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

Kids Today Are So Rude -Are Parents to Blame?

“My daughter, who’s 9, recently had a new friend over to play. I gave them a snack and was in the kitchen pouring juice when our visitor bellowed from the next room, ‘More chips!’ I bristled, but I wasn’t surprised. As a mother of three, I’ve long had a front-row seat to children’s declining manners.”N. G. Lipson, The Boston Globe

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Photo- whisper

Excerpt:Why kids today are so rude — and why a little bad behavior might sometimes be a good thing-Nicole G. Lipson, The Boston Globe

“It’s not mislaid soup spoons or white shoes after Labor Day unsettling me. It’s the waning of the most basic acts of courtesy — saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’keeping a door from slamming on the person behind you — and the waxing of rudeness extreme enough to shock. That is, if it weren’t so common.

There’s my neighbor’s tale from her son’s 10th birthday party, when she placed favors — two versions of a detective kit — at the kids’ chairs in an alternating pattern. A girl approached her, indignant, wanting to know why she didn’t get the kit she wanted. My neighbor assured her that the kits were basically the same, but the girl was unappeased. ‘Can you order the other one for me?’ she said.

Photo- Maclean’s

Then there’s the dad who volunteered to coach his daughter’s coed soccer team. A few players refused to participate in scrimmages if placed on a different side than their buddies. At one practice, some, laughing, pelted him with soccer balls. “They see little difference between their parents, coaches, and friends,” he told me. ‘My biggest take-away? Wow, kids have changed.’

Have they ever. Three-quarters of Americans think manners have deteriorated in the United States over the past several decades, according to a 2016 survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The problem isn’t that parents no longer value politeness. Being well-mannered is among the top four virtues they say they wish to instill, up there with responsibility, hard work, and helping others, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center report.

Image- Stivers

Yet what parents say and what they actually do aren’t always the same, and many families are falling short — including my own. No matter how much my husband and I emphasize courtesy, our children still shout at restaurants and answer grown-ups’ questions by mumbling at their shoes, if they say anything at all.

My husband and I sense we’d need to make major shifts in our parenting to raise more polite kids. But at a time when care and concern are often expressed through emojis, and even our political leaders don’t show basic signs of civility, is this investment worth it? What if we can’t even teach good manners in today’s world? Would that matter?

Rude kids may be everywhere, but it’s also true that complaining about the younger generation is an age-old rite of passage. David Finkelhor, a sociology professor at the University of New Hampshire, coined the term ‘juvenoia’ — ’the exaggerated fear of the influence of social change on youth’ — to explain this phenomenon. He attributes it to factors including older people’s investment in the status quo and nostalgia for their own experiences. ‘Adults also tend to forget what childhood was like,’ he says.

Credit-Isabell Espanol -Boston Globe

But plenty of things make our era unique. Take the growing amount of time kids spend using screens…We know that technology lures children away from in-person social exposure. What’s less known is their difficulty regulating behavior once they’ve unplugged. My kids turn into crabby so I was relieved to learn this isn’t a personality flaw, but neurology. ‘There are social skills parents want to cultivate that technology can disrupt,’ says Catherine Steiner-Adair, a Cambridge-based psychologist…

Then there’s our culture to think about. Steiner-Adair says that a third of the time when she speaks to students at school assemblies, one will raise a hand to ask: ‘Could you please help us understand why every single thing you’re telling us not to do, the president of the United States does every day?’

This question highlights the increasingly indecorous behavior of public role models… The frenzied pace of modern life adds to this challenge, making it harder to find room for imparting lessons… Many modern parents have just one or two hours with their children between work and bedtime. ‘The last thing I want to do is come home and immediately get on my kids’ case,’ says Phoebe Segal, an art curator in Boston…

Parents’ stress has a trickle-down effect that affects kids’ ability to be considerate.

‘We can say whatever we want to our children about manners, but more importantly, they’re following our lead,’ says Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert…Even when trying to do what’s best, parents can unwittingly teach bad manners…

Parents think protecting their children from upset will boost their self-esteem, says Weissbourd. But the opposite is true: ‘It’s like the story The Giving Tree. Parents give and give, and their kids just get ruder and more entitled.’

Manners will always have a vital place in our world — and I am fully committed to moving them up my priority list. But sometimes, the goodness we want to see in our kids takes a different form — and it’s already, impeccably, right there in front of us. At least most of the time.”

