2021: The Challenges of Learning and Teaching English Online

“Five million children in the U.S. rely on public schools to teach them English, and those kids have been hard hit by online schooling. Children learning English are more likely to struggle in school and drop out.” K. Cardoza, NPR, Feb. 24, 2021

Image: Andrea D’Aquino for NPR

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Excerpt:Millions Of Kids Learn English At School. Teaching Them Remotely Hasn’t Been Easy.By Kavitha Cardoza, NPR, Feb. 24, 2021

“A year ago, the kindergartners learning English in Tanya Gan Lim’s class were thriving. Back then, she’d bring in props and pictures to help her students learn the language and sound out words. Then she’d lavish them with praise, even if they stumbled, to build their confidence.

Lim teaches in Prince George’s County Public Schools, just outside Washington, D.C. She is used to planning every minute of class, but that’s harder to do now that class time is punctuated with frozen screens, garbled audio and children wandering away from the camera. Sometimes, her kindergartners don’t have supplies…Needless to say, Lim’s job teaching English has gotten a lot harder during the pandemic. How much harder? Lim laughs and says she can’t quantify it. ‘Maybe 10 times?’

Among the challenges: There are fewer resources for teaching English learners remotely, and many English learners are less likely to have access to technology. Even in a school district like Prince George’s, which has distributed free devices and mobile Wi-Fi units, these children may not have support at home to navigate technology…When children are learning another language, she says, it’s important for them to see nuances of communication, such as facial expressions and other non-verbal signs. But those are also harder to make out on a screen.”

Related:

Good  Books To Inspire English Language Learners, Mayra Linares, NPR, December 17, 2016

“I grew up speaking Spanish, and I didn’t start learning English until I was in preschool. When it came to books, I struggled — like many ELL students — to connect with characters that didn’t look like me or speak my language…It wasn’t until Ms. Rueckert handed me a biography of Diego Rivera in the fourth grade that my relationship with books changed forever. I started to read for fun and not for a grade…Research shows that reading comprehension in ELL students gets a boost when kids are exposed to culturally relevant books…So, in that spirit, we’ve reached out to experts and scoured the blogs and asked authors what books they’d put in that big room. Here are five great examples.”Mayra Linares, NPR, December 17, 2016

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi and Yangsook Choi

Names are an important part of our identity. Unhei’s classmates show their support as she decides whether to keep her Korean name or choose a completely new American one.

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi and Yangsook Choi

 

Jalapeno Bagels by Natasha Wing and Robert Casilla

Pablo spends quality time with his Mexican mom and Jewish father learning about their respective cultures through food. Instead of favoring one culture, Pablo chooses to celebrate both.

Jalapeno Bagels by Natasha Wing and Robert Casilla

 

Maximilian & The Mystery of the Guardian Angel: A Bilingual Lucha Libre Thriller by Xavier Garza

Whether it’s read in Spanish or English, Mexican traditions and pop culture shine in this book for older students.

Maximilian & The Mystery of the Guardian Angel- A Bilingual Lucha Libre Thriller by Xavier Garza

 

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 60 minutes.


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.

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions: Examine the title of the post and of the actual article. Next examine  any photos. Write a paragraph describing what you think this article will discuss. A pre-reading organizer may be used.

Pre-reading Organizer By Scholastic

 

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. Tanya Gan Lim’s class was thriving before the epidemic.
  2. Back then, she’d bring in props and pictures to help her students learn English.
  3. Then she’d lavish them with praise.
  4. Ms. Gan wanted to build their confidence.
  5. Today, class time is punctuated with frozen screens, and garbled audio.
  6. Lim’s job teaching English has gotten a lot harder during the pandemic.
  7. Lim, is a former English learner herself.
  8. Lim worries about her students when they go to their  mainstream classrooms.
  9. When children are  learning another language it’s important for them to see nuances of communication.
  10. Ninth-grader Jimmy is self-conscious about his English skills.

 

 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. A year ago, the kindergartners learning English in Tanya Gan Lim’s class  was thriving.
  2. Lim teaches in Prince George’s County Public Schools.
  3. She is used to planning every minute of class.

II

  1. Sometimes, her kindergartners don’t have supplies.
  2. Children learning English is  more likely to struggle and drop out.
  3. Children may not have support at home to navigate technology.

