The (Much Needed) Healing Power of Laughter

“Some enlightened doctors, nurses and therapists have a prescription for helping all of us to get through this seemingly never-ending pandemic: Try a little laughter.” R. Schiffman, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Megan Werner uses ‘Irwin,’ a skeleton, to help defuse tensions in her therapy groups.Credit- Megan Werner

Excerpt:Laughter May Be Effective Medicine for These Trying Times, By Richard Schiffman, The New York Times

“Humor is not just a distraction from the grim reality of the crisis, said Dr. Michael Miller, a cardiologist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. It’s a winning strategy to stay healthy in the face of it…‘Having a good sense of humor is an excellent way to relieve stress and anxiety and bring back a sense of normalcy during theseturbulent times.’

Photo Credit- Medical News Today

Perhaps most relevant today, possessing a sense of humor also helps people remain resilient in the face of adverse circumstances, said George Bonanno, a professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University.

Try Laughing-Credit- Getty Images

‘Charlie Chaplin once said ‘In order to truly laugh you need to be able to take your pain and play with it,’ said Paul Osincup, the president of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor. Write down all of the most difficult and annoying things about quarantine,’Mr. Osincup recommends. Play with those. See if you can find any humor in your situation.

Photo credit- DLPNG

Megan Werner, a psychotherapist in private practice, uses a similar strategy in her work with at-risk youth in Fayetteville, Ark. During group therapy sessions, she has the teenage gang members she works with interact with ‘Irwin,’ a life-size Halloween skeleton, to encourage them to confront their dangerous lifestyle head-on.

‘Most of the time you try to deflate a painful situation,’ she said. ‘In my therapy work, it’s more like ‘let’s blow it up, let’s make it so absurd that we laugh about it.’

Mary Laskin, a nurse case-manager at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego, has been working with her chronic pain patients online, teaching them laughter exercises alongside practices designed to develop other positive mental states like gratitude and forgiveness. ‘This pandemic is like a tiger creeping toward us, a huge slow-motion stressor that makes the experience of pain worse. Humor helps my patients relax and release their grip on pain,’  she said…She recommends ‘laughter first-aid boxes,’ where they can stash joke books, funny toys and other props for this purpose.

Mary Laskin, a nurse case-manager, recommends a laughter first aid box for her patients.Credit- Courtesy of Mary Laskin

Humor can also serve to powerfully reaffirm one’s humanity in the face of illness or disability, said Dr. B.J. Miller, a palliative care physician in San Francisco who suffered a freak electrical accident in 1990 that cost him two legs and an arm.

B.J. Miller, a doctor and triple amputee, used his own experience to pioneer a new model of palliative care. Credit: NYT

After the accident, he said, most people — including medical staff members — viewed him as an object of pity. ‘There is a solemnity in how people look at you,’ he said. “You are essentially walled off from others.

The one exception, he recalled, were the men who scrubbed off his burned skin in the hospital. ‘It’s a terrible job, I mean you are inflicting reams of pain on someone to save their life,’ Dr. Miller said. ‘But this ragtag crew, they were freaking hilarious. One of them had a flask and was drinking during the procedure, they were cracking jokes the whole time.’ ‘It made me stronger because they were looking at me and saying this guy can handle the pain and he can also handle a joke — it made me feel like a human being again.’ Inspired by their example, Dr. Miller said, he uses every opportunity to bring a dose of comic relief into his own medical work. Increasingly, he sees his colleagues doing so as well.”

CNN Poll: Biden Wins Final Presidential Debate!

Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden answers a question during the debate [ with tRump] 2020. (Morry Gash / Associated Press)

“Joe Biden did a better job in the final debate on Thursday, according to a CNN Instant Poll of debate watchers. Overall, 53% of voters who watched the debate said that Biden won the matchup…”CNN

Beautiful photo of Presidential candidate Joe Biden and his wife Jill after the debate 2020. Courtesy CNN

Supporters of Joe Biden cheer as the Democrat’s motorcade passes en route to the final presidential debate in Nashville.(Carolyn Kaster : Associated Press)

 

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 any 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: Try to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. You use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Some enlightened doctors, nurses and therapists have a prescription for helping us to get through this pandemic.
  2. Having a sense of humor is the key to helping us.
  3. Humor is not just a distraction from the grim reality of the crisis.
  4. Heightened stress magnifies the risk of cardiovascular events.
  5. Having a good sense of humor helps during these turbulent times.
  6. Humor also helps people remain resilient in the face of adverse circumstances.
  7. Most of the time you try to deflate a painful situation.
  8. Many health experts encourage people to actively cultivate the healing power of laughter.
  9. Humor can also serve to powerfully reaffirm one’s humanity in the face of illness.
  10. We must try to maintain our humanity during these challenging times.

