Category Archives: Culture

Why Are So Many People Superstitious?

“…a new acquaintance said to me shortly after I moved to Portland, Ore. ‘I think I saw you running by the river yesterday.”Did you jump up like Michael Jordan to touch a leaf?’ Indeed, I had.’I was probably stretching,’ I offered. ‘Yeah,’ he said doubtfully.’It really looked like you were high-fiving a tree.’ I was actually touching leaves and flowers for luck, which I’ve done since earliest childhood.” K. Russell, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

image- lopezmedia.net

 

Excerpt:Letter of Recommendation: Superstitions, Karen Russell, The New York Times

“Superstitious people are often dismissed as irrational, stunted thinkers — mental children who never outgrow a scrambled understanding of causality. Even those studies that confirm ‘Improved performance’ for superstitious athletes can sound patronizing, hypothesizing that rituals like Serena Williams’s five bounces before her first serve work by conferring ‘the illusion of control.’ 

But those of us who carry charms and sidestep ladders will tell you that superstitions can have an undeniable power. Not because they change the future, but because they articulate a wish. Superstitions are a special syntax, the ellipses we use to bridge the present and the dreamed-of future. Humble, hopeful, fearful, human.

Image-NBC news

My dad, a Navy veteran and the most superstitious person I know, would throw salt over his shoulder to reverse bad luck, occasionally hitting a Denny’s waiter in the face. ‘Don’t worry, kids!’ he would call out as he went diving into the bushes to avoid an inky kitten. ‘I saw a little gray around the paws!’

From him, I learned that superstitions can be a form of prayer, as well as an exorcism in miniature. You release the fear that comes from feeling responsible for everything that happens to you — an especially American delusion… Fear does animate certain superstitions, but even this becomes a kind of thanksgiving. Flip the coin of fear, and you rediscover the ‘everything’ you have to lose…

Superstitions might not ward off suffering and death, but they can draw a dream into focus. ‘Our baby daughter is due this August,’ I have finally been able to tell people, after the tenuous early months when this felt unutterable. It’s a sentence I always punctuate by knocking on wood. Ancient people did this to summon dryads, the benevolent spirits inside trees. Far from conferring ‘the illusion of control,’ the sound connects me to everyone who has ever dared to hope for anything in this life with its single guarantee.”

 

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.

 

Pre-reading Tasks

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

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

Pre-reading Organizer By Scholastic

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. I met a new acquaintance yesterday.
  2. He was frowning a little as he thought about my answer.
  3. I was aghast that this had been visible at rush hour
  4. They gave each other a high five at the end of the game.
  5. Superstitions can have an undeniable power.
  6. I learned that superstitions can be a form of prayer, as well as an exorcism in miniature.
  7. Superstitions might not ward off suffering and death.
  8. Fear does animate certain superstitions.
  9. Superstitious people are often dismissed as irrational.
  10. My dad, is a Navy veteran and the most superstitious person I know.

Grammar Focus: English SubjectPronouns

Directions:Students are to choose the correct subject pronouns in the sentences taken from the article.Review Subject pronouns here

A few months later, at the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, a friend waved me over. ‘Hey! I thought that was you. Were you praying back there?’ She’d seen me kneeling in mud, touching a solar-yellow dandelion. ‘Yes,’ I said, to expedite my day, because this seemed less bonkers than explaining what I was actually doing. From him, I learned that superstitions can be a form of prayer, You release the fear that comes from feeling responsible for everything that happens to you —

Reading Comprehension Fill-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.

After ___Andrew ___our___in 1992 (a nine-foot storm surge seemed to choose us, leaving the other___on our block largely untouched), I ___a repertoire of new ___overnight, like mental___sprouting out of the ___that had flooded up to our ceiling.

