Category Archives: Culture

Should Students See Themselves in the Books They Read?

“Reading books by Latina writers taught me our stories were worthy of being told.” V. Matir, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Jump Rope – The author and her family at Palmetto Street in Bushwick, Brooklyn, in June 1983. Credit: Meryl Meisler

 

Excerpt: I Was ‘Too Much’ for Boarding School. But I Had the Garcia Sisters.

“I grew up in Bushwick, Brooklyn, in the 1980s, in what felt like a forgotten neighborhood.  Abandoned buildings loomed over piles of garbage and rubble. Playgrounds were overrun by drug dealers. But for me, Bushwick was a place imbued with my culture.

A piraguero (pronounced pee‐rah GWAY‐row)—one of a breed of street vendors that has become a hot‐weather institution in El Barrio

There were piragua carts with multicolored umbrellas selling shaved ice on every corner. The bodeguero Miguel gave my mother credit when our food stamps ran out. The Puerto Rican flag hung from almost every window.

My mother migrated from Honduras to New York in 1971. When I was 2 years old my mother met and fell in love with another woman, Millie, which was then widely considered taboo. Two years later we all moved into a two-bedroom railroad-style apartment.

The paint cracked and peeled off the walls, but we always had food on the table, even if it was white rice, fried eggs and canned corned beef…My life took a turn at 13 when my social studies teacher saw promise in me and suggested I take part in A Better Chance, a program that places low-income minority students in top schools around the country. I applied and was offered a four-year scholarship to attend a boarding-school-type program at Wellesley High School in Massachusetts…

I remember gazing out the window in awe as gorgeous mansions with perfect manicured lawns came into view. I moved into a four-story house with other students complete with a study and fireplace… But I soon realized that I was different. My guidance counselor would often pull me aside and tell me I was ‘too loud’ and ‘too much.’

Two Boys Crossing Gates Avenue, Bushwick, Brooklyn, Vanessa Mártir

Growing up, I’d read the Sweet Valley High series, Encyclopedia Brown mysteries and all the Judy Blume books. The characters in them didn’t look like me, but I was too young to understand the difference or know it could matter.

One day in my junior year, I was reading on the mezzanine overlooking the cafeteria, when my English professor, Mr. Goddard, approached me. ‘You should read this,’ he said and handed me How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. My eyes stopped at the writer’s name, Julia Alvarez. ‘That’s a Spanish name,’ I thought.

I saw myself reflected in the story of the Garcia sisters, who had fled to the United States from the Dominican Republic with their parents. They went to boarding school and, like me, had trouble fitting in. It began to dawn on me that there must be other writers like Ms. Alvarez out there. I asked teachers for recommendations and dug through the library shelves on campus.

Later I would discover the work of Gloria Anzaldúa, Cherríe Moraga, Sandra Cisneros.

What was missing for me was the narrative of the Latina who left the ’hood to pursue an education only to find that she no longer fit in anywhere. I was too loud at boarding school and a sellout in the place I had once called home.

For years I’d chronicle my joys and heartbreaks in journals and scribble down poems on napkins at bars. On weekends I’d go to the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. I was in awe of the poets who read their work aloud. I longed to be that brave. I was the only one of my siblings to graduate from college… When I learned I was pregnant in 2003, something inside me shifted. I wanted my daughter to learn by watching her mamá that she could live out her dreams. I dusted off my journals and wrote throughout my pregnancy. My first novel,  A Woman’s Cry, was published in 2007, three years after she was born. After my novel was published I sought out other writers of color. At last I found a place where I felt I belonged.

My mother still lives in the same apartment in Bushwick. The neighborhood is no longer reminiscent of a war zone…I buy my daughter, who is now 15 years old, books by writers like Elizabeth Acevedo, Jacqueline Woodson and Gabby Rivera. I teach writing in neighborhoods like the one I grew up in. I know from experience that when children see positive images of themselves reflected in front of the classroom, in books and on the big screen, it can make all the difference. This is how change happens, and it’s how we create a country in which all of us feel we belong. One story at a time.”

