Category Archives: Culture

Good Gossip vs. Bad Gossip

“Two Proverbs: The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; A whisperer separates close friends. K. Radtke, The New York Times, June 29, 2021

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

image Credit- Gwendle Le Bec, NYT

Excerpt: Letter of Recommendation: Gossip, By Kristen Radtke, The New York Times, June 29, 2021

“In middle school I learned how to solve for the hypotenuse and identify properties of an atom, but the most enduring skill I picked up was how to gossip. Eighth grade in particular was consumed by chatter and rumors...As a class of 26, we had perhaps more access to one another than is advisable at such a vulnerable age.

Our homeroom teacher, Ms. Deehr, a severe Catholic-school teacher who resembled a sitcom stereotype, had no tolerance for what she called ‘talking behind each other’s backs.’

She quoted from Proverbs: ‘A whisperer separates close friends.’ I burned with shame over my recess gossip, fearing that eternal flames awaited me if I didn’t stop.

Yet, I whispered relentlessly and often without cruelty. My friends and I talked about a classmate’s parents’ divorce when we were trying to understand our own parents’ fighting… We were trying to understand things about ourselves, and the tiny world we inhabited, the only way we knew how: by observing one another and making sense of those observations together. Ms. Deehr failed to mention a verse that came later, also from Proverbs: ‘The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels.’

The anthropologist Robin Dunbar has proposed that humans developed spoken language not to more effectively hunt or build or conquer but to gossip…If humans did indeed develop language in order to gossip, it’s because gossiping creates interpersonal bonds and offers context about the lives we lead.” 

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 60 minutes.


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


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

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

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

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. When I was young I picked up how to gossip.
  2. Ten is such a vulnerable age.
  3. Our homeroom teacher, Ms. Deehr, was a severe teacher.
  4. She quoted from Proverbs.
  5. I whispered relentlessly and often without cruelty.
  6. We speculated about someone’s trip to another country.
  7. Trading information felt like an opportunity to accrue capital in a world in which we had none.
  8. For an adolescent, gossip was about currying favor.
  9. New York is a city of complex rules and norms.
  10. The internet complicates fun by allowing Trash talk.

Word Map by Against the Odds

 

Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

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

I

  1. I whispered relentlessly.
  2. We was trying to understand things about ourselves.
  3. My friends and I talked about a classmate’s parents’ divorce.

II

  1. Trading information felt like a opportunity.
  2. For an adolescent, gossip was about currying favor.
  3. My friend and I moved to New York around the same time.

III

  1. That doesn’t mean gossip is ever moral or fair.
  2. Social media platforms reward our meanest, least empathetic selves.
  3. The internet also obliterate the privacy of a personal network.

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.

That doesn’t mean___ is ever ___or___ or even true; it’s just that it can also be an ___amount of___…Despite her many attempts, my___ never completely kicked her ___habit, and I remain___ that I can ___her off the ____for good.

WORD LIST:  hopeful, gossip,  coax,  fun,  enormous, friend, gossip,  fair, moral,  wagon

III. Post Reading Activities

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

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

  1. Do you gossip with your friends? Why?
  2. What do you gossip about?
  3. What reason does the author give for her gossiping in school?
  4. In the article the anthropologist Robin Dunbar has proposed that “humans developed spoken language not to more effectively hunt or build or conquer but to gossip.”  Do you agree or disagree with this idea?
  5. How does the author distinguish between ‘gossip’ and ‘spilling secrets’?  Do you agree with her?  Why?
  6. In your opinion is gossip the same as ‘trash talk’? Why or why not?
  7. After reading this article, is gossip a healthy habit among people? Why or why not?
  8. Discuss three new ideas  that you’ve learned about the topic from the reading,  two things that you did not understand in the reading, and one thing you would like to know that the article did not mention.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Culture, Language, People | Tags:

The Mysterious Magician David Berglas

“He walks aided by a cane and speaks in a refined British accent that carries no hint of his pre-World War II childhood in Germany. He has a white goatee and a pair of dark eyebrows… If he had a cameo in a film, he’d be credited as ‘Senior Wizard.’  At 94, the magician David Berglas says his renowned effect can’t be taught. Is he telling the truth?” D.  Segal, The New York Times, May 23, 2021