 

 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.  Identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I

  1. Having a good sense of humor are an excellent way to relieve stress.
  2. Doctors, nurses and therapists have a prescription for patients.
  3. Possessing a healthy sense of humor is also a stress reliever.

II

  1. Heightened stress magnifies the risk of cardiovascular events.
  2. Dr. Miller prescribes one good belly laughs a day for his patients.
  3. Ms. Laskin suggests that her patients treat humor as a discipline.

III

  1. Some kinds of joking is potentially destructive.
  2. Some hospitals have initiated formal humor programs.
  3. Some caregivers are also innovating ways to bring humor into their own practice.

Identify The  Speakers

Directions: Read the following quotes from speakers in the article. Then identify the speakers.

  1. Humor is not just a distraction from the grim reality of the crisis, said  It’s a winning strategy to stay healthy in the face of it.”
  2. “…laughter has also been shown to reduce the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline and increases the body’s uptake of the feel-good endorphins.”
  3. There also appear to be cognitive benefits from watching a funny video.”
  4. “Perhaps most relevant today, possessing a sense of humor also helps people remain resilient in the face of adverse circumstances.”
  5. “Write down all of the most difficult and annoying things about quarantine…See if you can find any humor in your situation.”
  6. During group therapy sessions, she has the teenage gang members she works with interact with “Irwin,” a life-size Halloween skeleton, to encourage them to confront their dangerous lifestyle head-on.”
  7. “This pandemic is like a tiger creeping toward us, a huge slow-motion stressor that makes the experience of pain worse. Humor helps my patients relax and release their grip on pain.”

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: Have  students discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards,  students share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. There is an old saying that states, “Laughter is the best medicine”. Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?
  2. During these difficult times do you feel like laughing? Why or why not?
  3. According to DR. Michael Miller what does laughter and a  good sense of humor do for us in general?
  4. What does Dr. Miller recommend we do at least once a day?
  5. According to Dr. Singh, why should we watch funny videos?
  6. Why is ‘possessing a sense of humor’ helpful in the face of adverse circumstances?
  7. What is the famous quote by Charlie Chaplin? Do you agree or disagree with this advice? Please explain provide reasons for your answers.
  8. What does Paul Osincup recommend we do with all the annoying things about the quarantine? In your opinion is this a good idea? Explain why or why not.
  9. Ms.  Laskin states, “Our health care system focuses on passive ways to manage pain like taking a pill or getting an operation…I encourage people to actively cultivate the healing power of laughter, which puts them back in the driver’s seat.” In your own words explain what she means.
  10. Why is it unusual for Dr. B. J. Miller to have a sense of humor?  If you were in his position do you think you could maintain a sense of humor?  Explain why or why?
  11. What new information have you learned from this article?

3-2-1-Writing

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

Extra Activities

Create a Laughter First-Aid Box

In the article  Mary Laskin, a nurse case manager, said she recommended “laughter first-aid boxes” for her patients, where they can stash joke books, funny toys and other props for this purpose.  Make a list of all the items you would place in your personal “Laughter First-Aid Box”  or create a physical box . Share your items with someone in your group.

ANSWER KEY

Dr. Seuss’s “Horton Hears a Who!” Reminds Us That Every Vote Is Needed in the 2020 Elections!

Horton Hears a Who! is a reminder that every vote counts. In America, as in the Dr. Seuss classic, every voice must be heard if society is to survive.” J. Wickersham, The Boston Globe

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Excerpt: You want to see how participatory democracy is supposed to work?Read Horton Hears a Who! by Dr. Seuss.” Joan Wickersham, The Boston Globe

“You remember the Whos, down in Who-ville. They’re the people from whom the Grinch stole Christmas. That crisis worked out all right in the end. But before it happened, there was another potential catastrophe — the Whos’ backstory, if you will — which threatened them with extinction.