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: Havestudents to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have themexamine 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. It’s not mislaid soup spoons or white shoes after Labor Day unsettling me.
  2. It’s the waning of the most basic acts of courtesy.
  3. The kid’s chairs were fixed in an alternating pattern.
  4. The little girl was indignant, wanting to know why she didn’t get the kit she wanted.
  5. My neighbor assured her that the kits were basically the same, but the girl was unappeased.
  6. At one practice, the kids pelted him with soccer balls.
  7. Three-quarters of Americans think manners have deteriorated in the United States.
  8. This question highlights the increasingly indecorous behavior of public role models.
  9. The frenzied pace of modern life adds to this challenge, making it harder to find room for imparting lessons.
  10. children skip the most basic acts of courtesy.

 

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,

Additional Prepositions: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_prepositions

  1. Our children still shout ___restaurants.
  2. We’d need ___make major shifts ___our parenting ___raise more polite kids.
  3. Children have contempt ___authority; they show disrespect ___elders.
  4. Those are words attributed ___Socrates, recorded ___two millennia ago.
  5. Take the growing amount ____time kids spend using screens. 
  6. The question hints ___society’s growing casualness.
  7. The last thing I want ___do is come home and get___mykids’ case.
  8. I don’t want ___lose my whole time ___the kids ___arguing.

 

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. “There are social skills parents want to cultivate that technology can disrupt…”
  2. “I can get overwhelmed and exhausted by the minutiae of making dinner and schedules and attending to immediate needs.”
  3. “The last thing I want to do is come home and immediately get on my kids’ case…”
  4. “Even more than through observation, children learn empathy by receiving empathy.”
  5. “We can say whatever we want to our children about manners, but more importantly, they’re following our lead…”
  6. “Likewise, before judging our children’s technology-related rudeness, we must examine our own. Kids watch adults all the time, so when we’re constantly interrupting discussions to check our phone and then losing track of the conversation, they pick up on that.”

 

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. In your opinion, are children (teens) rude today?  If yes, why do you think they are this way?
  2. If you have children of your own, or know someone who does, are the children polite? Explain why or why not.
  3. The author tells the story of her neighbor’s son 10th birthday party. “When she placed favors — two versions of a detective kit — at the kids’ chairs in an alternating pattern. A girl approached her, indignant, wanting to know why she didn’t get the kit she wanted. My neighbor assured her that the kits were basically the same, but the girl was unappeased. ‘Can you order the other one for me?’ she said.  What would have been your response to the little girl?
  4. According to the article, “The problem isn’t that parents no longer value politeness. Being well-mannered is among the top four virtues they say they wish to instill, up there with responsibility, hard work, and helping others.” If parents still value manners, what seems to be the problem?
  5. The article states, Then there’s our culture to think about. Steiner-Adair says that a third of the time when she speaks to students at school assemblies, one will raise a hand to ask: ‘Could you please help us understand why every single thing you’re telling us not to do, the president of the United States does every day?’  How would you answer this student?
  6. Have you read an article or a story heard about a situation where a child was rude?  Share the story with your group.

Role Play

Directions: In groups have students create a role play based on the article they just read. Some can play teens, parents, teachers etc. This exercise will  provide students with a higher level of thinking skills as they  dramatize their interpretations for 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

Category: Culture, Social Issues

Rethinking The U.S. Prison System Through Art Programs

“Thirty Colorado inmates staged One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest…The cast was strip-searched before boarding the bus to their show. The leading man was shackled so tightly that he performed with abrasions on his wrists. And the moment the men finished their bows and the house lights came up, they had to slip out of costume and back into green prison uniforms.”  J.  Healy, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Inmates of Sterling Correctional Facility rehearsing One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Trent Davis Bailey for The New York Times

Excerpt: How a Prison Play Goes on Tour By Jack Healy, The New York Times

“So goes life on the road for a production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, put on by 30 medium-security inmates of the Sterling Correctional Facility, out on Colorado’s remote eastern plains. While prison plays have been around for decades, the challenge of this show was audaciously new: It went on tour.

Over a week in September, the cast and crew took the play to a men’s prison in the tiny town of Limon, Colo., and to a women’s prison in Denver, a 130-mile bus ride from Sterling. Many in the audience had never read the Ken Kesey novel nor seen the Oscar-winning film adaptation starring Jack Nicholson, which tells the story of men inside a 1960s-era Oregon mental ward. For the prison staff, the logistics of transporting a complicated set and 30 prisoners were daunting.