WORD LIST:saltwater,mushrooms, developed, houses, Hurricane,destroyed, home, superstitions

Discussion/Comprehension Questions

  1. The article states, Superstitious people are often dismissed as irrational, stunted thinkers — mental children who never outgrow a scrambled understanding of causality.”Do you agree or disagree with this statement?  Explain why.
  2. What makes people superstitious?
  3. Are there any superstitions that you like?What are they?
  4. Are your relatives or friends superstitious? Give examples of some of their  superstitions.

Group Project:

Directions: In groups review the following website: Bad Luck Signs. Choose a few of the superstitions listed. Try to think about  how they might have started.  Share your ideas 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

Category: Culture | Tags:

Helping Them Make The Transition From Prisoner Back To Citizen

“Raymond Tillman spent most of his adolescence and early adulthood behind bars… When he got out, [in 2011] he had a lot to catch up on — like, the digital age. He remembers his first computer class, looking down at the floor for a mouse. ‘There was a mouse? Where?The teacher pointed to a little black device with a cord connecting it to the computer. ‘I’m like ‘Wow!’ Feel like I was a caveman.’ E. Nadworny, NPR

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post  with Answer Key

Credit- Anke Gladnick for NPR

Excerpt:Changing How You Think Helps The Transition From Prisoner Back To Citizen, By Elissa Nadworny NPR

“When I first came home I was illiterate to technology,” he explains. ‘Didn’t know how to turn on a computer, let alone what an email was.’ But he needed a job, and to get one, he’d need to be able to apply online.

A parole officer suggested Tillman go to the Cal State San Bernardino Reentry Initiative, a promising new program designed to smooth the transition from offender back to citizen. A big portion of the U.S.’s record-setting prison population is re-offenders, so re-entry centers work to get those numbers down by helping people on parole get the tools they need to function in society — so they eventually stay out of prison. Programs are like a bridge, between the world of corrections and the world of social services.

At other times in Raymond Tillman’s life, he would have blown this off, but this time — and he doesn’t even know why — he showed up and followed through…

Catching up on technology is one of the biggest challenges, says Andrea Mitchel — director of research and development at the re-entry center at Cal State. ‘They come out not having any knowledge of it,’ she says, ‘and then they are expected to get into the workforce. ‘ So far, the results here in San Bernardino are promising. Across four centers in the county, they’ve served about 6,000 students to date. Attendance rates are high, and more than half of the current students are now employed.”

 

Interesting Fun Read : A Lowell teacher keeps a document of slang terms used by his students — and the Internet loves it-By Steve Annear, The Boston Globe

“Usually it’s the students who are constantly brushing up on their vocabulary so they can be as prepared as possible for school.

But in the case of James Callahan, a teacher in the social studies department at Lowell High School, it’s the other way around.

Callahan, who has been teaching at the school for 15 years, keeps an alphabetized document of all the slang words and phrases that his students throw around and use regularly so that he can stay abreast of the latest lingo.”

 

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:  Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a 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. Raymond Tillman spent most of his adolescence and early adulthood behind bars.
  2. When I first came home I was illiterate to technology.
  3. The program was designed to smooth the transition from offender back to citizen.
  4. At other times in Raymond Tillman’s life, he would have blown this appointment off.
  5. Catching up on technology is one of the biggest challenges,
  6. A decade ago, this center was just an idea Mitchel had.
  7. Most people who get out do want to get off the merry-go-round.
  8. On the board there’s a diagram depicting how thoughts are related to emotions, and then behavior.
  9. Program participants are called students.
  10. The program is focused on job training.

 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. He needed an job.
  2. People eventually stay out of prison.
  3. He took nearly every class the center offered.

II

  1. He remembers him first computer class.
  2. Catching up on technology is one of the biggest challenges.
  3. They are expected to get into the workforce.

III

  1. It took a few years to make that idea a reality.
  2. The center is housed in a modern, two-story building.
  3. This is a respectful place.

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.

A ___ago, this ___was just an ___Mitchel had. Back then, she was working at ___and saw a ___economy. Most people had jobs, except for those who had previously been___.

WORD LIST:   Goodwill, center, booming, incarcerated,  idea,  decade,

 

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions/statements.