 

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions: Examine the titles of the post and the actual article.  Examine the photos, then create a list of  words and  ideas  that you  and your group members think might be related to this article. 

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. Abandoned buildings loomed over piles of garbage and rubble
  2. For me, Bushwick was a place imbued with my culture.
  3. My mother migrated from Honduras to New York in 1971.
  4. She fell in love with another woman which was then widely considered taboo.
  5. The program placed low-income minority students in top schools.
  6. I remember gazing out the window in awe.
  7. Rosie Perez as Tina in the 1989  film Do The Right Thing was the only exposure to a Latina I had.
  8. One day in my junior year, I was reading on the mezzanine overlooking the cafeteria.
  9. I saw myself reflected in the story of the Garcia sisters.
  10. For years I’d chronicle my joys and heartbreaks in journals.

ELLteaching 2.0 vocabulary chart

 

Grammar Focus: Identifying Prepositions

Directions: The following sentences are from the news article.For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.

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

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

I grew up___Bushwick, Brooklyn, ___the 1980s,___what felt like a forgotten neighborhood.

Abandoned buildings loomed ___piles ___garbage and rubble.

My mother migrated ___Honduras___New York___1971.

My life took a turn___13 when my social studies teacher saw promise___me.

Millie’s brother drove me___school ___a beat-up blue Pentecostal church van.

I saw myself reflected___the story___ the Garcia sisters, who had fled ___the United States___the Dominican Republic ___their parents.

 

Reading Comprehension

True /False/NA-Statements

Directions: Review the following statements from the reading.  If  a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is  not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they  mark  it F and provide the correct answer. 

  1. The author grew up in Manhattan, in the 1980s.
  2. The playgrounds were overrun by happy children.
  3. The grocer  Miguel gave the author’s mother credit when their food stamps ran out.
  4. Her mother migrated from  Puerto Rico to New York in 1971.
  5. The mother fell in love with an American man.
  6. The author was offered  a four-year scholarship to Wellesley High School in Massachusetts.
  7. While at Wellesley, the author realized that  she was just like the other students.
  8. Her English professor, Mr. Goddard introduced her to the book How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, by Julia Alverez.
  9. For years she would chronicle her  joys and heartbreaks in journals.
  10. The author’s  mother still lives in the same apartment in Bushwick.

 

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

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

  1. In your opinion is it important for students to feel  represented by the books they are reading? Why or why not?
  2. Do you see yourself in the books that you read? Name the books.
  3. Are there any authors that you particularly like to read?  Why?
  4. The author states, “Mr. Goddard, approached me. ‘You should read this,’ he said and handed me How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. My eyes stopped at the writer’s name, Julia Alvarez. ‘That’s a Spanish name” Are there authors from your own country that you enjoy reading? Who are they?
  5. How did you discover the authors that you identify with?
  6. In your opinion, who should be responsible for introducing students to books with which they can identify? For example, parents, teachers, librarians or someone else?
  7. Name at least two things that you have learned form reading this article.

ANSWER KEY

The Tug of War Within the Deaf and the Hearing Communities

“Your whole life, they’ve been trying to take you away from me,” my father says to me, referring to the deaf community. But the deaf community could just as easily say the same about my father.” S. Katz, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Credit- Katherine Lam, NYT

Excerpt: Is There a Right Way to Be Deaf? By Sarah Katz, The New York Times

“More than 90 percent of deaf and hard-of-hearing children are born to hearing parents like mine, who have little to no experience interacting with deaf people. When it was discovered that I was profoundly deaf at six weeks old, my parents faced a common decision: Should they adapt themselves to their deaf child, learn sign language, and embrace deaf culture, or have their deaf child adapt to hearing culture, give her cochlear implants or hearing aids, and train her in the precarious art of lip-reading?