KILBURN EXPERIENCES: DR. SEUSS ENTERPRISES VIA AP

Here’s what happens: Horton, a good-hearted, somewhat bumbling elephant, notices sounds coming from a dust speck, and realizes that the speck is actually an entire tiny planet inhabited by a tiny species called the Whos. His conversations with the mayor of Who-ville arouse the scorn of his intolerant neighbors, who tell him he’s crazy and that there is no Who-ville — it’s a hoax… The thuggish leaders collude with an eagle named Vlad to silence and intimidate Horton and to destroy the Whos while at the same time denying that they existed.

Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears A Who!

The fate of the Whos hangs in the balance. Horton is being detained in a cage, and the thugs are about to obliterate the Whos and their entire planet by dropping them into a pot of boiling oil.

No one but Horton can hear the Whos. The only thing that can save them from destruction is a full-throated show of good old-fashioned civic responsibility. They need to speak up. Loudly. Every single one of them…The stakes couldn’t be higher: Every voice must be heard if their society is to survive.

Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears A Who!

Exercising the right to vote in 21st-century America is no simple matter for everyone, and I’m not suggesting that a children’s book offers all the answers. Insidious voter suppression tactics include the closing of polling places, intimidation at the polls, and disenfranchisement laws that deny the vote to many vulnerable members of society…And this year we have the additional challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, made worse by the malevolent, irresponsible antics of a president intent on sowing chaos and undermining our faith in the voting process… This is not an election to sit out. This is not a time to refuse to vote because you’re unhappy with how the primaries went… In Horton Hears a Who! it seems that every Who is making noise and yet their collective voice cannot be heard by the thuggish leaders.

Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears A Who!

The mayor makes a desperate last search of the town and finds a bored little Who sitting at home playing with a yo-yo. And when that last little Who adds his voice to the rest, suddenly the sound becomes audible, so that even Horton’s formerly intolerant neighbors hear it and agree to abide by the rule of law.

Voting is an act of faith. It’s shouting into the void, knowing that your voice is small but trusting that when it combines with other voices it will be loud enough to be heard.”

5 key takeaways from Joe Biden’s town hall with ABC News By Meg Cunningham and Quinn Scanlan, October 16, 2020 NYT   

Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden and moderator George Stephanopoulos participate in an ABC News town hall event at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

Biden’s persistent message of concern for others, which he follows up with action, is a stark contrast to the actions of the current president.

“I’m less concerned about me than the people, the guys with the cameras, the people working in the, you know, the Secret Service guys you drive up with, all those people.” ~Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden

“With less than three weeks until Nov. 3,…Already, more than 18 million voters have cast their ballots, and while that’s an unprecedented turnout this far out from Election Day, many more Americans have yet to officially make their voices heard.”

 

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 any 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: Try to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. You use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. The people from Who-ville were in a crisis.
  2. The fact that they could not be heard was a catastrophe.
  3. Not being heard as a group threatened them with extinction.
  4. Horton’s  claims arouse the scorn of his intolerant neighbors.
  5. The neighbors tell Horton that he’s crazy and there is no Who-ville — it’s a hoax.
  6. The thuggish leaders did not like Horton.
  7. In the story the leaders collude with an eagle named Vlad.
  8. They tried to silence and intimidate Horton.
  9. But even though the obstacles in this fall of 2020 are systemic, voting is still the most important right we have.
  10. This is not a time to duck making a choice between two candidates.

Vocabulary Cluster By Learnnc.org

 

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.  Identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I

  1. This is not a time to refuse to vote.
  2. This is not an time to duck making a choice.
  3. This is not a time to  think your vote doesn’t matter.

II

  1. The mayor makes a desperate last search of the town.
  2. Voting is a act of faith.
  3. There is always a line between inaudible and audible.

III

  1. We need every voice. Voting is an act of faith.
  2. The obstacles is there.
  3. We need to exercise our most important right as citizens

Reading Comprehension: Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in small 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.

But even though the___in this___of 2020 are___,___, and immense, voting is still the most ___right we have. The story of ___and the Whos is a ___that every voice___.

