. After reading this article name at least one new idea that you’ve learned. Discuss what you’ve learned with your group members and share as a class.

Group Project

Directions: In groups use the web to find out additional  information about the mentorship program Big Brothers Big Sisters.

  1. How does one become a mentor?
  2. Are there limits on the age of the children accepted into the program?
  3. How long can a child remain within the program.
  4. If possible arrange a trip to visit a Big Brothers Big Sisters organization in your vicinity.

ANSWER KEY

Offering Advice That People Will Appreciate

“A friend recently approached me in distress saying she wasn’t sure if she should dump her boyfriend or not…she asked what I think she should do. It gave me pause. Of course, I thought she should get rid of the guy, but I didn’t want to put our relationship at risk in case she stayed with him after I shared my opinion.” A. Goldfarb, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Excerpt: How to Give People Advice They’ll Be Delighted to Take, By Anna Goldfarb, The New York Times

“As anyone who has offered guidance knows, giving spectacular advice doesn’t necessarily mean people will take it. Advice is a gift, albeit one bundled with inherent power dynamics. That “I know your situation best and here’s what you should do” attitude is what can make advice-giving so fraught.

‘Expertise is a tricky thing,’ said Leigh Tost, an associate professor of management and organization at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. ‘To take advice from someone is to agree to be influenced by them.’ Sometimes when people don’t take advice, they’re rejecting the idea of being controlled by the advice-giver more than anything.

Nevertheless, it’s understandable to want to help when we see people struggling or in pain. It feels good to give direction. In fact, giving advice increases one’s sense of personal power, according to a study published last year in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

photo- La vita e bella

Researchers identified three factors that determine whether input will be taken to heart.  People will go along with advice if it was costly to attain and the task is difficult (think: lawyers interpreting a contract).

Advice is also more likely to be taken if the person offering counsel is more experienced and expresses extreme confidence in the quality of the advice (doctors recommending a treatment, for example). Emotion plays a role, too: Decision makers are more likely to disregard advice if they feel certain about what they’re going to do (staying with a dud boyfriend no matter what) or they’re angry (sending an ill-advised text while fuming).

So, where does this leave caring friends and concerned co-workers — those people in our lives who aren’t necessarily experts, but want to help?  You can chime in, but it’s crucial to approach the matter with sensitivity and center the person who is looking for assistance.

‘It may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how often people can overlook the need to consider what the decision maker wants and why,’ Dr. Tost said. Here are other things to keep in mind to make sure the advice you give to others will land so you, and the person you’re advising, can feel good about the exchange.

Evaluate the situation. Make sure you’re actually being asked to give counsel. It’s easy to confuse being audience to a venting session with being asked to weigh in. Sometimes people just want to feel heard.

Be clear on the advice-seeker’s goals. When people approach Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like an Artist, for advice, he drills down and identifies the exact problem:’What do you want to know specifically that I can help you with?’ This way, he won’t overwhelm the person with irrelevant information.

Consider your qualifications. People often go to those close to them for advice, even if family members and friends aren’t always in the best position to effectively assist, Dr. Tost said. Ask yourself: ‘Do I have the expertise, experience or knowledge needed to provide helpful advice in this situation?’ If you do, fantastic! Advise away. If you don’t, rather than give potentially unhelpful advice, identify someone who is in a better position to help.‘The key is to put your loved one’s needs and interests front and center,’ Dr. Tost said.

Collaborate on a solution. Be friendly. Words have power. Words can heal…It’s essential to start the advice-giving conversation with a reassuring tone…Certified life coach and leadership trainer Dee C. Marshall makes sure to praise the advice-seeker before she offers a single suggestion. She’ll say something like, ‘I really applaud you for knowing to do X and knowing to do Y.’ Complementing someone’s judgment not only makes the person feel good about his or herself, but it helps keep the equilibrium intact.

Share experience. People tend to resist when advice is preachy, Ms. Marshall said. Saying, ‘I’ve been there and here’s what I did,’ makes people more receptive.

Identify takeaways (and give an out). It’s not realistic for people to act on every piece of advice you give… After discussing a problem and suggesting how to handle it, Ms. Marshall asks her clients what tidbit resonated with them the most. Then she gives them permission to disregard any suggestions she made that weren’t a good fit.

Agree on next steps. Lastly, ask what kind of continued support is needed (if any) and what efforts should be avoided… Meeting the advice-seeker at this level further establishes the person’s autonomy.”

 

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 improving oral skills. 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.  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.

Brainstorming chart by UIE

 

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. My friend  approached me in distress.
  2. Advice is a gift, albeit one bundled with inherent power dynamics.
  3. You can chime in, but it’s crucial to approach the matter with sensitivity.
  4. It’s surprising how often people can overlook the speaker.
  5. Make sure you’re actually being asked to give counsel.
  6. Be sure you’ve grasped the heart of the issue.
  7. Make sure that your suggestions  are not redundant.
  8. Consider your qualifications first.
  9. Make certain that you have the expertise, needed to provide helpful advice.
  10. It’s essential to start the advice-giving conversation with a reassuring tone.

ELLteaching 2.0 vocabulary chart

 

Grammar Focus: Identifying 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.

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

  1. I didn’t want ___put our relationship___ risk ___case she changed her mind.
  2. It’s understandable ___want ___help when we see people struggling or___pain.
  3. Giving advice increases one’s sense ___personal power.
  4. Here are other things ___keep___ mind ___make sure the advice you give ___others will help.

 

Reading Comprehension

Identify TheSpeakers

Directions: Place students in groups. Hand out the following quotes from speakers in the article. Members are to identify the speakers from the article. The first group to correctlyidentify all of the speakers wins.

  1. “Expertise is a tricky thing…“To take advice from someone is to agree to be influenced by them.Sometimes when people don’t take advice, they’re rejecting the idea of being controlled by the advice-giver more than anything.”
  2. “It’s almost like people will say to you, ‘I want a strategy,’ and what they really mean is, ‘I want someone to understand.”
  3. “Would you be willing to hear some of my ideas, or is now not a good time?” This balances the playing field. Be prepared for the person to decline your offer to give input.
  4. “What do you want to know specifically that I can help you with?” This way, he won’t overwhelm the person with irrelevant information.

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 Questions for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions/statements. 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. Do friends  or family members often come to you for advice? What is your usual reaction? Do they find your answers useful?
  2. Do you ask your friends or family members for advice? Do you find their suggestions useful?
  3. According to the article what are the three factors that determine whether people will take advice?
  4. The article list several good indicators which show people find your advice helpful. What are they?
  5. Life coach Dee C. Marshall states that complementing someone’s judgment before offering advice is important. Why is this important?
  6. After reading this article, do you feel that you’ve learned something about the right way to offer advice to family members and friends? Discuss with your group what new information you’ve learned and share with the class.

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