My parents chose the former, believing that sign language would provide me with equal access to the opportunities afforded my hearing twin brother. So, when I was 6 months old, my parents welcomed educators from a local deaf school into their home to give signing lessons. Over several months, my mother learned to sign with me…Using sign language, I communicated a lot — even more than my brother. But then something strange happened. I began speaking. Aloud. In English.

Dress pretty, you like?’ my mother recalls me asking her when I was around 3 years old. I did, it turned out, have residual hearing, as later tests confirmed.

But I spoke using classic American Sign Language word order, which involves a grammatical structure closer to French than English — And, although my mother knew that my syntax did not indicate limited cognitive ability, but rather an acute, developing awareness of the language, she began to wonder if sign language was the right choice after all. Was disregarding an aural-oral approach restricting my natural gift of gab?

After more research my parents found what they thought was a middle path. Rather than have me undergo cochlear implant surgery my parents hoped to supplement my sign language education with cued speech, a visual communication system invented in 1966 at Gallaudet University that functions as a supplement to speech-reading (only 30 percent of speech is visible on the lips)…Cued speech can be learned in just 48 hours. My mother was convinced that this bicultural-bilingual approach involving a combination of cued speech and sign language lessons could give me the best of both worlds: full visual access to English and the hearing community, and concurrent access to sign language and the deaf community.

But we apparently couldn’t have it both ways. When the educators from the local deaf school learned that my parents were considering cued speech, they became livid. ‘If you choose cued speech,’ my mother recalls one of them saying, ‘we’re not coming back here.’

In the deaf community, some feel that cued speech, like cochlear implants, threatens deaf culture because they believe it arises from a medical model of deafness, through which deafness is perceived as an undesirable trait that needs to be treated or cured.

A ‘social model,’ on the other hand, suggests that the environment must adapt to the deaf person, whose “natural language” is sign language. The educators even asked my parents to consider sending me to their residential program, where, surrounded by fluent signers, I would absorb sign language at a faster pace and have full exposure to deaf culture… My mother was stumped. On the one hand, she didn’t know if cued speech would work, but desperately wanted to succeed at finding a way to communicate with me quickly and effectively. On the other hand, she didn’t want me to be alienated from the deaf community. My father, however, was resolute: He would not send his child away.

Sign Language Chart-amazon

Together, they decided the promise of cued speech was worth the risk for at least a year at the nearby public school. If it didn’t work out, they would have the deaf school’s residential program as a fallback option.. Throughout my life, I’ve felt like the object of a constant tug of war between the deaf and hearing communities. Although I’m rewardingly self-employed, married and highly literate, I still struggle in hearing-centric environments… Well-meaning hearing people frequently insult me with ‘compliments’ about how well I’ve assimilated, like, ‘I can barely tell you’re deaf!’ (We call comments like these ‘audist’ — akin to ‘racist’ or ‘sexist’ — because they assume deaf people like me must speak aloud and sound like a hearing person to be deemed fortunate or successful.)

On the other hand, when I spend time with deaf friends, I’m often chided by them for not being more fluent in sign language, or otherwise embracing a more culturally deaf way of life. According to them, I’ve succumbed to audism by using my voice to speak more often than my hands, and cued speech to absorb information… I still hold out hope that the deaf and hearing communities will come to a compromise.”

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

Directions: Examine the title of the post and the actual article.  Examine the photos, then create a list of  words and  ideas  that you  and your group members think might be related to this article. 

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. Some people are born deaf.
  2. The class studied aural anatomy yesterday.
  3. They reached an oral agreement.
  4. My mother was stumped by the response.
  5. Researchers look for ways to communicate effectively with deaf children.
  6. She didn’t want me to be alienated from the deaf community.
  7. I’m a 30-year-old who wears hearing aids.
  8. I’ve succumbed to audism by using my voice to speak
  9. She’s often chided by her  deaf friends for speaking.
  10. My father was resolute in his plans for me.