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Magician David Berglas UK

 

Excerpt:  The Mystery of Magic’s Greatest Card Trick, By David Segal,  The New York Times, May 23, 2021

“In the late 1940s, the British magician David Berglas started refining a trick that came to be known as ‘he holy grail of card magic.’ To this day, nobody is certain how he did it. Decades into his retirement, he has revealed just about every secret in his long and storied career…But even now, when the subject of Mr. Berglas’s famous effect is raised, he remains as cryptic as ever.

Is … this your card? David Berglas at work in a previous decade.Credit: David Berglas, The New York Times

‘It’s not a secret I can give to anyone because it’s not a secret as such,’ said Mr. Berglas, a formal and intense 94-year-old, at his home in North London. ‘t’s like asking a musician who can improvise to teach you his improvisation, which of course he can’t.’ The trick is a version of a classic plot of magic, called Any Card at Any Number. These tricks are called ACAAN in the business.

ACAAN has been around since the 1700s, and every iteration unfolds in roughly the same way: A spectator is asked to name any card in a deck — let’s say the nine of clubs. Another is asked to name any number between one and 52 — let’s say 31. The cards are dealt face up, one by one. The 31st card revealed is, of course, the nine of clubs. Cue the gasps. There are hundreds of ACAAN variations, and you’d be hard pressed to find a professional card magician without at least one in his or her repertoire…At some point, the magician touches the cards. The touch might be imperceptible, it might appear entirely innocent. But the cards are always touched.

David Berglas in South Africa in 1949, performing an illusion involving hypnosis.Credit…Via David Berglas

With one exception: David Berglas’s ACAAN. He would place the cards on a table and he didn’t handle them again until after the revelation and during the applause. There was no sleight of hand, no hint of shenanigans.

It was both effortless and boggling. Among magicians around the world, his touch-less ACAAN is one of the most talked-about and puzzled-over tricks in history. It was eventually labeled ‘The Berglas Effect,’ and helped make its creator’s reputation in a career that spanned six decades…The magician and mentalist Barrie Richardson, for instance, described a 1977 visit to Mr. Berglas’s home in his book for magicians, Theater of the Mind. Asked for a card and a number, Mr. Richardson settled on the seven of hearts and 42. After that: ‘He motioned me into his study and pointed to a deck of cards on his desk,’ Mr. Richardson wrote.

‘When I counted down to the 42nd card, I discovered the seven of hearts. The experience was chilling!’…It’s more like archery, which requires practice and concentration and can end with something other than a bull’s-eye.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 60 minutes.


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


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

I. Pre-Reading Activities

Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

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

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. In the late 1940s, the British magician David Berglas started refining a card trick.
  2. The trick  came to be known as ‘the holy grail of card magic.’
  3. Decades into his retirement, he has revealed just about every secret in his long and storied career.
  4. ACAAN has been around since the 1700s, and every iteration unfolds in roughly the same way.
  5. Nearly every professional card magician has at least one ACAAN in his or her repertoire.
  6. There are ACAANs in which in which the spectator shuffles the deck.
  7. At some point, the magician touches the cards. The touch might be imperceptible.
  8. some skeptics believe that Mr. Berglas’s ACAAN is both simple and vulgar.
  9. They say he uses a confederate masquerading as a spectator — a stooge.
  10. All he needed, detractors note, was an ally with a hidden crib sheet listing the order of the cards.

Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

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

I

  1. In an late 1940s, the British magician David Berglas started refining a trick.
  2. The card trick is known as the holy grail of card magic.
  3. To this day, nobody is certain how he did it.

II

  1. Decades into his retirement, he has revealed just about every secret in his career.
  2. There is hundreds of ACAAN variations.
  3. Mr. Berglas and many other magicians have used allies in the past.

III

  1. Magicians lie to spectators constantly.
  2. I contacted Mr. Berglas to ask if he would talked about his famous trick.
  3. He debuted what became known as the Berglas Effect in 1953.

