Category Archives: Animals

Jane Goodall was Right: Chimps Do Share Personality Traits With Humans

“In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Jane Goodall started attributing personalities to the chimpanzees she followed in Gombe National Park in what is now Tanzania. In her descriptions, some were more playful or aggressive, affectionate or nurturing. Many scientists at the time were horrified, she recalled… They contended she was inventing personality traits for animals…But time has borne out her insights. Chimpanzees in the wild have personalities similar to those in captivity, and both strongly overlap with traits that are familiar in humans, a new study published in Scientific Data confirms.”  K. Weintraub, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Jane and some of her chimps. NPR

Excerpt: Wild and Captive Chimpanzees Share Personality Traits With Humans By Karen Weintraub, the New York Times

“Dr. Goodall, now 83, said in a phone interview on Monday from her home in England that scientists thought ‘I was guilty of the worst kind of anthropomorphism.’ The new examination of chimpanzees at Gombe updates personality research conducted on 24 animals in 1973 to include more than 100 additional chimps that were evaluated a few years ago. The animals were individually assessed by graduate students in the earlier study, and in the latest by Tanzanian field assistants, on personality traits like agreeableness, extroversion, depression, aggression and self-control.

Jane Goodall Institute

Researchers used different questionnaires to assess the chimps’ traits in the two studies, but most of the personality types were consistent across the two studies. These traits seen among wild chimps matched ones seen among captive animals, the study found, and are similar to those described in people…Clive Wynne, a professor and director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University in Tempe, who was not involved in the research, said the new study offered a ‘really rich picture’ of the overlap among species. 

Jane and a baby

‘It’s backing up and reinforcing a number of things that we assume about animal personality that are seldom established with this degree of security in substantial wild-living populations,’ said Dr. Wynne, who concurs that dogs, his area of specialty, also have similar personality traits.

Jane Goodall-CBS News

Dr. Goodall said that fits what she’s seen, too. She only visits Gombe twice a year now, and only two animals are still alive from the days when she knew them as individuals. One, a mother of twins named Gremlin, has changed a bit, Dr. Goodall said… Dr. Goodall added that she’s pleased that researchers are still finding so much of interest at Gombe, and tapping into the expertise of Tanzanian field workers.”

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 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

KWL Chart

Directions: Have students use the KWL chart to list the information they already know about Jane Goodall.  Later in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about the topic.

I. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. Goodall started attributing personalities to the chimpanzees.
  2. Chimpanzees have the same personality traits like humans.
  3. During the early research many scientists at the time were horrified at Dr. Goodall’s statement.
  4. Dr. Goodall was accused of the worst kind of anthropomorphism.
  5. Researchers have found that many animals have very vivid personalities.
  6. The new examination of chimpanzees at Gombe updates personality research conducted on 24 animals.
  7. These findings were in line with previous research done by Goodall.
  8. She knew from childhood experiences with guinea pigs, and other pets that animals have personalities that are quite familiar.
  9. According to Dr. Goodall, the ape named Gremlin has become more confident as she gets older.
  10. Researchers used different questionnaires to assess the chimps’ traits.

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

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

Robert Latzman, an ___professor at Georgia State University, who was not___in the study, said his___with ___in___ has always left open the question of whether animals in the wild are somehow different… ‘The work in the ___how similar these ___truly are to humans.’

WORD LIST: animals, underscores, wild, zoos, chimpanzees, research, involved, associate,

Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I

  1. Many scientists at the time  did not agree with Goodall.
  2. Animals show the same traits as humans.
  3. The animals  was individually assessed.

 

II

  1. Researchers used different questionnaires to assess the chimps’ traits.
  2. According to Goodall,  animals have vivid personalities.
  3. Some say that dogs also has similar personality traits.

III

  1. Research in the wild underscores how similar these animals truly is to humans.
  2. Researchers still have interest  in the chimps at Gombe.
  3. Goodall only visits Gombe twice a year now.

 

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?

KWL Chart

Directions:  Have students  fill in the last column of the KWL chart if they used one in the pre-reading segment of this lesson.

