“As we enter the traditional holiday season, it has become commonplace for many of us to suddenly pay attention to serious issues such as homelessness, hunger, poverty and illness… As an activist and humanitarian, my heart has long been with those the world has seemingly forgotten…But let’s be clear, the holiday season is not the only time to show kindness and compassion toward others.” K. Powell, CNN December 21, 2015
NOTE: Although the following article and lesson plan are from 2015, we feel that Kevin Powell’s message is still very relevant in 2021. ~ESL-Voices
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: Why kindness matters even more after Thanksgiving and Christmas By Kevin Powell, CNN, December 21, 2015
“I support this energy myself, as I’ve been producing an annual holiday party and clothing drive in New York City for homeless youths every December since the September 11 attacks… Of course, you don’t have to do what I do daily to feel that way. You simply have to have empathy in your heart for fellow human beings.
Look, who are you? Who are you really? George Bailey asks his guardian angel Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life.
You can be Georgia’s Kupenda Auset, a two-time cancer survivor whose bright spirit is forever dedicated to the health and wellness of others in spite of her endless battles with the disease. You can be Maryland’s Antonio Tijerino, head of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation and one of the most selfless leaders I have met. He mentors countless young people and stands with the children of immigrants at the Texas border as he never forgets his own immigrant journey.
You can be Rhonda Bayless in Indiana, single mother, young grandmother and dynamic voice for the voiceless, who has turned the difficulties of her own life into a community garden and empowerment space for those seeking a new path. I think of this as I travel America, our America. I have witnessed the dissing of the homeless, including some of our military veterans…
I think of this as I hear those who blame poor people for being poor, never bothering to understand the conditions that create and perpetuate poverty…And I think of this when I hear folks mock or hurt with their words women, gay and transgendered people, the elderly, youth, the disabled, people of religious faiths different from theirs and even those who’ve been the victims of violence.
Yes, I am appreciative of any holiday celebration that allows me to spend time with my mother, the only parent I’ve ever known, especially as she moves deeper into her golden years.
Yet I want that love, that compassion, that spirit of togetherness, of giving, of sharing, of being thankful, to be as natural to us as breathing, every single day of our lives.”
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos
Directions: Have students examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of words and ideas that they think might be related to this article.
II. While Reading Tasks
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- As we enter the traditional holiday season, we pay attention to serious issues.
- There is a desire to bring diverse people together.
- I’m an activist and humanitarian.
- People should have empathy for the less fortunate.
- I was financially destitute.
- We contribute toward the healing of our planet.
- Extreme indifference is dangerous.
- I think of this as debates rage about immigrants from Latin America.
- In the world there is so much violence and destruction.
- I have witnessed the dissing of the homeless.
Reading Comprehension: Word -Recognition
Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.
“And ___is having the ___to listen to the ___of those who might be ___from you like, say, ___ as they express what Thanksgiving or the ___season might mean to them, given their very different___ on this land.
Indeed, I’ve heard countless ___say that we are living in ___and difficult times. Yes, we are. But I also believe we have it in us, as ___beings, to make every day a___ day, and every moment we interact with each other an endless ___of the possibilities of our humanity.”
Word List: history, caring, different, voices, ability, ugly, individuals, Native Americans, celebration, holiday, human, holy.
Grammar Focus: Using Adjectives to describe pictures
Directions: Have students choose a picture from the article and write a descriptive paragraph using adjectives.
III. Post Reading Tasks
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?
Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.
- The following three statements were taken from the article. Rephrase each statement in your own words, then discuss the meaning with the members of your group.
“As an activist and humanitarian, my heart has long been with those the world has seemingly forgotten. Of course, you don’t have to do what I do daily to feel that way. You simply have to have empathy in your heart for fellow human beings.”
“Yes, I am appreciative of any holiday celebration that allows me to spend time with my mother, the only parent I’ve ever known, especially as she moves deeper into her golden years. Yet I want that love, that compassion, that spirit of togetherness, of giving, of sharing, of being thankful, to be as natural to us as breathing, every single day of our lives.”
“The homeless person was told he was a waste to society, a bum and the reason our communities have deteriorated. In his tirade, this angry man did not even bother to read the cardboard sign in the other man’s hands: I did two tours of duty in Iraq. The wars hurt me. I lost everything. Can you please help an American veteran? Please?”
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.