Many in the audience at the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility had not read the Ken Kesey novel or seen the Oscar-winning film adaptation. Credit Tren D. Bailey for The New York Times

For the cast and crew, the six-month journey into the play, through rehearsals and character studies and improv games, and then out beyond the prison walls, was transformative and surreal. It was the first time in years some had been outside Sterling’s 20-foot walls and razor fences.

The show, produced by the University of Denver’s Prison Arts Initiative, is part of a recent expansion of arts programs inside prisons and jails that dovetails with the movement to rethink a corrections system that now holds 2.2 million people in the United States.

Michael J. Clifton, left and Felicion Alexander Charles in character as Aides Williams and Warren. Photo- Trent D. Bailey

Wendy Jason, the managing director of the Justice Arts Coalition, has counted nearly 350 arts programs behind bars nationwide, double the number that existed eight years ago…’People are looking for new ways to engage the system and to transform it from the inside out,’ Ms. Jason said. ‘Is it possible? That’s one of the questions that keeps me up at night.’

Advocates for prison arts — who now include many current and former inmates — say that learning to paint or performing a monologue can imbue humanity and purpose into the bleakness of life behind bars.

Some studies have suggested that prison arts may reduce disciplinary actions inside prison, though it is unclear whether they and other rehabilitation programs reduce recidivism… As the Sterling men’s prison bus, lined with wire cages, plugged across the plains on the way to shows…some men stared at new condos, new highways, new hospitals, new suburbs that had transformed the cityscape of Denver since they had been locked up. ‘You see the cities and the lights,’ said Terry Mosley Jr., 39, who has been incarcerated since he was 18 for killing an 18-year-old in a fight outside a grocery store. ‘You don’t get to see those horizon lines. It’s just walls around you.’

Brett Phillips in character as Randle McMurphy, the role Jack Nicholson made famous in the film version of Cuckoo’s Nest. Photo- Trent D. Bailey

As the men put together the set, each screw and bolt used to build it — the common room of a mental institution — had to be cataloged and tracked…’To build something like this in prison — you have no idea of what it means,’ said Vern Moter, 51, who is serving 24 years for fraud and was part of the stage crew…Before the show in Denver, while the men paced the stage to get into character and checked out the acoustics, their run-throughs were interrupted by corrections officers doing their regular head count of prisoners…For Dean Williams, the executive director of the Department of Corrections, bringing artists and audience members into prison was part of a strategy to make life inside prison as similar as possible to life outside.

It is called normalization, an idea inspired by Scandinavian countries where inmates cook their own food, interact with people from the outside and have a less adversarial relationship with corrections officers.

Douglas L. Micco as Chief Bromden. Credit Trent D. Bailey for The New York Times

There’s a few of us leading these systems who realize that something’s wrong,’ Mr. Williams said. ‘We’ve made prison a place of starkness, idleness, a place without purpose. Then we’re confused where people get out and they don’t make it. I think that is on us.’

As the cast and crew prepared for Cuckoo’s Nest, a few said that corrections officers asked the men why anyone convicted of violent crimes should have a spotlight and applause…Several of the inmates said the play allowed them to feel human again.

‘This whole thing is some weird dream,’ said Christopher Shetskie, who is serving a life sentence without parole for murdering two women in 1995 and 1996, according to newspaper accounts at the time. He played a doctor in the play.

Amy Mund, [Shetskie killed her sister] did not believe he should have the privilege of performing with the troupe.

‘He brutally murdered two young vibrant ladies in the prime of their lives,’ Ms. Mund said in an email. ‘I question why he is allowed to participate in plays and travel outside the confines of the prison. As a victim of a violent crime, that does not sound like justice to me.’

Mr. Shetskie said he knew he could not undo his crimes.”

 

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: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions: Examine the titles 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.  Can you describe some of the expressions on the faces of the people?

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. The Sterling Correctional Facility is located out on Colorado’s remote eastern plains.
  2. The challenge of this show was audaciously new.
  3. For the first time a prison show went on tour.
  4. For the prison staff transporting 30 prisoners was daunting.
  5. For the cast and crew there were rehearsals, character studies and improv games.
  6. Going beyond the prison walls was transformative and surreal  for the prisoners.
  7. Advocates for prison arts include many current and former inmates.
  8. Advocates say that learning to paint or performing a monologue can imbue humanity and purpose into life behind bars.
  9. Some studies have suggested that prison arts may encourage rehabilitation.
  10. Some inmates have been incarcerated since they were 18.

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.