  1. Do you think programs  such as Cal State San Bernardino Reentry Initiative are  useful? Explain why or why not.
  2. Do you know of anyone who has been through a rehabilitation program? If so, describe how they were changed by the program.
  3. The article states, The program is focused on job training, but as we walk through the center, it’s evident that’s it’s more than that.”  What other things does the program do for people?
  4. If you could ask the students in the program two questions, what would they be? Share your questions with the class.

 

ANSWER KEY

“High School Doesn’t Have to Be Boring”

“When you ask American teenagers to pick a single word to describe how they feel in school, the most common choice is ‘bored.’ The institutions where they spend many of their waking hours, they’ll tell you, are lacking in rigor, relevance, or both.They aren’t wrong.” J. Mehta and S. Fine, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Credit Ping Zhu, New York Times

 

Excerpt: High School Doesn’t Have to Be Boring By Jal Mehta and Sarah Fine, The NYT

“Studies of American public schools from 1890 to the present suggest that most classrooms lack intellectual challenge. A 2015 Gallup Poll of nearly a million United States students revealed that while 75 percent of fifth-grade students feel engaged by school, only 32 percent of 11th graders feel similarly.

What would it take to transform high schools into more humanizing and intellectually vital places? The answer is right in front of us, if only we knew where to look.

When the two of us — a sociologist and a former English teacher — began our own investigation of this question several years ago, we made two assumptions. Both turned out to be wrong.

The first was that innovative schools would have the answers. We traveled from coast to coast to visit 30 public high schools that had been recommended by leaders in the field. What we saw, however, was disheartening. Boredom was pervasive. Students filled out worksheets, answered factual questions, constructed formulaic paragraphs, followed algorithms and conducted “experiments” for which the results were already known. Covering content almost always won out over deeper inquiry — the Crusades got a week; the Cold War, two days.

The result? In lower-level courses, students were often largely disengaged; in honors courses, students scrambled for grades at the expense of intellectual curiosity. Across the different class types, when we asked students to explain the purpose of what they were doing, their most common responses were ‘I dunno’ and ‘I guess it’ll help me in college.’

Our second mistake was that we assumed the place to look for depth was in core academic classes. As we spent more time in schools, however, we noticed that powerful learning was happening most often at the periphery — in electives, clubs and extracurriculars.

Intrigued, we turned our attention to these spaces. We followed a theater production. We shadowed a debate team. We observed elective courses in green engineering, gender studies, philosophical literature and more.

As different as these spaces were, we found they shared some essential qualities. Instead of feeling like training grounds or holding pens, they felt like design studios or research laboratories: lively, productive places where teachers and students engaged together in consequential work. It turned out that high schools — all of them, not just the ‘innovative’ ones — already had a model of powerful learning. It just wasn’t where we thought it would be.

Consider the theater production that we observed at a large public high school in an affluent suburban community. Students who had slouched their way through regular classes suddenly became capable, curious and confident. The urgency of the approaching premiere lent the endeavor a sense of momentum. Students were no longer vessels to be filled with knowledge, but rather people trying to produce something of real value.

Coaching replaced’professing’ as the dominant mode of teaching. Apprenticeship was the primary mode of learning. Authority rested not with teachers or students but with what the show demanded.

What we saw on a debate team in a high-poverty urban public school was similar. Monthly debate competitions gave the work a clear sense of purpose and urgency. Faculty members and older students mentored the novices. Students told us that ‘debate is like a family.’

Perhaps most important, debate gave students a chance to speak in their own voices on issues that mattered to them. Inducted into an ancient form of verbal and mental discipline, they discovered a source of personal power…It should come as no surprise that when we asked students to reflect on their high school experiences, it was most often experiences like theater and debate that they cited as having influenced them in profound ways…The more we can create similar opportunities in core subjects — giving students the freedom to define authentic and purposeful goals for their learning, creating opportunities for students to lead that learning, and helping them to refine their work until it meets high standards of quality — the deeper their learning and engagement will be.”