III

  1. Lim is  a former English learner herself.
  2. Lim worries about her students when they go to their regular, online classes.
  3. Ninth-grader Jimmy are self-conscious about his English skills.

Reading Comprehension

Identify The  Speakers

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

  1. “This year, I only get to interact with my class for 30 minutes and then we log out and that’s it.”
  2. “He’s like my brother to me. He helped me a lot.”
  3. “Very few youth in our study could say they had one friend who was an English dominant speaker. Those friendships have been even harder to foster in the age of social distancing.”

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. Before the pandemic, how was Tanya Gan Lim able to help her students learn English in the classroom?
  2. Because of the pandemic, what are some problems Ms. Lim  has teaching her students online?
  3. If you are an ESL teacher or student what challenges do you face with online classes?
  4. What are some of the challenges  of online learning for ESL students?
  5. Why does Lim worry about her students when they go to their  regular online classes?
  6. Do you think ESL classes will continue online? Why or why not?

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: Education | Tags:

New Remote Learning Classes For Older Adults

“New online tools and an array of remote classes and programs are ramping up education and training for adults.” K. Hannon, The New York Times, Feb. 9, 2021

Image- James Yang-The New York Times

 

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Excerpt:  Remote Learning Isn’t Just for Kids, By Kerry Hannon, The New York Times, Feb. 9, 2021

“Deb Livingston, a former business consultant, was always curious and eager to learn just about anything. ‘When the pandemic hit, I was confined at home and found myself diving into online exploration,’ said Ms. Livingston, 61. She discovered GetSetUp, an interactive website that delivers virtual education to older adults. Even former chief executives like Jeff Mihm, a Miami resident who led Noven Pharmaceuticals, sometimes need a new life direction… The internet has empowered adult learners by providing new online tools to ramp up education and training. ‘The need for workers to keep pace with fast-moving economic, cultural and technological changes, combined with longer careers, will add up to great swaths of adults who need to learn more than generations past — and faster than ever,’ said Luke Yoquinto, a research associate at the M.I.T. AgeLab… By 2034, the number of adults age 65 and older will outnumber those under the age of 18, according to the Census Bureau. ‘That growth of older age demographics will translate to new demand for enrichment in the form of digital education,’ Mr. Yoquinto said… Virtual learning has become “the great equalizer,” said Gene O’Neill, the chief executive of the North American Veterinary Community, which provides continuing education for veterinarians around the world. ‘Because of virtual learning, veterinary professionals everywhere, even in remote, undeveloped countries, can learn from the world’s most renowned leaders and virtually participate in conferences,’ he said…Ms. Livingston’s goal was to improve her skills so she could become a paid teacher on the GetSetUp platform, which offers classes — all taught via Zoom by teachers older than 50 — on skills from professional development to technology, health, wellness and hobbies like photography…There are three membership levels, starting at free and topping out at $20 a month for unlimited access.”

 

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 60 minutes.


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.

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions: Examine the title of the post and of the actual article. Next examine  any photos. Write a paragraph describing what you think this article will discuss. A pre-reading organizer may be used.

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

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. Deb Livingston was a former business consultant.
  2. When the pandemic hit, she  was confined at home.
  3. She discovered GetSetUp, an interactive website.
  4. Mr. Mihm decided to return to school empowered because of the pandemic.
  5. Ms. Livingston’s goal was to improve her skills.
  6. A nonpartisan group supporting entrepreneurship, found that more than 25 percent of new entrepreneurs were ages 55 to 64.
  7. GetSetUp, for example, offers courses on running an e-commerce marketplace.
  8. The good news, is the level of sophistication of online education.
  9. I love that I can help others keep their zest for life and help myself in the process.”
  10. After resigning from his corporate post, Mr. Mihm, 55, decided to go back to school.

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.

“The good news, though/tho, is/are the level of sophistication  on/of online education is increasing and/an more access is coming/come to rural communities,” Mr. Kamber said. It’s a breve/brave new world of learning/learn for people, an/and that gives/give me hop/hope. For Ms. Livingston, that means continuing to take/took and/an teach classes at/ate GetSetUp.