As the Sterling men’s/mens prison bus, line/lined with wire cages/cage, plugged across the/an plains on the way to shows, some man/men got carsick from the unfamiliar speed/sped of the road. They stared at/on new condos, new highways, knew/new hospitals, new suburbs that had transformed the cityscape of Denver since they had been locked/lock up.

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. The cast was never strip-searched before boarding the bus to their show.
  2. The leading man performed with abrasions on his wrists.
  3. After the show prisoners changed into their street clothes.
  4. The play performed by the prisoners was West Side Story.
  5. The film version of the play starred Jack Nicholson.
  6. It tells the story of  how gang members live in New York City.
  7. The name of the prison is the Sterling Correctional Facility.
  8. The prison is located in Utah.
  9. Wendy Jason is the managing director of the Justice Arts Coalition.
  10. California spends $8 million each year on creative-writing workshops.

 

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use theWH-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. Has someone you know served time in prison? What was their experience?
  2. In your opinion, should anyone convicted of violent crimes have the opportunity to participate in artistic programs while incarcerated?
  3. Is the purpose of prisons to punish people for the crimes they’ve committed or to rehabilitate them?
  4. According to Dean Williams, the executive director of Colorado’s Department of Corrections his goal is to “normalize the prisons by making  life inside prison as similar as possible to life outside.” Do you agree with his idea?
  5. The article provides reasons why some officials and families of victims opposed the play production. One such person, Amy Mund, whose sister was killed by one of the performers in the play stated He brutally murdered two young vibrant ladies in the prime of their lives. I question why he is allowed to participate in plays and travel outside the confines of the prison. As a victim of a violent crime, that does not sound like justice to me.” Do you agree or disagree with her?  Please provide reasons for your answers.
  6. For students from different countries, describe the prison systems in your country. Are prisoners allowed to participate in art programs?

Main Idea / Debate

Directions: Divide students into  two teams for this debate. Both teams can use information from the article and sources from the Web   to support their arguments.

Team A will list five reasons that support arguments for  a theater or arts program in prison.

Team B will list  five reasons that support arguments against a theater or arts program in prison.

Each team will have time to state their points of view,  and the teacher decides which team made their points.  

For organization, have students use this great Pros and Cons Scale organizer  from Freeology

Pros and Cons Chart

 

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

EPA Finding Alternatives to Animal Testing

“The E.P.A. aims to reduce the amount of studies that involve mammal testing by 30 percent by 2025. The move was hailed by animal rights groups, but some researchers said it pushed the agency too quickly into uncharted territory.” M. Zaveri, M. Padilla and J. Peiser, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

photo-Fox29.com

Excerpt: E.P.A. Says It Will Drastically Reduce Animal Testing By M. Zaveri, M. Padilla and J. Peiser, The New York Times

“The Environmental Protection Agency said on Tuesday that it would move away from requiring the testing of potentially harmful chemicals on animals, a decision that was hailed by animal rights groups but criticized by environmentalists and researchers who said the practice was necessary to rigorously safeguard human health.

The E.P.A. Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the agency plans to reduce the amount of studies that involve mammal testing by 30 percent by 2025, and to eliminate the studies entirely by 2035, though some may still be approved on a case-by-case basis.

The agency said it would also invest $4.25 million in projects at four universities and a medical centerthat are developing alternate ways of testing chemicals that do not involve animals. ‘We can protect human health and the environment by using cutting-edge, ethically sound science in our decision-making that efficiently and cost-effectively evaluates potential effects without animal testing,’ Mr. Wheeler said in a memo announcing the changes.

Reducing animal testing-PETA

The E.P.A. has for decades required testing on a variety of animals — including rats, dogs, birds and fish — to gauge their toxicity before the chemicals can be bought, sold or used in the environment…The practice of testing with animals has long prompted complex debates driven by passionate views on morality and scientific imperative. Reaction to Tuesday’s announcement was no different…Kathleen Conlee, the vice president of animal research issues at the Humane Society, said the E.P.A.’s move is ‘broad-sweeping and significant.’

‘This is the first time a government agency has made such a commitment and time lined its specific goals along the way,’ Ms. Conlee said. ‘There’s been a lot of positive action among other federal agencies, but we want to see all government agencies take this step.’ Various government agencies, like the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health, have also been looking to reduce, refine and replace animal testing.