Discussion for Reading Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups Have each group list 3  questions they would like to ask any person mentioned in the article. Groups share questions as a class.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Animals

California’s New Pet Law: Pets Must Be Rescues

In a blow to commercial animal breeders and brokers, California pet stores will soon have to get their puppies, kittens and rabbits from shelters and rescue centers only. Individuals can still buy from private breeders. But beginning in January 2019, it will be illegal for stores to do so. Violators will face a fine of $500.” J. Fortin, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

SPCA Value of Adoption

Excerpt: California Tells Pet Stores Their Dogs and Cats Must Be Rescues By Jacey Fortin, The New York Times

“The bill, A.B. 485, had strong support from several animal welfare organizations, which cheered it as a blow to “puppy mills” and “kitten factories” that mass produce animals for sale, often in inhumane conditions. It was written by two California Assembly members, Patrick O’Donnell and Matt Dababneh, both Democrats, and signed into law on Friday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

photo- lfpress.com

California is the first state to pass such legislation, though it is following dozens of its own cities and jurisdictions, which have passed similar measures on a smaller scale…Opponents of the measure argued that the bill painted large ‘puppy mills’ and responsible backyard dog breeders with the same broad brush.

Animals wait for adoption. Daily Herald

Mike Bober, the president of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, a national advocacy group, called it ‘well-intentioned but misguided’ in a video last month, adding that it would jeopardize hundreds of jobs.

Ben Ashel’s store specializes in tiny dog breeds including teacup Yorkies and toy Maltipoos said he was not sure what he would do once the law comes into play.

After the bill easily passed in California’s Senate and Assembly last month, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals praised the state for taking action where federal regulators had fallen short.

Because pet stores are one step removed from the breeding of the animals they sell, store owners rarely know the breeding conditions of their animals.

‘By cutting off the puppy mill pipeline that moves cruelly bred animals from across the country into California pet stores, A.B. 485 will also help prevent California consumers from being duped into purchases that contribute to unconscionable animal ‘production’ and suffering,’ the organization said in a statement.

Adopt a pet blog

But Ben Ashel, a pet store owner in Agoura Hills, Calif., said the new law might have unintended effects by motivating more consumers to order dogs online or find sneakier ways to acquire the breeds they want…They just want to start fresh with a puppy, and this law makes it very, very difficult.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Level: Intermediate -Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, speaking and listening. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handouts (from this lesson) access to news article, and video.

Objective:  Students will read the article with a focus on reading comprehension and new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through discussions, 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 Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. Pet stores are one step removed from the breeding of the animals they sell.
  2. In many cases, puppy mills house animals in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.
  3. Many times there is not adequate food, water, socialization or veterinary care.
  4. The number of for-profit pet stores in California has been dwindling.
  5. Still, Mr. Jang said he understood lawmakers’ intentions.
  6. Their heart is in the right place, but their thinking is a little shortsighted.
  7. Cruelly bred animals from across the country will move into California pet stores.
  8. One store, Puppy Heaven, specializes in matching owners with tiny dogs.
  9. Some people need breeds that work well with children or accommodate allergies.
  10. The new law might have unintended effects by motivating more consumers to order dogs online.

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

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

It takes the___of choice from___who want to get a puppy. They don’t want to get someone else’s ___dog or something of that nature, he said, adding that some people need ___that work well with or accommodate___and other health issues.

WORD LIST:  allergies breeds, unwanted,   people, freedom, children

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.

His stye/store, Puppy Heaven/Haven, specializes in matching/moving owners with teeny/tiny dogs — teacup Yorkies and toy Maltipoos — and has a celebrity clientele. He said he was not sure what he would do once the law/lawyer comes into affect/effect.

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 for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them  discuss the following statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. Do you own a pet?  Where did you get them from?
  2. In your opinion, what are the advantages of California’s new law? What are the disadvantages?
  3. Do you think all pet stores should only get animals from shelters? Why or why not?
  4. In your opinion, which places are the safest to obtain a pet?

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: Animals

Giving Credit to the [Real] Dogs of War

“I would wager that 90 percent of American combat troops killed in action during the Vietnam War never saw their killers. Whether it was a sniper at 200 yards, a rocket fired into a base camp or an attack from a well-concealed bunker complex, the element of surprise was usually on the side of our enemies. But our forces did have one elite weapon that sometimes took the advantage away. At times, these weapons even turned such situations upside down and enabled us to surprise and take them out. That elite weapon was our military working dog, and we had thousands of them.” R. Cunnigham, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Sentry dogs with their handlers after patrolling near Da Nang in 1969. Credit R.A. Elder/Hulton Archive, via Getty Images Once in Vietnam, these dogs were the gold .jpg

Excerpt: The Dogs of the Vietnam War, by Richard Cunnigham, The New York Times

“I was a sentry dog handler in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968, a member of the 212th Military Police Sentry Dog Company stationed in Tay Ninh. My companion was a German shepherd named Smokey. I was 20 years old and weighed 135 pounds; Smokey weighed 90 pounds. Our unit’s responsibility was to protect the Tay Ninh Base Camp, and especially the ammunition dump. Smokey and I typically worked at night, 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., but we would also conduct daylight area sweeps when temporarily attached to infantry units.