“Learning at/on any stage of life is/are what stimulates creativity and joy,” she said. “So much energy emerges/emerge from connecting the dots, having ‘aha’ moments and gaining skill/skills. I love that I can help other/others keep their zest/rest for life and help myself in the process.”

Reading Comprehension

Identify The  Speakers

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

  1. “When the pandemic hit, I was at home and found myself diving into online exploration.”
  2. I have a love of learning, and it was an opportunity to step back, study and explore.”
  3. “The need for workers to keep pace with fast-moving economic, cultural and technological changes, combined with longer careers, will add up to great swaths of adults who need to learn more than generations past — and faster than ever.”
  4. “Virtual learning has become “the great equalizer.”
  5. “The traditional way of designing training and reskilling is a long, drawn-out program where you get a certificate or a degree. By the time you get that certificate, the skill is already outdated. We’re changing that model.”
  6. “I really wanted to create a program that would be able to get older adults to use technology and give them the kinds of training and support in environments where they could succeed.”

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. Why did Ms. Livingston begin  exploring online education courses?
  2. What new information did Ms. Livingston learn from her online classes?
  3. According to the article, how has the internet empowered adult learners?
  4. According to the Census Bureau, what will happen to the number of people 65 and older in 2034?
  5. Why is adult education referred to as ‘the Wild West’ of education technology?
  6. According to Mr. Yoquinto, what are two reasons older adults are taking more online classes?
  7. Why is virtual learning considered to be ‘the great equalizer’?
  8. Describe the ‘GetSetUp’ platform.
  9. What does the acronym OATS stand for?
  10. In addition to learning new skills, what are older adults doing with new  the new information they have learned?

 

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

How to Create Safe Spaces for Your Children to Talk to You

Tips for creating safe spaces and developing emotional intelligence in your children.It is never too late to start opening new communication channels with your child. S. Boswell, The New York Times, Oct. 15, 2020

Credit-SuccessfulParenting

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Excerpt: How to Help Kids Open Up About Anything By Shanicia Boswell, The New York Times, Oct. 15, 2020

“Did you learn your lesson?” my mother asked.

Those five words have been etched in my mind since I was a teenager.

I was a good kid… but I was always pushing the boundaries. This time, I had received a speeding ticket for rushing to get home before my curfew. When I told her what had happened, my mother approached me with arms crossed, her tone one of serious concern, but not anger.

I received no actual punishment, but I did have to take responsibility for my actions and pay the ticket with my own money. Growing up, I always found my mother to be a safe space for me.

Credit-GrandrapidKids

Now that I’m a mother, I’ve worked to create those spaces for my daughter. The communication that starts with parents and children is one of the most influential and persuasive ways children can learn to socialize throughout their lives, research shows. 

Taylor Quick, a licensed child therapist for Zola Counseling, a private practice in Charlotte, N.C., defines safe spaces as the relationship that a child has to her parent or caregiver to feel understood and heard..How do we create safe spaces to allow our children to manage their emotions and talk openly?

Credit- MyKidsTime

Have a ‘feelings check-in’…Smith-Crawford suggested parents try this with their children. ‘Ideally, feelings check-ins are done daily, at the end of the day. You can do this with your children until they are adults,’ she said.

Self-awareness, or knowing what you feel and how you feel it, is an important component of emotional intelligence, said Daniel Goleman, Ph.D, the author of Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships.

redit-The Good Men Project

Dr. Goleman has demonstrated how younger children have the power to manage their emotions… My 7-year-old and I have a safety circle. In this circle, we sit face to face to create a feeling of [being] equal…It is never too late to start opening new communication channels with your child, especially as we are spending so much more time together during the pandemic. By helping our children talk openly at home, we are preparing them to communicate and connect with others and to use their voice powerfully in the world.”

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 60 minutes.


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: Examine the title of the post and of the actual article. Next examine  any photos. Write a paragraph describing what you think this article will discuss. A pre-reading organizer may be used.

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

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. Tips for creating safe spaces and developing emotional intelligence in your children.
  2. Those five words have been etched in my mind since I was a teenager.
  3. I was a good kid growing up  between boys and shenanigans.
  4. I was always pushing the boundaries.
  5. The communication  has to start with parents and children.
  6. Many parents feel that making  a curfew for kids is important.
  7. This is  one of the most influential ways children can learn to socialize throughout their lives.
  8. Children feel more empowered after their feelings have been validated.
  9. I want the children and the family to identify and be aware of the feelings that they’ve experienced.
  10. Self-awareness is an important component of emotional intelligence.