WORD LIST: counts, reminder, Horton, important, systemic, frightening, obstacles, fall,

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: Have  students discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards,  students share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. In the story, how did the Whos almost come to extinction?
  2. In your opinion, is the author implying something about the current U.S. president and his cohorts? Please explain your answer.
  3. The author lists several challenges voters face for this 2020 election. What are they?
  4. The author states, ” …this year we have the additional challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, made worse by the malevolent, irresponsible antics of a president intent on sowing chaos and undermining our faith in the voting process.”  In your own words explain what she means.
  5. What are some reasons people might refuse to vote?
  6. In the story Horton Hears A Who! , why couldn’t  the people of Who town be heard by the ‘thuggish’ leaders?
  7. Who do you think the ‘thuggish’ leaders are in the U.S.? Provide reasons for your answers.
  8. Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears A Who! is a wonderful story and the article written by Ms. Joan Wickersham is excellent and on point! Explain or write a short essay on  how this article relates to people voting in this 2020 election?

 

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

She’s 102 Years Old and Still Voting in 2020!

“Bea Lumpkin is 102 years old and has never missed an election as long as she’s been eligible to vote. Not even a global pandemic could stop her from voting in this one.” S. Andrew, CNN

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

“Lumpkin, a former Chicago public school teacher, dressed in personal protective equipment from head to toe to drop off her ballot for the 2020 presidential election at the mailbox last week. The Chicago Teachers Union, of which she was a member, shared the image.” CNN

Excerpt: Not even a global pandemic could stop this 102-year-old from voting in this election, By Scottie Andrew, CNN

“At her age, Bea’s at high risk for becoming severely ill if she contracted coronavirus. But she would never have missed her chance to vote. She urges every registered voter in the US to exercise their right, too.

Credit: US News

Credit:Vox

‘The most important reason to vote in this election is that there’s so much at stake, more than any other vote I’ve cast, because of the great challenge to the survival of our democracy,’ Lumpkin told CNN… Many of the issues Bea cares about are especially relevant in 2020: health care, racism and climate change among them…She’s also very over living through the pandemic, and she disagrees with the ways in which science has been undermined by the current U.S. president and other federal officials charged with leading the pandemic response.

Credit: Vox

‘I’m sick and tired of this pandemic, and we’ll never get rid of it unless we follow the experience of so many other countries, of the advice of science,’she said…A lifelong feminist, Bea encourages women to vote not only to mark that anniversary but to protect their rights…’There’s a possibility of correcting so many of the wrongs if we have an overwhelming vote for our democratic rights,’ she said… ‘I want to see everybody who’s coming out to vote to stay involved in the process — that’s the way we can make huge advances for working people,’ she said. She’s especially proud of American youth, whom she believes will fight for a fair future.”

Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden has won the majority of elder voters. NYT

 

CNN Instant Poll: Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris Seen as Winner in a Debate that Matched Expectations

Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris waves as she arrives on stage for the vice presidential debate with Mike Pence on Wednesday, Oct. 7, at Kingsbury Hall on the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Julio Cortez/AP.

“More Americans said Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris did the best job in the vice presidential debate tonight, according to a CNN Instant Poll of registered voters who watched.”  J. Agiesta — CNN

Related: More than 4 million Americans have already voted [in the 2020 Election] suggesting record turnout. REUTERS

*A state-by-state guide to voting in the age of COVID-19  By Nathaniel Rakich and Julia Wolfe   NOTE:  “This page will be updated on a regular basis with the latest developments.” October 8, 2020

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 any 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: Try to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. You use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Lumpkin, a former Chicago public school teacher, dressed in personal protective equipment.
  2. She dropped off her ballot for the 2020 presidential election at the mailbox last week.
  3. She urges every registered voter in the US to exercise their right, too.
  4. The most important reason to vote in this election is that there’s so much at stake.
  5. The retired educator knows better than most the value of voting.
  6. She’s also very over living through the pandemic.
  7. Her ballot was received within 48 hours of submission.
  8. It’s essential to vote this year to determine what that future will look like, she says.
  9. We don’t want to just restore what we had before.
  10. Bea has  great confidence in young people.

 

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.

Lumpkin, a form/former Chicago public school teach/teacher,dressed/dress in personal/personnel protective equip/equipment from head to toe to drop/dropped off her ballot/ballet for the 2020 presidential election at the mailbox last week….If she could voting/vote this year, so can anyone who’s/whose registered, she said. And the retired educate/educator knows/no better than/then most the value of voting.