Fieldy is an athletic black Labrador retriever who served four combat tours in Afghanistan. Phot- ABC News

In Vietnam, American forces used dogs for everything from base security to detecting ambushes to hunting down fleeing enemy units. We used German shepherds like Smokey, mixes of shepherd types and Labrador retrievers that were well trained in detecting, attacking and tracking the enemy. They were certainly not all purebreds. Most were given to the military by families back home.

The dogs started out at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas with a thorough physical exam. Then they were observed and tested to determine which area of training they would be assigned. Aggressive dogs usually went to the sentry unit. Less aggressive but still highly intelligent shepherd dogs went to the scout school. The Labradors, with their amazing noses, went straight to tracker training.

Specialized Search Dog (SSD) Taz, a Black Labrador Retriever, finds explosives during war. Photo-Camp Pendleton

Every dog accepted was highly intelligent, and each became a canine soldier, with his or her own individual four-digit service number tattooed in the left ear. Dogs and their handlers went through three phases of instruction: drill/obedience, aggression and scouting. And although it appeared that the dogs were being instructed, it was the soldiers who were actually being taught.

At Okinawa, where I met and trained with Smokey, most of the dogs were veterans being reassigned to new handlers. They knew the drills inside and out, and we did not. Our training instructors seemed to take a perverse pleasure in informing us how dumb we were compared with the dogs.

A human nose has about five million scent receptors; a shepherd has at least 225 million. The dogs can detect movement much faster and more accurately than we can, and their ears can hear, even at a very early age, sound from four times farther away than we can. What’s more, all our dogs had lived with our American ‘smells’ for years. The scent of the Vietnamese was very different and much easier for them to pick up and alert on.

When our politicians decided to exit Vietnam — in a hurry — the military classified our dogs as “equipment.” As such, they were left behind. Some, but not many, were transferred to the South Vietnamese military and police. Of the 4,000 dogs that served in-country, fewer than 200 made it back to the States. Not a pleasant thought to consider given their incredible service, endurance and devotion to duty.

I’ve heard it said that without our military dogs, there would be 10,000 additional names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall. I, for one, think that’s an understatement.

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 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 Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. There were many sentry dog handlers in Vietnam.
  2. The unit’s responsibility was to protect the camp.
  3. Soldiers were temporarily attached to infantry units.
  4. Dogs were good at detecting ambushes.
  5. Aggressive dogs usually went to the sentry unit.
  6. Every dog responded to both verbal and nonverbal hand commands.
  7. Scout dogs were able to raise an alarm about an ambush long before the the unit knew there was danger.
  8. With a dog’s help a soldier could call in fire or air support to obliterate the enemy position.
  9. Not every unit on patrol got a dog.
  10. With a scout dog team leading the way, most patrols were successful or uneventful.

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

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

This ___or sound ___was also true of the ___dog teams, like Smokey and me. When a dog team___at its post — usually just a ___around a camp,___dump or air field — it ___a ‘changeover.’The handler changed the dog’s ___collar to his ___’now it’s time to work’ collar. The dog understood the difference___ and went to work.

WORD LIST: immediately, choke-chain, performed, arrived, sentry, scent,   alert, path, ammo, leather,

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.

There were also mind/mine and booby/body trap dogs. They protected/protect our soldiers on patrol/petrol from the many and diverse/diversified devices set to kill and maid/maim. Take the thin, monofilament line/lies that were practically invisible/advisable to the human eye, which the Vietcong attached to a grenade/green or other explosive device/devious that detonated when ‘tripped.’

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 for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups Have each group list 3  questions they would like to ask any person mentioned in the article. Groups share questions as a class.

Extra: Web Search

Directions: In groups/partners have students search the web for the topic of dogs used in wars to see what additional information they can find. Students can either have further discussions or write an essay about the subject.

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

Category: Animals

“The Doctor Will See Your Iguana Now”

“For the duck with egg problems and the iguana with a troubled snout, Dr. Anthony Pilny is a ray of hope. He treats exotic pets at the Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He has a tattoo of a crane on one arm, a finch on the other, and a puffin on the back of his leg… He is particularly fond of birds; he has 15 of them. He saves brightly colored feathers from his patients in a desk drawer in the hospital office and periodically sends them to an organization called Feathers for Native Americans. They are for American Indians who require naturally molted plumage for their headdresses.” A. Newman, The New York Times

Spot’s owner kisses her after her surgery.