Reading ComprehensionFill-ins

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

I left his ___in a muddle, and I have returned to that ___every time I think of this___. Off by one seems, on some level, more___ than nailing it. Off by one implies that there is nothing___about this ACAAN, that it isn’t a contraption that simply works when deployed. It’s more like___ which requires practice and ___and can end with something other than a___.

WORDLIST: bull’s-eye, concentration, archery, automatic, perplexing, performance, house, muddle, 

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

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

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

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

  1. Do you enjoy watching magicians? Why?
  2. Have you ever performed any magic tricks?
  3. Basically, how did Mr. Berglas distract the audience’s attention during the disappearing grand piano trick?
  4. What does ACAAN stand for?
  5. How long has ACAAN been around?
  6. How many versions of ACAAN are there?
  7. What is the one feature that  all ACAANs have in common?
  8. What was different about David Berglas’s ACAAN?
  9. What was the name of Mr. Berglas’s ACAAN?
  10. Explain why some people were skeptical of Mr. Berglas’s card trick.
  11. What do other magicians have to say about he Berglas Effect?
  12. List three new ideas  that you’ve learned about the topic from the reading,  two things that you did not understand in the reading, and one thing you  would like to know that the article did not mention.  Share your responses with your class.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Culture | Tags: ,

Recreational Cannabis Can Harm Children

“As more states legalize recreational cannabis, Wrigley and others are suing over look-alike THC treats. They’re protecting their brands — and also, they argue, your kids.” V. Safronova, The New York times, May 22, 2021

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Zombie Skittles, above, and their marijuana-infused doppelganger. The New York Times

 

Excerpt: Big Candy Is Angry By Valeriya Safronova ,The New York Times,May 22, 2021

“At first glance, the Skittles package appears to be just like the one sold in the candy aisle of a supermarket: It has block letters filled in with white, a flowing rainbow and a red candy that replaces the dot above the letter ‘ i.’

A closer look reveals some small differences: a background pattern of small, stylized marijuana leaves; a warning label; and numbers that reveal the amount of THC, the intoxicating substance in cannabis, in each piece of candy.

Fruity with a twist- Starburst Gummies, and a similar candy containing THC.

The images are included in a lawsuit that the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, owned by the candy behemoth Mars Inc., filed in May against five companies for selling cannabis-infused edibles that look like our old friends Skittles, Starburst and Life Savers. Though the suit focuses on intellectual property rights, the plaintiffs also argue that the copycat products could lead people, particularly children, to mistakenly ingest drugs. A spokeswoman for Mars Inc. wrote in an email that the company is ‘deeply disturbed’ by the products…Many public health officials fret that without proper regulation, accidental ingestion cases will continue to rise among children as the availability of edibles grows. Some poison control centers have already observed this trend in their data.

Life is sweet- Sugar high (above) and actual high (below).

For example, there were 122 cases of exposure to THC for children under 5 in Washington State in the first nine months of 2020, compared to 85 for the same time period in 2019. The most common side effects reported included vomiting, lethargy and chest pain…The spread of legalization has brought more players and consumers into the edibles market. “Edibles are easy. They’re portable. You don’t have to find a space to step aside and smoke,” said Sean Arnold, a founder of Terradigm Consulting, which advises cannabis companies on licensing, infrastructure and product development…To parents of a certain age, the situation may bring to mind the 1983 public service announcement ‘We’re Not Candy,’ in which a barbershop quartet of singing pills on television advises children “to have a healthy fear of us.”

 

Rainbow Cookies

“A bakery lost a client when it made rainbow Pride cookies. So others bought every item in the shop.”  By Sydney Page, The Washington Post, June 9, 2021

When a small Southern bakery made rainbow-themed cookies to celebrate Pride Month, there was a swift backlash. On June 2, Confections, a tiny store in Lufkin, Tex., shared a photo on its Facebook page of heart-shaped rainbow sugar cookies with the caption, “More LOVE. Less hate. Happy Pride to all our LGBTQ friends! All lovers of cookies and happiness are welcome here.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 60 minutes.