Reading ComprehensionFill-ins

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

Women still have so many ___reasons to ___because in this___, all rights that___ have ___in the hundred-odd years I’ve been on earth — they’re all on the___, she said. But then, this fight for our is much older than we are — it’s even older than I am. ___by mail was___, she says.

WORD LIST: simple, Voting, line, won, women, rights, election, additional, vote, 

 

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: Have  students discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards,  students share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. Do you believe that it is very important to vote in every election in the United States?  Why or why not?
  2. Is it important that older people have an interest in politics? Please explain why.
  3. Do you have older relatives or friends that is voting in this 2020 election?
  4. How does Bea feel about the way in which the current U.S. administration is handling the pandemic?
  5. Why is Ms. Lumpkin ‘a great respecter’ of the advances scientists have made since her birth?
  6. Why does Bea strongly encourage women to vote?
  7. Why does she encourage everyone to vote early?
  8.   
  9. Ms. Lumpkin states, “It’s essential to vote this year to determine what that future will look like.”  What does she mean by this?
  10. How does Bea feel about the future?
  11. How does Bea feel about American youth?

3-2-1-Writing

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

ANSWER KEY

 

Russians Threaten U.S. General Elections With Fake News (Again)

“The companies [Facebook and Twitter] said the F.B.I. had warned them that the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency set up a network of fake user accounts and a website.” S. Frenkel and J. Barnes, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Fake News Attacks Threaten 2020 Election. USA Today

Excerpt: Russians Again Targeting Americans With Disinformation, Facebook and Twitter WarnS. Frenkel and J. Barnes, The New York Times

“The Russian group that interfered in the 2016 presidential election is at it again, using a network of fake accounts and a website set up to look like a left-wing news site, Facebook and Twitter said on Tuesday.

The disinformation campaign by the Kremlin-backed group, known as the Internet Research Agency, is the first public evidence that the agency is trying to repeat its efforts from four years ago and push voters away from the Democratic presidential candidate, Joseph R. Biden Jr., to help Trump.

That Uplifting Tweet You Just Shared? A Russian Troll Sent It –Rolling Stone

Intelligence agencies have warned for months that Russia and other countries were actively trying to disrupt the November election, and that Russian intelligence agencies were feeding conspiracy theories designed to alienate Americans by laundering them through fringe sites and social media.

Now Facebook and Twitter are offering evidence of this meddling… Some American officials are worried about a broad effort by Russian intelligence to use fringe websites, spread conspiracy theories and sow division in the United States.

“Graphika leverages AI to reveal and study online communities. We are the best in the world at analyzing how online social networks form, evolve, and are manipulated.” Graphika.com

‘The Russians are trying harder to hide; they are increasingly putting up more and more layers of obfuscation,’ ” said Ben Nimmo, whose firm, Graphika, worked with Facebook to release a report on the fake site… Twitter said on Tuesday that it had suspended five accounts associated with Peace Data for platform manipulation…The accounts were low-quality and engaged in spamming activity, Twitter said, so they did not gain a widespread following or attract much attention.

Russian hackers and Trolls Grow Stealthier as U.S. 2020 Election Nears. The New York Times

Researchers are also concerned about homegrown disinformation campaigns, and the latest Russian effort went to some lengths to appear like it was made in the United States.

2020 General Election — Related Articles:

Russian fake news is back. Do these 4 things to help save the election from foreign interference  

“Just as our adversaries are launching a powerful and escalating attack on our democracy, we’re letting our guard down. We can and must be more vigilant.” The Boston Globe

Russia Doesn’t Have To Make Fake News’: Biggest Election Threat Is Closer To Home

“…National security officials say the Kremlin is at it again: Just like in 2016, Russia is using social media to try to undermine the U.S. presidential election, only with even more sophisticated tools. But this time around, Russia may not have to try so hard. Social media companies and outside experts say in 2020, the biggest threats to the election may be coming from Americans…” NPR

Yes, Russia is Interfering in the 2020 Election

“…In this charged environment, the fear is that Russians could advance news items or other misleading claims about fraud or problems at polls. This could stop people from voting at all…” Vox

Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden as he hugs his wife Jill Biden after Winning the first presidential debate in Cleveland.(Win McNamee:Getty Images)

Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden greet the audience after [winning] the first presidential debate in Cleveland.(Scott Olson:Getty Images)

Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden’s thoughts on the first presidential debate:

During a campaign stop Wednesday at a train station in Alliance, Ohio, Democratic nominee Joe Biden said he would continue to participate in the debates, telling reporters that he is looking forward to them.