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post  with Answer Key

Excerpt: When a Manhattan Iguana Needs a Doctor, By Andy Newman, The New York Times

Dr. Anthony Pilny started the day short-handed: A colleague at the Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine was bitten by an iguana while making her morning rounds. An iguana’s mouth contains around 100 tiny serrated teeth. The other vet went off to the urgent care clinic to get stitches, leaving Dr. Pilny to do an enormously messy piece of gynecological surgery on a duck without an assisting doctor. The duck was out cold on the table in a basement operating room, a breathing tube stuck down her bill. Dr. Pilny sliced open her abdominal cavity and rooted around.‘What is this?’ he asked. ‘I’m seeing some sort of fluid-filled saclike structures. I see free egg yolk in her body.’

Dino the Duck. photo: NYT

There was little time to ponder the situation. On this Thursday morning not long ago, patients were stacked up in their cages: a guinea pig with hair loss, a rabbit unable to move its bowels, and the irascible iguana, now relaxing behind a sign that said ‘Use Caution Lunges.’ Others waited in recovery: a hedgehog newly minus one eyeball, and a chinchilla who sacrificed a leg to the bars of her cage.

Vicente Vergara, a technician in the office, demonstrated how to give medication to a hedgehog who had just had an eyeball removed. Credit Karsten Moran for The New York Times

 

Little Neko the guinea pig received a catheter during her surgery for ovarian cysts.Credit Karsten Moran for The New York Times

 

The center, on Columbus Avenue on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, is the city’s only exclusively exotic animal hospital. ‘Exotic’ in the veterinary trade simply means all pets except cats and dogs.  The center treats anything else that comes in the door and weighs under 50 pounds.

Flowerhorn cichlid fish. Photograph- Meetthepet.com

A Prairie Dog (in the middle) with two ducklings. Photo-ViralNova

Most of the patients are rabbits, rodents, lizards or birds, but they can get pretty exotic: kinkajous, alligators, flower horn fish and prairie dogs. So can their problems. ‘I’ve been an avian and exotic vet since 2004,’ Dr. Pilny said, ‘and every day I say, ‘What the hell is this?’

A Kinkajous, Watertown Zoo. Photograph- Joel Sartore, National Geographic.

Many of the center’s patients are not legal in New York City, sometimes for good reason. ‘I’m not a big fan of people keeping a lot of the animals that come in here,’ Dr. Pilny said. But the center asks no questions and passes no judgments. It is not the pet police. ‘We don’t report anybody,’ Dr. Pilny said. ‘We just provide medical care.”

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 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: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions:  Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a good Pre-reading organizer  by Scholastic for assistance.

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. There was little time to ponder the situation.
  2. One sign said to use Caution.
  3. This is the city’s only exclusively exotic animal hospital.
  4. Dr. Pilny has been an avian and exotic vet since 2004.
  5. Many of the center’s patients are not legal in New York City.
  6. Dr. Pilny removed most of her reproductive organs.
  7. Her egg problems led to calcium deficiency.
  8. There was a very extensive amount of broken eggs.
  9. The doctor had to  try something risky and just hoped it worked.
  10. There was a  cheery vibe in the reception area.

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

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

Ms. Tibbetts ___up a taped-shut___box and___it on the table. She___ the X-ray to Mr. St. John,___out the ___chunk of bone: “And these are her___, which found their way into Dr. Grodio’s___today.”

WORD LIST: finger, showed, brought, missing, teeth, pointing,  brought, set,

 Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

.

I

  1. The technician held Spot tightly wrapped in an towel.
  2. He expected to hit bone.
  3. Ms. Tibbetts came over to inspect.

II

  1. Her tail is amputated a while ago.
  2. She was 9 and had a history of lesions.
  3. Now she had a crusty lesion on the top of her head.

III

  1. Dr. Pilny went up to the office to make more calls.
  2. They  was discussing iguana temperaments.
  3. There’s no such thing as a nice iguana.