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


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

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

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

Pre-reading Organizer By Scholastic

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. More states are legalizing legalize recreational cannabis.
  2. Companies like Wrigley and others are suing over look-alike THC treats.
  3. A closer look at packaging reveals some small differences.
  4. A background pattern of small, stylized marijuana leaves is evident on one box.
  5. There are numbers that reveal the amount of THC, the intoxicating substance in cannabis, in each piece of candy.
  6. Five companies  are selling cannabis-infused edibles that look like our old friends Skittles and Starburst.
  7. At one point in time Big Candy was vilified as a primary source of refined sugar.
  8. Many public health officials fret that without proper regulation, accidental ingestion cases among kids will increase.
  9. Many edible companies operating in states where medical or recreational cannabis is legal try to follow the rules.
  10. The situation has become more and more egregious.

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.

Accidental consumption can/cans effect/affect anyone, but, Dr. Schauer said/say, ‘it have/has primarily impacted/impact  children/child because they can confused/confuse cannabis edible/edibles products with other edible products, because most edible/edibles look like candy or cookies/cookie or cake.’ She painted/pointed to reports compiled by poison control centers/center in/on Colorado and Washington, the too/two earliest states to legalize recreational cannabis use, in 2012.

Reading Comprehension: Identify The  Speakers

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

  1. “When companies like these create headlines for doing what we’ve purposely avoided at Wana, I feel anger and frustration.”
  2. “The situation has become more and more egregious…The cannabis companies cannot and should not be allowed to tarnish existing brands at will. It creates consumer confusion.”
  3. “The spread of legalization has brought more players and consumers into the edibles market. Edibles are easy. They’re portable.”
  4. “Ten years ago it was the luck of the draw if you bought a brownie…You didn’t know where you would wind up.”
  5. “There are three main aspects of a candy that can be protected by trademark and copyright laws… Take Hershey’s Kisses. You have the name Kisses, which is a trademark, the shape of the candy itself, which is both a trademark and trade dress, and the packaging, which is protected by copyright.”

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

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

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

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

  1. What is your personal opinion on legalizing recreational cannabis?
  2. Why are states legalizing recreational cannabis?
  3. In viewing  a package of Skittles candy, what are the small differences on the outside wrapping?
  4. What has been the outcome of some previous lawsuits against filed by other candy companies?
  5. Do you agree with health officials that accidental ingestion among children will continue to rise? What evidence does the article provide?
  6. What problems has the spread of legalization of edibles created?
  7. According to Dr. Schauer what are some ways to reduce the risks of accidental ingestion by children?
  8. Write down three new ideas  you’ve learned about the topic from the reading, two things  that you did not understand in the reading, and one thing that you would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.

ANSWER KEY

Are We Socially Awkward After Covid-19?

“You might have a knee-jerk reaction to withdraw sharply when someone goes to hug you. If so, this is a byproduct of your highly plastic brain having been trained to protect you from COVID over the past year but is something you have the agency to rescript with time.” L. Johnson, Popsugar, May 20, 2021

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Photo- Popsugar

Excerpt: I’ve Really Missed People, but Has COVID Made Us Socially Awkward? By Lacey Johnson, Popsugar May 20, 2021

“For more than a year, many of us have felt alone, together. And no matter if our professions kept us home or on the front lines of the pandemic, I think we’ve all dealt with losing the daily rhythms, freedoms, and lifestyles that collectively defined us. Early in the pandemic, therapists reported an urgent rush of mental health crises in the midst of such swift change, isolation, and grief…Perhaps we didn’t realize how much we valued a friendly smile in an elevator or the sound of a barista shouting our latte order from across a noisy cafe…The coronavirus pandemic left us fumbling with our uncertainties about the future from the privacy of our homes, feeling a lifetime away from many of the people we love most.

Image- Marc Rosenthal, The New York Times

There’s no question that the sudden, dispiriting changes that swept across our communities and social infrastructures have since dug their roots into our internal landscapes, too. In fact, the data has become clear: scientists have tracked a massive surge in depression… So as the world slowly begins to reopen, it raises an important question: after having spent so much time away from each other…logging into Zoom to celebrate a milestone birthday with friends, being counseled and consoled through apps, and keeping at least six feet of distance while roaming the produce aisle, what if it feels weird to engage with each other in real life again?