“I just hope there’s a way in which the debate commission can control the ability of us to answer the question without interruption,” Biden said.

The former vice president said it would make sense for the moderator to switch off Trump’s microphone during Biden’s turn and vice versa, providing each candidate with two minutes of uninterrupted speaking time.

 

Election 2020: What to know

How to vote: Find out the rules in your state. Some states have already started sending out mail ballots; see how to make sure yours counts. Absentee and mail ballots are two terms for the same thing, mostly used interchangeably. Barring a landslide, we may not have a result in the presidential election on Nov. 3.

Electoral college map: Who actually votes, and who do they vote for? Explore how shifts in turnout and voting patterns for key demographic groups could affect the presidential race.

Battlegrounds: Want to understand the swing states? Read about Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Florida and Pennsylvania, and sign up for The Trailer and get more states, plus more news and insight from the trail, in your inbox three days a week.

Coming up: Trump and Biden are scheduled to debate three times this fall; here’s what to know about the 2020 presidential debates.

Related: A state-by-state guide to voting in the age of COVID-19 By Nathaniel Rakich and Julia Wolfe

Click on your state in the map to see a lot of the information you need in order to cast a ballot this fall — by whatever method you choose. This page will be updated on a regular basis with the latest developments. https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/how-to-vote-2020/?cid=rrpromo

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

KWL Chart

The K-W-L chart is used to activate students’ background knowledge of a topic in order to enhance their comprehension skills.

Directions: Have students use the KWL chart to list the information they already know about Russian Fake news interfering in the U.S. elections. Later in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about the topic.

 

Advanced K-W-L chart.Intervention for Reading – Michigan State University

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. The Russians  are spreading disinformation.
  2. But the Peace Data site appeared to be a more worrying example of information laundering.
  3. The writer asked to remain anonymous.
  4. He said his articles for the website were barely edited.
  5. Bill Russo, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, said the Russian activity was proof of two immutable facts.
  6. Both Facebook and Twitter  have evidence of fake sites.
  7. There is proof that the Russians have been meddling in U.S.elections again.
  8. The Russians are increasingly putting up more and more layers of obfuscation.
  9. Facebook used the F.B.I. tip to identify the Peace Data accounts.
  10. The firm, Graphika, worked with Facebook to release a report on the fake site.

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, since,

  1. The Russian group that interfered___ the 2016 presidential election is___ it again.
  2. The disinformation campaign ___the Kremlin-backed group is known ___the Internet Research Agency.
  3. Now Facebook and Twitter are offering evidence ___this meddling.
  4. The group has been a less important part___ Russia’s operations this year, according ___two American intelligence officials, who spoke___ the condition___ anonymity.

Reading Comprehension

Identify The  Speakers

Directions: Read the following quotes from speakers in the article. Then identify the speakers.

  1. “The Russians are trying harder to hide; they are increasingly putting up more and more layers of obfuscation.”
  2. “The goal appeared to be to drive people to the Peace Data site, which billed itself as a global news organization.”
  3. “The Russian activity was proof of two immutable facts: Russia is attempting to interfere in our elections on behalf of Trump, and Facebook’s platform is a key vector for these efforts.”

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: Have  students discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards,  students share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. What are the names of the media social groups the Russians are targeting with false information?
  2. Why is the Kremlin-backed group trying to push voters away from Democratic Presidential candidate, Joseph R. Biden Jr.,?
  3. Why is the current administration trying to  control the flow of information about foreign threats to November’s election?
  4. Who did the Russians hire to interfere with the general election this year?
  5. What is the name of the fake site?
  6. According to the article, how many fake accounts associated with ‘Peace Data’ has Twitter suspended so far?
  7. Other than Russia, what other countries were discovered interfering with the U.S.  2020 general elections?
  8. What new information have you learned from this article?