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 for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups  and  have each group compose a letter or note to a  person mentioned in the article telling her/him their thoughts on the topic. Share the letters as a class.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Animals

Opening Our Hearts…To Animals

“The quiet young man had come to me looking for love, ideally at first sight. I asked my usual questions about his work, where he lived, how he spent his free time. I asked about his great loves of the past… Then I asked how he felt about being jumped on, slobbered on or getting mud all over his couch. ‘I’m O.K. with that,’ he said. ‘Can I meet Chance?’ Ah, Chance. The young lab-mix, with a puppy’s zeal for life, who loved to chew on the shelter volunteers’ hands as we leashed him. ‘Behave yourself for once,’ I urged Chance as I opened the kennel…when we turned to leave he began to buck wildly. My heart sank. Then I saw the face of the young man waiting by the door. He’d gone all moony. He only had eyes for Chance.” A. Sutherland, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Excerpt: Opening the Heart’s Floodgates, With a Paw By Amy Sutherland, The New York Times

“Much to my surprise, I have become a matchmaker. On Saturday afternoons I pull on my gray T-shirt and head to the Animal Rescue League of Boston, where I help people find their canine soul mates amid the barky din. Doing this work, I’ve not only learned how to pair up people and canines, I have received a master class in the expansiveness of the human heart, a lesson that I very much needed. Being a matchmaker was never my plan. I began volunteering at the shelter to help dogs. Just dogs. And the more time I spent with the dogs, the more my love for my fellow man withered.

At the shelter, I walked dogs that had been abandoned for trivial reasons or for no reason at all. I cared for pups that had been tied to utility poles on the street in wintertime, others so thin they had to wear coats in balmy spring weather, lacking the body mass to stay warm at 60 degrees. The more I walked these dogs, the more I became an animal person. To be called an animal person is not necessarily a compliment, not when it implies that you love animals with a passion matched only by how much you loathe your own species.

Best friends

Then one Saturday afternoon I noticed a young, outdoorsy couple walking down the row of kennels, stopping to say hello to each dog. I asked if they wanted to meet one. ‘Can we meet Ciera?’ the man asked. ‘Ciera?’ I squeaked. ‘Really? I mean yes, of course you can.’ No one ever asked to see Ciera, a young mutt with skinny legs... Shiny and black, like a seal, she was cute but regularly pooped right in her kennel, then ran back and forth in it. This was her big chance. I didn’t want to mislead this couple about what a nut she was, but I did want her to find a home…

As I began reading the notes on Ciera out loud, I dropped her leash and hoped for the best. She began ricocheting around the room, bouncing off the couch, the bookcases and the man’s legs…As I muffled a sigh, the couple laughed. Hard. I looked up. Their faces glowed. ‘I love her,’ the man said. ‘Me too,’ said the woman. ‘We want her.’

Many of us have more love inside than we know what to do with, but are too bottled up. Which is where dogs [and cats] can come in. With them, we can let our love flow freely without fear of being judged or rejected. They are like safety valves. With humans, I had bottled myself up. And love doesn’t like to be bottled up. ..I returned to the kennels to help more people toss their hearts away.”

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 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 Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. I have become a matchmaker.
  2. At the shelter, many dogs had been abandoned.
  3. To be called an animal person is not necessarily a compliment.
  4. So many people love animals with a passion.
  5. I had a dismal opinion of people.
  6. I didn’t want to mislead this couple.
  7. She was an air-bound blur of black fur.
  8. As I muffled a sigh, the couple laughed.
  9. There were ancient hounds and juveniles who hopped like kangaroos.
  10. We had no miniature dogs that day.

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.

Watching people fall/fell in love/loving so completely with dogs, I begin/began to see how humans/humanly long to give their hearts/heart away.

Of course, there are outliers: cool/cold customers sit/set on French bulldogs of a certain shade, or people who turn up their noises/noses at pit bulls, even the smoosh-mouthed little ‘pittie puppies.’  And the difficulties of human relationships can keep the love from flowing/flying.

Grammar Focus

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.

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

Animal people can be judgmental, self-righteous and cranky, all ___which I was becoming.___I spent more time ___the shelter, I found that I became less patient ___human beings, even my sweet husband. Walking the dogs would cheer me___, but my mood would darken___ I fixated___the stupidity and carelessness___my fellow Homo sapiens.___ the subway ride home I often caught myself frowning ___strangers___the train.

III. Post Reading Activities

Graphic Organizers: Finding the main idea

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.

Questions for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: In groups have students answer the following questions. Topics may be used for writing.

  1. With your group list at least 3 good reasons for adopting a pet.
  2. List 3 reasons against adoption.
  3. How many members of your group has ever adopted an animal? Describe the experience.
  4. Have each group compose a letter or note to a  person mentioned in the article telling her/him their thoughts on the topic. Share the letters as a class.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

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