Color Vocabulary Map by Enchanted Learning

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,

___the other hand, when I spend time ___deaf friends, I’m often chided ___them___not being more fluent ___sign language, or otherwise embracing a more culturally deaf way ___life.According ___them, I’ve succumbed ___audism___using my voice___speak more often than my hands, and cued speech___ absorb information.

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.

In the ___community, some feel that___speech, like ___implants, ___deaf ___because they believe it arises from a ___model of deafness, through which ___is perceived as an ___trait that needs to be ___or cured.

WORD LIST: treated, undesirable, deafness, medical, culture,  threatens, cochlear, cued, deaf,

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

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

  1. Are you or someone you know hearing impaired? If yes, can you describe your experiences with non-hearing people? What about your experiences with people who can hear?
  2. Why is the following comment.I can barely tell you’re deaf!” considered to be an insult to deaf people?
  3. Why did the author’s parents choose to have  her learn sign language?
  4. Why is the classic American Sign Language word order structure closer to French than English?
  5. According to the article what is the difference between cued speech and a social model?
  6. The author states, ‘When the educators from the local deaf school learned that my parents were considering cued speech, they became livid. ‘If you choose cued speech,’ my mother recalls one of them saying, ‘we’re not coming back here.’ Why were the educators angry?
  7. What problems does the author face with her friends in the deaf community?
  8. Who is Amy Crumrine, and what solution does she offer to the deaf and hearing communities?
  9. After reading this article name at least one new thing that you’ve learned about the deaf community. Discuss what you’ve learned with your group members and share as a class.
  10. Create a list that of suggestions for ways the non-hearing and hearing people living together in a deaf community might work things out.
  11. As a group search the web and find famous people who are deaf. Write brief summaries of how they have handled being deaf. Share your findings with the class.

3-2-1-Writing

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

ANSWER KEY

Kids Today Are So Rude -Are Parents to Blame?

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

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Photo- whisper

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

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

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

Photo- Maclean’s

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

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

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

Image- Stivers

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

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

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

Credit-Isabell Espanol -Boston Globe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

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

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

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

 

Grammar Focus

Identifying Prepositions

Directions: The following sentences are from the news article.For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.

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

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

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

 

Reading Comprehension

Identify TheSpeakers

Directions: Place students in groups. Hand out the following quotes from speakers in the article. Members are to identify the speakers from the article. The first group to correctlyidentify all of the speakers wins.

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

 

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

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

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

Role Play

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

3-2-1-Writing

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

ANSWER KEY

Category: Culture, Social Issues

Rethinking The U.S. Prison System Through Art Programs

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

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions: Examine the titles of the post and the actual article.  Examine the photos, then create a list of  words and  ideas  that you  and your group members think might be related to this article.  Can you describe some of the expressions on the faces of the people?

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

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

Grammar Focus: Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

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

Reading Comprehension

True /False/NA-Statements

Directions: Review the following statements from the reading.  If  a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is  not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they  mark  it F and provide the correct answer. 

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

 

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use theWH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

 

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

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

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

Main Idea / Debate

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

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

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

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

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

Pros and Cons Chart

 

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

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

ANSWER KEY

The New Way to “Bully-Proof Your Child”

“When my 10-year-old daughter was shunned by her friends a few years ago, we tried a surprisingly effective anti-bullying strategy.” E. Erasmus, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

book by izzy

Excerpt:How to Bullyproof Your Child, Estelle Erasmus, The New York Times

“The trouble started during a play date when three little girls battled over who would wear the one sparkly gown for dress-up. It ended up my daughter’s prize, infuriating one of the girls who told the rest not to play with her. My daughter defended herself, crying, as the other girls continued to taunt her.

Searching for answers, I came upon the work of Izzy Kalman, a school psychologist, educator and author of Bullies to Buddies: How to Turn Your Enemies Into Friends. His concept of the golden rule is to treat the person insulting you as a friend rather than an enemy, and not to get defensive or upset.