3-2-1-Writing

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

ANSWER KEY

“Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Legacy”

“In the rearview mirror, the victories of a trailblazing feminist. On the road ahead, the threat of an entrenched and powerful minority.” The New York Times, Editorial Board

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Excerpt: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Legacy By The Editorial Board, New York Times

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday at the age of 87, will forever have two legacies.

A memorial to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Harvard Law School alumna, sprung up at the Law School this week. Credit- Owen A. Berger

The one Americans could be focusing on right now is the one of legal trailblazer: Justice Ginsburg, the second woman ever to be appointed to the Supreme Court, paved the way for women’s equality before the law, and for women’s rights to be taken seriously by the courts and by society.

Joe Biden welcomes Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court in 1993.

As an attorney she argued, and won, multiple cases at the Supreme Court in the 1970s, eventually persuading an all-male bench to apply the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause to sex-based discrimination.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and former President Barack Obama

The other legacy of Justice Ginsburg’s that the country is now urgently forced to confront is the cold political reality that she died in the final weeks of a presidential campaign, at a moment when Trump and McConnell  appear to be dead-set on replacing her with someone who would obliterate much of the progress she helped the country make. The court now faces a serious crisis of legitimacy.

Justice Ginsburg received her B.A. at Cornell University

“During an inspiring, humorous and highly candid talk to more than 420 people Sept. 18, [ 2014] Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg shared how Cornell shaped her journey to the U.S. Supreme Court.”-Credit: Cornell University

 

The justice…attended Harvard Law, where she was famously one of only nine women in her class of hundreds. She was also among the first women to serve on its esteemed journal, the Harvard Law Review….Yet Ginsburg would leave Harvard Law after her second of three years…Ginsburg transferred to Columbia –she would eventually be recognized at Harvard. In 2011, the university awarded her an honorary degree, a rare honor… The Boston Globe

Justice Ginsburg graduated from Columbia Law School. Photo credit- Columbia Law School

1993: Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’59 addresses a Columbia Law School Women’s Association panel of colleagues and former students who gathered to honor her…

The revered Supreme Court justice maintained deep ties throughout her life to Columbia Law School, where she graduated tied for first in her class and later became the first woman to be a tenured member of the faculty. Columbia Law School

Senate Republicans, who represent a minority of the nation, and a president elected by a minority of the nation, are now in a position to solidify their control of the third branch of government. The Supreme Court, with another Trump appointee, could stand as a conservative firewall against the expressed will of a majority of Americans on a range of crucial issues…Defending her decision not to retire when President Barack Obama could have picked her replacement, she said, “There will be a president after this one, and I’m hopeful that that president will be a fine president.” She never anticipated…Trump, whom she called a “faker” during a 2016 interview. She shouldn’t have said it, but she was right…The future of the court now rests in the hands of McConnell, the man who has done more damage to the court’s standing than perhaps anyone in modern American history…But perhaps a few Republican senators will take the quickened pulse of the nation and consider the case to postpone resolving Justice Ginsburg’s replacement.”

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

March 15, 1933, Brooklyn, New York, U.S.— September 18, 2020, Washington, D.C.

During an interview with MSNBC Justice Ginsburg was asked “how she’d like to be remembered. Her response:

“Someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has. To do something outside myself. Cause I’ve gotten much more satisfaction for the things that I’ve done for which I was not paid.” ~Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg~( The Notorious R.B.G.)

Joe Biden speaks on the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

 

Democratic Presidential contender Joe Biden was visibly shaken when he delivered a statement offering his condolences over the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away Friday after several bouts with cancer. [September, 2020]

Ginsburg is known for her court opinions and it was to her legacy that Biden began by paying tribute.

In a statement delivered just hours after her death, Biden said, “Ruth Bader Ginsburg was not only a giant in the legal profession but a beloved figure…She practiced the highest American ideals as a justice: equality and justice under the law…Ruth Bader Ginsberg stood for all of us.”~Democratic Presidential Leader Joe Biden~(via CNN).

An image of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Ruth Bader Ginsburg is projected onto the New York State Civil Supreme Court building in Manhattan, New York City, U.S. after she passed away September 18, 2020. Photo: Reuters/Andrew Kelly

RELATED:

The Biography of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

10 quotes that help define the legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Why Justice Ginsburg was referred to as The Notorious R.B.G.