 

 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. Those five word have been etched in my mind.
  2. I was a good kid but I was always pushing the boundaries.
  3. I had a speeding ticket for rushing to get home before my curfew.

II

  1. Now that I’m a mother, I’ve worked to create those spaces for my daughter.
  2. How do we create safe spaces for our children?
  3. Parents should have check-ins with their children.

III

  1. Showing child how to calm down is important.
  2. Younger children have the power to manage their emotions.
  3. My 7-year-old and I have a safety circle.

 

Reading Comprehension

Identify The  Speakers

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

  1. ” Growing up, I always found my mother to be a safe space for me.”
  2. Defines safe spaces as “the relationship that a child has to her parent or caregiver to feel understood and heard.”
  3. “I want the children and the family to identify and be aware of the feelings that they’ve experienced throughout their week but also be able to connect that feeling with a certain circumstance or event.”
  4. “Self-awareness, or knowing what you feel and how you feel it, is an important component of emotional intelligence.”
  5. “My parents listen to me because they want to support me and they want to be there for me.”
  6. He suggests,” we can ask our children how we are doing as parents.”

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 feel it is important for children or adults to have a safe place? Please explain why.
  2. Do you have a safe place? Why?
  3. How does Taylor Quick defines safe places?
  4. According to Ms. Quick, when do children feel more empowered?
  5. Describe ‘feelings check-in’
  6. According to Smith-Crawford how long should parents do feelings-check-ins with their children?

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

High School Grades Could Be Worth $100,000

“Most colleges and universities now use a ‘merit’ aid strategy to solicit teenagers. Your eighth grader probably ought to know how it works.” R. Lieber, The New York Times, January 23, 2021

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Credit- Robert Neubecker

 

Excerpt: High School Grades Could Be Worth $100,000. Time to Tell Your Child? By Ron Lieber, The New York Times, January 23, 2021

“Financial aid is no longer just about what you earn and what you have. It’s also about your children and what they do — and that means that good grades can be worth a whole lot of money.

In the past quarter-century, an ever-growing number of schools — both public and private — have begun using aid as a weapon to try to increase their institutional prestige. In many cases, it is bait for students who can raise the school’s profile in the eyes of the rankings overlords at places like U.S. News & World Report. In others, it’s become so rampant that discounts are necessary just to keep heads in the beds and pay the light bill. It goes by the name merit aid, and it’s not the same as the more limited academic scholarships of a generation ago.

Now, admissions officers often report to bosses with the words “enrollment management” in their titles, and they can spread the money around much more broadly…The result is an elaborate parallel financial aid system that can totally upend the psychology of picking a college.

And because nearly all but the most selective schools now use merit aid at least a little, list prices are increasingly irrelevant for most families…Georgia high schoolers might aim for the Hope Scholarship, where a 3.0 grade point average or above can lead to thousands of dollars per year off the price at the University of Georgia and other schools…At the University of Oregon, there is a range of discounts, and the school lists different tiers of grades as the ‘basis’ for awards…But how — and when — should you tell your child that their high school grades might be worth six figures?…one possibility is this: Have a brief but deliberate merit aid conversation two months into the summer after eighth grade. It does not have to be an extended chat if a child seems reasonably motivated already. You might simply explain that grades don’t just count for admission these days — good ones can make many expensive schools more affordable. That way, rising high school freshmen can begin to consider what sort of marks they’ll need to achieve and other extracurricular goals they might want to set.”

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 60 minutes.


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: Examine the title of the post and of the actual article. Next examine  any photos. Write a paragraph describing what you think this article will discuss. A pre-reading organizer may be used.