‘This summer is going to be lit!’ one of my friends said to me recently after I recited some items from my overzealous post-COVID bucket list.

The New York Times

But as the vaccine numbers continue to rise and America’s case numbers go down, allowing more American cities to swing open their social doors, others are grappling with mixed emotions about postpandemic reentry…we called upon the experts to explore ways that we might not yet realize we’ve changed, with guidance for how to be compassionate with ourselves and each other as we reenter the world… Dr. Kevin Gilliland, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist and executive director of Innovation360, said that as we slowly transition back into a pre-COVID pulse of life, we should prepare ourselves for some level of awkwardness and bouts of self-consciousness…Therapist Arien Conner, LCSW, and owner of Clear Path Counseling, said that, in the midst of our social reawakening, when we notice that someone appears uncomfortable, we might pause to give them empathy and patience within their respective comfort level… So once your city opens up and you feel it’s safe to roam about it, slide on your most fabulous attire and venture out for a swanky happy hour with your friends. Perhaps wander into a cozy poetry reading or trivia night.”

 

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 60 minutes.


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


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

I. Pre-Reading Activities:  Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

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

II. While Reading Activities: Word Inference

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

  1. We’ve all dealt with losing the daily lifestyles that collectively defined us.
  2. We found ourselves craving lighthearted office banter, harmless gossip fizzy cocktails.
  3. Perhaps we didn’t realize how much we valued the sound of a barista shouting our latte order from across a noisy cafe.
  4. Since COVID-19 gripped America, it’s been a ruthless, scary, and consequential year.
  5. You might have a knee-jerk reaction to withdraw sharply when someone goes to hug you.
  6. It might seem weird to engage with each other in real life again.
  7. I made my overzealous post-COVID bucket list.
  8. Humans are a profoundly adaptive and resilient species.
  9. Some people saw their once-thriving business being swept clean.
  10. Others realized they couldn’t wait to monetize their ideas.

Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

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

I

  1. For more then a year, many of us have felt alone.
  2. We found ourselves craving lighthearted office banter.
  3. We didn’t realize how much we valued a friendly smile.

II

  1. It’s been a ruthless, scary, and consequential year.
  2. The coronavirus pandemic left us fumbling with our uncertainties about the future.
  3. After the year-plus that we’ve had, it’s safe to say we deserve a celebration.

III

  1. Typically it take three to six months to form a habit.
  2. Humans are a profoundly adaptive and resilient species.
  3. For some individuals, the pandemic pointed them toward power they didn’t know they had.

Identify The  Speakers

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

  1. “Typically it takes three to six months to form a habit, and this includes behavioral and thought habits.”
  2. You’ve likely been masking, social distancing, and closely following the reports for more than a year now, so your brain is naturally going to stop you from doing certain things you may have once done on a daily basis.”
  3. “… in the midst of our social reawakening, when we notice that someone appears uncomfortable, we might pause to give them empathy and patience within their respective comfort level.”
  4. “With few opportunities for socializing and outward distraction, we’ve each had a huge mirror held up in front of us.”
  5. “In my practice, I work mostly with women, and many of them started the pandemic by setting clear, firm boundaries around COVID for their immediate family’s safety.”
  6. “For some, their lockdown experience was hell in every way possible. For others, it was the transformative pause that they needed but never would have given themselves.”
  7. “We need to be mindful that our experience might look nothing like our colleague’s or neighbor’s.”
  8. “We found that the tremendous self-reflection experienced in the pandemic led Hinge users to reassess their priorities in love.”
  9. “According to our most recent research, 75 percent of Hinge daters are no longer looking for something casual but seeking a meaningful relationship.”