 

Election 2020: What to know

How to vote: Find out the rules in your state. Some states have already started sending out mail ballots; see how to make sure yours counts. Absentee and mail ballots are two terms for the same thing, mostly used interchangeably. Barring a landslide, we may not have a result in the presidential election on Nov. 3.

Electoral college map: Who actually votes, and who do they vote for? Explore how shifts in turnout and voting patterns for key demographic groups could affect the presidential race.

Battlegrounds: Want to understand the swing states? Read about Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Florida and Pennsylvania, and sign up for The Trailer and get more states, plus more news and insight from the trail, in your inbox three days a week.

Coming up: Trump and Biden are scheduled to debate three times this fall; here’s what to know about the 2020 presidential debates.

Related: A state-by-state guide to voting in the age of COVID-19 By Nathaniel Rakich and Julia Wolfe

Click on your state in the map to see a lot of the information you need in order to cast a ballot this fall — by whatever method you choose. This page will be updated on a regular basis with the latest developments. https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/how-to-vote-2020/?cid=rrpromo

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

KWL Chart

The K-W-L chart is used to activate students’ background knowledge of a topic in order to enhance their comprehension skills.

Directions: Have students use the KWL chart to list the information they already know about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Later in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about her.

Advanced K-W-L chart.Intervention for Reading

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg left her legacy for the American people.
  2. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
  3. In the rearview mirror, we see the victories of a trailblazing feminist.
  4. On the road ahead of us there is the threat of an entrenched minority.
  5. As an attorney she argued, and won, multiple cases at the Supreme Court.
  6. Justice Ginsburg noted that there are Inherent differences between men and women.”
  7. She also stated that she would not tolerate the denigration of  women or men.
  8. Justice Ginsburg noted that the way women were treated in the military was unconstitutional.
  9. Presently, the current administration wishes to obliterate much of the progress she helped the country make.
  10. The court now faces a serious crisis of legitimacy.

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.  Identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I

  1. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died at the age of 87.
  2. Justice Ginsburg will forever had two legacies.
  3. As an attorney she argued, and won, multiple cases.

II

 

  1. Justice Ginsburg  sat on the bench of the Supreme Court.
  2. Justice Ginsburg was the second woman ever to be appointed to the Supreme Court.
  3. She had once been rejected for jobs at top New York law firms.

III

  1. The court now faces a serious crisis of legitimacy.
  2. She faced down multiple bouts of cancer.
  3. Justice Ginsburg refusing to retire.

Reading ComprehensionFill-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 wordlist provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

The other ___of Justice Ginsburg’s that the ___is now urgently forced to ___is the cold political ___that she ___in the final weeks of a presidential___, at a moment when Trump and McConnell, the ___majority leader, appear to be dead-set on replacing her with someone who would ___much of the ___she ___the country make.

WORD LIST: helped, progress, obliterate, Senate, died, reality, campaign, legacy, country, confront, 

III. Post Reading Activities

Directions:  Have students use this advanced organizer from Write Design to assist them with  discussing  or writing about  the main idea and points from the article.

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Have  students discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, students share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. Who was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg?
  2. The article speaks of the two legacies of Ruth B. Ginsburg. What are they?
  3. According to the article, on which of  Ms. Ginsburg’s legacies should Americans be focusing?
  4. In the 1970s as an attorney, which Amendment did Justice Ginsburg persuade an all-male bench to apply to a case?
  5. What was the Virginia Military Institute’s policy towards women in 1996?
  6. Justice Ginsburg stated the following, “Inherent differences between men and women, we have come to appreciate, remain cause for celebrationbut not for denigration of the members of either sex or for artificial constraints on an individual’s opportunity.” What did she mean by this statement?
  7. What did Ruth Ginsberg call Trump during a 2016 interview with CNN?  Do you agree or disagree with her comment? Please provide a reason for your opinion.
  8. The article refers to “the two troublesome justices” already appointed by Trump.  Who are they? Why are they considered troublesome?
  9. The article states, “…Republicans have shown little willingness to place principle above party, or to place the long-term interests of the nation above short-term political victories.”  Can you provide examples (or one current example) of long-term interests’ of this nation?
  10. What new information have you learned from reading this article?

Writing/Speaking Activity:

Directions:Place students in groups and have each group list 3questions they would like to pursue in relation to the article. Have groups exchange questions. Each group tries to answer the questions listed. All responses are shared as a 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