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

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. Most colleges and universities now use a ‘merit‘ aid strategy to solicit teenagers.
  2. Both public and private schools  have begun using aid as a weapon to try to increase their institutional prestige.
  3. In many cases, it is bait for students who can raise the school’s profile.
  4. It goes by the name merit aid, and it’s not the same as the more limited academic scholarships of a generation ago.
  5. ‘Aid’ is a bit of a misnomer, albeit one that we seem to be stuck with.
  6. But the merit part actual academic and leadership prowess  can also matter plenty.
  7. The result is an elaborate parallel financial aid system that can totally upend the psychology of picking a college.
  8. Georgia high schoolers might aim for the Hope Scholarship, where a 3.0 grade point average or above can lead to thousands of dollars per year off the price at the University of Georgia and other schools.
  9. At the University of Oregon, there is a range of discounts, and the school lists different tiers of grades as the ‘basis’ for awards.
  10. Now, about the timing. It seems only fair that teenagers ought to know the rules of engagement at the beginning of the game.

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

I

  1. Over several year I’ve been  talking to scores of college presidents.
  2. What are you willing to pay for college, and where?
  3. Be ready to explain why you intend to limit it to a certain amount of money.

II

  1. Many teen would be furious if you held this information back.
  2. Have a brief conversation two months into the summer after eighth grade.
  3. If you haven’t been talking about money all along, a basic conversation may be in order.

III

  1. Try to at least break the news gently to your teen.
  2. It is tempting to hid the money instead.
  3. “In seventh grade, you knew which teams you had to make.

 

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.

It is a heady___ of money and___ and whatever angst hormonal___might experience if you try to make them ___for a six-figure discount. The___application ___is unpleasant enough; why pile on with more___?

WORD LIST: pressure, process, college, responsible, children, feelings, stew,

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. According to the author, what has changed about ‘financial aid’?
  2. How have schools begun to use their aid?
  3. Is ‘merit aid’ the same as academic scholarships?
  4. According to the article, “grades aren’t just a factor in getting into a first-choice school, but also in what you might pay for a residential undergraduate education”. Explain in your own words what this means?
  5. When is the best time to talk to teens about the merit aid system?
  6. How did the  private colleges start this war for students?
  7. Why don’t colleges ask applicants to apply separately for merit aid?
  8. As a student have you ever encountered the merit aid system in your school?
  9. If you are a parent have you encountered the merit aid system in your child’s school?
  10. What do you think of the merit aid program?

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

Students and Faculty Say ‘NO’ to Exam Surveillance Tools

“Algorithmic proctoring software has been around for several years, but its use exploded as the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to quickly transition to remote learning… Invasive test-taking software has become mandatory in many places, and some companies are retaliating against those who speak out.”T. Feathers and J. Rose, vicemagazine (9/2020)

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Image- 9to5mac.com

EXCERPT: Students Are Rebelling Against Eye-Tracking Exam Surveillance Tools, By Todd Feathers/Janus Rose.

“As a privacy-minded computer science student preparing to start his first year at Miami University, Erik Johnson was concerned this fall when he learned that two of his professors would require him to use the digital proctoring software Proctorio for their classes. The software turns students’ computers into powerful invigilators—webcams monitor eye and head movements, microphones record noise in the room, and algorithms log how often a test taker moves their mouse, scrolls up and down on a page, and pushes keys. The software flags any behavior its algorithm deems suspicious for later viewing by the class instructor.In the end, Johnson never had to use Proctorio. Not long after he began airing his concerns on Twitter and posted a simple analysis of the software’s code on Pastebin, he discovered that his IP address was banned from accessing the company’s services.

image- edsurge.com

He also received a direct message from Proctorio’s CEO, Mike Olsen, who demanded that he take the Pastebin posts down, according to a copy of the message Johnson shared with Motherboard. Johnson refused to do so, and is now waiting to see if Proctorio will follow up with more concrete legal action, as it has done to other critics in recent weeks.

His case is just one example of how college campuses are revolting against the use of digital proctoring software, and the aggressive tactics employed by proctoring companies in response to those efforts.

In recent weeks, students have started online petitions calling for universities across the world to abandon the tools, and faculty on some campuses, like the University of California Santa Barbara, have led similar campaigns, arguing that universities should explore new forms of assessment rather than subjecting students to surveillance…Proctoring companies cite studies estimating that between 50 and 70 percent of college students will attempt some form of cheating, and warn that cheating will be rampant if students are left unmonitored in their own homes….’Any plan that calls for schools to just ‘stop using’ proctoring will make cheating more common than it already is, escalating a severe threat to all higher education,’ Scott MacFarland, the CEO of ProctorU, another proctoring vendor, wrote in an email to Motherboard…Students’ and educators’ objections to exam proctoring software go beyond the privacy concerns around being watched and listened to in their bedrooms while they take a test.