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

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

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

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

  1. The article states, “The coronavirus pandemic left us fumbling with our uncertainties about the future from the privacy of our homes, feeling a lifetime away from many of the people we love most…In fact, the data has become clear: scientists have tracked a massive surge in depression.”  Did you miss being with certain family members and friends? Which ones? Did you experience depression during this time? Was there anyone close to help you?
  2. In your opinion, is it strange to engage with people again? Please explain why or why not.
  3. The author states that they have a “post-COVID bucket list.” Do you have a list of things you want to do this summer? What are they?
  4. Some people feel anxious about leaving their homes and meeting people. Have you or someone you know experienced these feelings?
  5. Write down three new ideas  that you’ve learned about the topic from the reading,  two things that you did not understand in the reading, and one thing you would like to know that the article did not mention.

ANSWER KEY

Learning (and Teaching) English Can Be Rewarding…and Frustrating!

“Last month, we published a story in collaboration with the NPR podcast Rough Translation…Dozens of readers wrote in with their own stories about how challenging — and frustrating and rewarding — it can be to learn and teach English.” C.McCusker, NPR, May 16, 2021

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

The Word You Never Heard. Image By Marc Silver/ NPR

 

Excerpt: Prepone That! Your Accent Is Funny! Readers Share Their ESL Stories, By Carolyn McCusker,NPR, May 16, 2021

“We’re featuring three responses that we found especially insightful: an English professor from India shares an English word she’s used for years — not found anywhere in the dictionary; an author points out the politics behind terms like ‘native language’ and ‘mother tongue’; and an engineering professor discusses why stereotypes about ‘accented English’ are totally hypocritical.

Brave new word

Aparna Gollapudi is a professor of English at Colorado State University who grew up in New Delhi. She used a word in her classroom one day that made her see her relationship to the English language in a totally new way.

A month or two after I began teaching in the U.S., I had to make some changes to the class schedule. ‘We’ll need to prepone the quiz, I’m afraid,’I said, steeling myself for the groans from students that were sure to follow. Instead, there was deafening silence.

I looked around to see blank expressions on my students’ faces — that look of ‘I have NO idea what you just said,’ which stops any teacher worth their salt mid-lecture to backtrack and explain a concept further… I believed that prepone meant the opposite of postpone — moving an event to an earlier time rather than putting off something to a later time. So when I realized it wasn’t ‘proper’ English, I was dumbfounded…I was an English major with a robust vocabulary, a ‘convent school’ accent and fondness for reading Dickens, Austen and other such august writers…But that day in the classroom, my incomprehensibleEnglish taught me that being an linguistic “have” is unstable and delusional at best. It is a lesson I have learned many times over since then.”

Who gets to have the label “native speaker”?

Srikanth Chander Madani is an author with interests in climate change, social equity and the creative arts… Madani shares his experiences being asked to prove his language proficiency time and time again.

The words we use to describe the many ways to speak English — like ‘mother tongue,’ ‘native’ and ‘non-native’ speaker — are often fraught.

Srikanth Chander Madani is experienced with many languages: “My ‘mother-tongue’ is Hebbar,” Madani says, ‘a language specific to a certain group of Indians who moved between two linguistic regions centuries ago, with words from Sanskrit, Tamil and Kannada.’ He speaks English, Hindi, German and French fluently. He’s in the process of learning Italian and trying to improve his written French…Madani has found it frustrating to be so frequently asked to credential his ability to speak languages he is both proficient and prolific in… The whole concept of “mother tongue” is a political construct to keep certain people out, says Madani. According to Madani, the hoops that many non-American or non-British English speakers are forced to jump through in order to credential their English seem nonsensical when their American and British counterparts with equal or lesser proficiency are never asked to prove it.

‘Having lived in the U.K., I know many whose first (and only) language is English and who make routine errors when speaking and many more when writing,’ says Madani. ‘Why should they get a free pass and not be forced to go through a TOEFL [Test of English as a Foreign Language] or IELTS [International English Language Testing System]?’

All accents welcome

Sergio Serrano is a professor of engineering science and applied mathematics at Temple University.