E.P.A. chief directs agency to reduce animal testing. Washington Post

But the F.D.A., which still uses animal testing to a certain extent, does not plan on instituting further cutbacks in light of the E.P.A.’s announcement… Tara Rabin, an F.D.A. spokeswoman, said in a statement. ‘Without the use of animals, it would be impossible to gain some of the important knowledge needed to prevent human and animal suffering for many life-threatening diseases.’

The F.D.A. has been experimenting with alternatives to animal testing for several years. Last year the department proposed a study that would eliminate the use of dogs for testing and ended its use of squirrel monkeys for a nicotine study.

One innovation, which has shown promising results, is a computer microchip lined with living human cells called “Organs-on-Chips.” The device mimics the functions of human organs, allowing researchers to study molecular and cellular function.”

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:  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. The E.P.A. said the agency plans to reduce the amount of studies that involve mammal testing by 30 percent.
  2. We can protect human health and the environment by using cutting-edge, ethically sound science.
  3. Mr. Wheeler  sent a memo announcing the changes.
  4. The agency could not immediately provide a breakdown of how many of its tests involve mammals.
  5. Many debates on the topic are driven by passionate views on morality and scientific imperative.
  6. The alternatives are more efficient and save lives.
  7. Animal testing is a process that has been honed over decades.
  8. The testing is to gauge chemicals’ impacts on people of various backgrounds.
  9. The F.D.A. still uses animal testing to a certain extent, and does not plan on further cutbacks.
  10. One innovation, which has shown promising results, is a computer microchip lined with living human cells.

ELLteaching 2.0 vocabulary chart

 

 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. The agency said it would also invest $4.25 million.
  2. They are developing alternate way of testing chemicals.
  3. The E.P.A. could not provide a breakdown of how many of its tests involve mammals.

II

  1. Animal testing help manufacturers.
  2. The tests are typically conducted by outside parties.
  3. The alternatives are the future.

III

  1. Some think that we should be investing more in this research.
  2. There’s been a lot of positive action among other federal agencies.
  3. The F.D.A. still uses animal testing on a certain extent.

 

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. According to the article, the E.P.A. aims to increase  the amount of studies that involve mammal testing.
  2. This is the first time a government agency has made such a commitment.
  3. Tracey Woodruff is a professor at the University of Boston.
  4. This decision was supported by environmentalists and researchers.
  5. The agency said it would also invest $ 1 million in developing alternate ways of testing chemicals that do not involve animals.
  6. Andrew Wheeler is the E.P.A. Administrator.
  7. Many zoos will benefit from this decision.
  8. The E.P.A. has for decades required testing on a variety of animals — including rats, dogs, birds and fish.
  9. Animal testing helps manufacturers prove to the general public  that their chemicals meet federal safety standards.
  10. The F.D.A. has been experimenting with alternatives to animal testing for several years.

 

III. Post Reading Activities

Who Said That?  Identifying  Speakers from the Article

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. “I definitely think we should be investing more in this research,” referring to alternative testing.
  2. “While the F.D.A. is committed to doing all that it can to reduce the reliance on animal-based studies, there are still many areas where animal research is necessary,”
  3. “We are really excited as this has been something we’ve wanted for quite some time.”
  4. “We can protect human health and the environment by using cutting-edge, ethically sound science in our decision-making that efficiently and cost-effectively evaluates potential effects without animal testing,”
  5. “This is the first time a government agency has made such a commitment and time-lined its specific goals along the way.”

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. The article states, “The Environmental Protection Agency said on Tuesday that it would move away from requiring the testing of potentially harmful chemicals on animals, a decision that was hailed by animal rights groups but criticized by environmentalists and researchers who said the practice was necessary to rigorously safeguard human health.”  Do you  agree with the E.P.A. that moving away from using animals for testing is the right move to make?  Or  Do you think that testing harmful chemical on animals is necessary to protect human lives? 
  2. Tara Rabin, an F.D.A. spokeswoman, said in a statement, ‘Without the use of animals, it would be impossible to gain some of the important knowledge needed to prevent human and animal suffering for many life-threatening diseases.’ Do you think that there are certain times when animal testing is necessary? Explain your answer.

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.

Extra Activity:

Main Idea / Debate

Directions: Divide students into  two teams for this debate. Both teams can use the article as their source of information or sources from the Web.

Team A will list five reasons for Animal testing.

Team B will list  five reasons against Animal testing.

Each team will have time to state their points of view,  and the teacher decides which team made their points.  

For organization, have students use this great Pros and Cons Scale organizer  from Freeology.

Pros and Cons Chart

 

ANSWER KEY

Category: Animals, Science