As more evidence emerges about how the programs work, and fail to work, critics say the tools are bound to hurt low-income students, students with disabilities, students with children or other dependents, and other groups who already face barriers in higher education…’They aren’t taking into consideration people from underprivileged communities,’Alamri said. ‘This sort of online exam is really measuring a person’s generationalwealth and not their knowledge of the law.’

 

NOT RELATED, BUT FUN TO WATCH:

Smithsonian’s Pandas in the Snow!

Feb. 1, 2021:  Slides, somersaults and pure panda joy. Happy snow day from Giant Pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian!  ~Smithsonian’s National Zoo ~

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 60 minutes.


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: Examine the title of the post and of the actual article. Next examine the photos. Write a paragraph describing what you think this article will discuss. A pre-reading organizer may be helpful.

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

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 software turns students’ computers into powerful invigilators.
  2. Webcams monitor eye and head movements and algorithms log how often a test taker moves their mouse.
  3. The software flags any behavior its algorithm deems suspicious.
  4. Johnson  discovered that his IP address was banned from accessing the company’s services.
  5. In recent weeks, students have started online petitions.
  6. Algorithmic proctoring software has been around for several years.
  7. Proctoring companies cite studies estimating that between 50 and 70 percent of college students will attempt some form of cheating.
  8. Some believe cheating on college exams is escalating.
  9. The system measures suspicion levels as students take exams.
  10.   Other proctoring companies have also been litigious when faced with criticism. 

 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. Students and educator object to exam proctoring software.
  2. Law students around the country are organizing to fight against the use of any kind of digital proctoring.
  3. Oregon, and Wisconsin have already scrapped their upcoming bar exams as a result of student pressure.

II

  1. Other states, including New York, are fumbling for solutions as deadlines for the exams quickly approach.
  2. In their petition, the students say the used of ExamSoft discriminates against people of color.
  3. The California bar exam would require test takers to verify their identity with facial recognition checks.

III

  1. They aren’t taking into consideration people from underprivileged communities.
  2. If a student looks away from the screen more than their peers they are flagged for an abnormality.
  3. in general, students and faculty are worried about the spread of proctoring tools on campuses.

Reading Comprehension

Identify The  Speakers

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

  1.  “If my professors weren’t flexible, I’d be completely unable to take exams.”
  2. “We’re supposed to be protecting our students.”
  3.  “Any plan that calls for schools to just ‘stop using’ proctoring will make cheating more common than it already is, escalating a severe threat to all higher education.”
  4.  “It just seems to me that this mock exam is reading the poor lighting as my skin color.”
  5.  “These coders are defining, mathematically, the ideal student body: how often it does, or doesn’t do, these certain attributes, and anything outside of that ideal is treated with suspicion.”
  6.  “Each academic department has almost complete agency to design their curriculum as far as I know, and each professor has the freedom to design their own exams and use whatever monitoring they see fit.”
  7. After this person began sharing Proctorio training videos and documents that explained the company’s abnormality methodology on Twitter, the videos were removed from YouTube, and Proctorio filed for a court injunction to prevent  this person from sharing its training material.

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. . Why was Erik Johnson against using  the digital proctoring software Proctorio for their classes?
  2. On which media site did Johnson air his concerns?
  3. In general, how do the faculty feel about using forcing students to endure surveillance during exams?
  4. Algorithmic proctoring software has been around for several years, so what caused this sudden explosive need to use it now?
  5. According to the proctoring companies, what percentage of college students will attempt to cheat?
  6. What is the concern about allowing students take exams in their homes? Do you agree with this statement? Why are why not?
  7. According to Scott MacFarland, “Any plan that calls for schools to just ‘stop using’ proctoring will make cheating more common than it already is, escalating a severe threat to all higher education.”  Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Please provide a reason for your answer.
  8. According to the article, some programs hurt certain groups of people. Who are these groups and how are they hurt by Surveillance Tools during exams?
  9. Have you ever had to take an exam that used digital proctoring? If yes, what was it like? If no, would you be comfortable taking an exam with digital proctoring?

Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading. They can write about something they did not understand. In addition, have students write something that they would have liked to see in the article.

.ANSWER KEY