Having lived in North America for 40 years after growing up in Bogotá, Colombia, Serrano shares his experience speaking English in academic settings and dealing with accent stereotypes.  Sergio Serrano has participated in many international scientific conferences across the globe. ‘In a typical situation, a group of foreign researchers are discussing a complex technical issue with very precise and elaborate formal English,’ Serrano says, ‘until an American joins the group.’  The research found that communication is inhibited in part due to native speakers’ use of language not held in common, like culturally specific idioms…Serrano also discusses his experiences being singled out for his accent.

‘After 40 years living in North America,’ he says, ‘I still encounter the situation when a stranger interrupts me after a few words I spoke to interrogate me: ‘You have a strong accent. Where are you from?’ It is a continuous reminder that you are forever an alien in your own country.’

‘I politely explain my origins, and then I add, ‘I cannot catch your accent. Where are you from?,’  says Serrano. Indeed, those who single out Serrano for having a strong accent  seem to be unaware that everybody (themselves included) has an accent.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 60 minutes.


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


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

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

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

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. There was deafening silence after I asked my question.
  2. Any teacher would backtrack and explain a concept further.
  3. It is believed that  all legitimate words in a language must be found in a dictionary.
  4. When I realized it wasn’t ‘proper’ English, I was dumbfounded.
  5. It was akin to a paradigm shift in my linguistic self-image.
  6. I had grown up in India, where fluency in English is synonymous with education.
  7. I was an English major with a robust vocabulary.
  8. But that day in the classroom, my incomprehensible English taught me a lesson.
  9. I would sometimes use my Britishisms in class.
  10. Leaving India took me out of my insulated and privileged linguistic bubble.

 

 Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

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

I

  1. I begin teaching English in the U.S 20 years ago.
  2. I looked around to see blank expressions on my students’ faces.
  3. I had grown up in India.

II

  1. Their are many varieties of English.
  2. Many words [from these languages] have stayed with him.
  3. Madani is asked to prove his language proficiency time and time again.

III

  1. Sometimes I stumble while pronouncing some word.
  2. There are  words we use to describe the many ways to speak English.
  3. Sergio Serrano has participated in many international scientific conferences.

 

Identify The  Speakers

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

  1. “A month or two after I began teaching in the U.S., I had to make some changes to the class schedule.”
  2. “We’ll need to prepone the quiz, I’m afraid,” I said.
  3. “I was an English major with a robust vocabulary, a convent school accent and fondness for reading Dickens, Austen and other such august writers.”
  4. “The words we use to describe the many ways to speak English — like ‘mother tongue,’ ‘native’  and ‘non-native’ speaker — are often fraught.”
  5. “I grew up with three languages, as my parents did not share the same ‘mother tongue’.”
  6. “Having lived in the U.K., I know many whose first (and only) language is English and who make routine errors when speaking and many more when writing,”
  7. “On the contrary, communication ends because [the foreign researchers] cannot explain to the American, in simple language, the advanced topics they were discussing. Yet, the American takes over the conversation.”
  8. “After 40 years living in North America,… I still encounter the situation when a stranger interrupts me after a few words I spoke to interrogate me: ‘You have a strong accent.”
  9. “I politely explain my origins, and then I add, ‘I cannot catch your accent. Where are you from?”

 

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

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

  1. Have you ever used an American English word that made perfect sense to you but was not in the American dictionary? What was the word and it’s meaning?
  2. After explaining the meaning of ‘prepone’ does it make sense to you? Why?
  3. Which two letters of the English alphabet did Professor Gollapudi have difficulty pronouncing? If English is not your first language, do you have difficulty with these two letters?
  4. Give an example of a Britishism.
  5. According to Professor Gollapudi was she better off leaving her privileged linguistic bubble? Why?
  6. Why are there so many varieties of English?
  7. Why does Srikanth Chander Madani say English is his mother tongue? Do you agree?
  8. According to Sergio Serrano, what happens when an American joins in  a conversion? Have you ever experienced this with American speakers?
  9. Make a list of other words  that you think should have meaning in an American dictionary (e.g., prepone). Share the list with the class.

3-2-1-Writing

Directions:  List three new ideas  that you’ve learned from the reading,  two things that you  did not understand in the reading, and one thing you  would like to know that the article did not mention.  Share your responses with your class.

ANSWER KEY

 

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