Following his online advice, I told my daughter: ‘If they say they don’t want to play with you, say very politely, ‘It’s a free country. It’s O.K. if you don’t want to play with me.’ Then find something else to do.’

It seemed like a lot to ask of a child who was already upset. But we role-played until she had the script down. The next time someone tried to shun her, she didn’t act offended, and the other children saw her as less of a target and moved on. Eventually, the friendships resumed with minimal emotional collateral damage.

Mr. Kalman’s strategydiffers from the approach favored by many schools in several ways: It avoids labeling a child as a bully (it’s an insult, like ‘wimp’ or ‘loser’), but also advocates going to adults for advice or help with role playing. His method encourages kids to solve problems on their own rather than asking an adult to put pressure on the school to take the side of the upset child over the one identified as the ‘bully.’

‘Nobody can guarantee their children a life without difficulties. If you protect your children from the social challenges of life, it weakens them,’ he said…

‘The way to reduce bullying is to not punish kids for exercising their freedom of speech,’ Mr. Kalman said. Teaching children that everyone is allowed to speak freely removes much of the power of the bullying and enables children to be their own advocates…

But many anti-bullying experts think Mr. Kalman’s scripts oversimplify things and call on a child who is likely to be upset to show outsize maturity and restraint.

Barbara Coloroso, author of ‘The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander,’ said: ‘t’s a short walk from hateful rhetoric, to hate crimes to crimes against humanity. Bullying is neither normal, natural or necessary. It is a learned behavior. The bullies must be stopped.’

Of course, Mr. Kalman’s strategies are likely to be most effective if they are used to shut down teasing as soon as it starts. Some bullying situations are so overwhelming that a child feels unable to resolve the conflict alone, and needs to call in adults.”

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:  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. The trouble started when little girls battled over one sparkly gown for dress-up.
  2. My daughter’s prize, infuriated one of the girls.
  3. My daughter defended herself.
  4. The other girls continued to taunt her.
  5. I came upon the work of Izzy Kalman, a school psychologist.
  6. His concept of the golden rule is to treat the person insulting you as a friend.
  7. We role-played until she had the script down.
  8. The friendships resumed with minimal emotional collateral damage.
  9. Mr. Kalman’s strategy avoids labeling a child as a bully.
  10. Of course, if a child is physically attacked, he deems that a crime and endorses calling for adult intervention.

 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 trouble started during a play date.
  2. He also teaches children how to handle threats.
  3. If a child are physically attacked call for adult intervention.

II

  1. Izzy’s concept of the golden rule are to treat the person insulting you as a friend.
  2. It’s O.K. if you don’t want to play with me.
  3. It seemed like a lot to ask of a child who was already upset.

III

  1. He also teaches children how to handle threats.
  2. If someone are committing a crime against you, go to the authorities.
  3. Nobody can guarantee their children a life without difficulties.

Reading Comprehension: Fill-ins

Mr. Kalman ___that when we ___kids for using certain ___ it ___them that words are very harmful. And when an ___punishes a child for saying something___, it ___hostilities and takes the ___for fixing the___ out of the child’s hands.

WORD LIST: teaches,explained,magnifies, punish, issue,solution, hurtful, magnifies,adult, words

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

  1. Have you or someone you know ever been bullied?  When? How did you (or your friend) handle the situation?
  2. What is Mr. Kalman’s concept of the golden rule? Do you agree with this rule?
  3. In what ways does Mr. Kalman’s Strategy differ from other approaches?
  4. In what situation does Mr. Kalman advise a child to call for adult  help?
  5. Barbara Coloroso, author of The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander, said: …“Bullying is neither normal, natural or necessary. It is a learned behavior. The bullies must be stopped.” Do you believe that bullying is a learned behavior? If so, where would children learn this behavior?

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

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