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

Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming

Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about  the topic.  Next, have students look at the pictures in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article.  Regroup as a class and list these ideas on the board. Students can use a brainstorming chart for assistance.

Brainstorming Map by rentonschools.us

 

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. Debate, drama and other extracurriculars provide the excitement.
  2. What would it take to transform high schools into more vital places?
  3. Some innovative schools might have the answers.
  4. We traveled from coast to coast to visit 30 public high schools, what we saw, however, was disheartening.
  5. In lower-level courses, students were often largely disengaged.
  6. We assumed the place to look for depth was in core academic classes.
  7. As different as these spaces were, we found they shared some essential qualities.
  8. Students who had slouched their way through regular classes suddenly became capable and confident.
  9. The truly powerful core classes echoed what we saw in extracurriculars.
  10. Most important of all, high school students need to be granted much more  responsibility and choice.

 

Grammar Focus: English Pronouns

Directions:  Students choose the correct [Subject pronouns] to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

English Subject pronouns: I, you, he, she, it, we, they

When ___ask American teenagers to pick a single word to describe how ___feel in school, the most common choice is ‘bored.’

___traveled from coast to coast to visit 30 public high schools.

Across the different class types,___asked students to explain the purpose of what ___were doing.

As ___spent more time in schools, however,___noticed that powerful learning was happening n electives, clubs and extracurriculars.

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.

Before the___bell, we treat ___as passive ___of knowledge whose interests and ___matter little. After the final bell — in newspaper, debate, theater,___and more — we treat ___as people who ___by doing, people who can ___as well as___, and people whose passions and are worth cultivating.

WORD LIST: learn, learn, identities, final, students, students, athletics, ideas ,teach, recipients,

 

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. Describe your high school experience. Did you find the experience satisfying? Fun? Boring?
  2. With your group members describe your idea of a good  high school curriculum.
  3. The article states,“Schools need to become much more deeply attached to the world beyond their walls…Some use project-based learning to engage students in their local communities; some collaborate with museums, employers and others who can give students experiences in professional domains; still others prioritize hiring teachers who have had experience working in (and not just teaching about) their fields…”Do you agree/disagree with this statement?Why or why not?Provide examples of how project-based learning would work.

 

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

 

When Joe Biden Gives Handshakes and Hugs, He Also Gives Comfort

“I’ll never forget the first time Joe Biden got a little close. Not long after joining his 2008 campaign for president, I found myself on a small plane with him traveling from a town in Iowa to O’Hare International Airport. Just as the plane started taxiing, he grabbed hold of my arm and became very animated.” M. Steinfels, CNN

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Joe Biden- 2020. NBC News

Excerpt: When Joe Biden grabbed my arm … he was trying to help me, By Marion Steinfels, CNN

“I was caught off guard and, honestly, maybe a little uncomfortable for a moment. He told me a story of a time in high school when he was supposed to go to a big dance. His shirt needed cuff links, but he had none. He was devastated until his mother ran to the toolbox and got two nuts and bolts that would do the job.

The Obamas and Bidens share a happy moment. Zimbio

As the plane hit its cruising altitude, what was happening became clear. Someone had told him about my terrible fear of flying, and he was trying to distract and reassure me and, in a way that did not make me feel condescended to or silly for having such a fear. That is who Joe Biden is…It’s also who his family is. His wife, Jill, would tear out articles on conquering fear of flying and share them with me to help defuse my angst. His niece and sister, who also worked on the campaign, would have us over for a home-cooked meal after weeks on the road.

The gunman’s bullets that killed three law enforcement officers in BatonRouge .apnews.com

While I am not questioning anyone else’s experiences with Biden — and at times it may have caused discomfort — there is no doubt in my mind that his penchant for showing affection has absolutely nothing to do with him not respecting a woman’s agency over her own body…Do a quick internet image search of ‘Obama Biden’ and then ‘Bush Cheney,’ and it will show clearly: Biden’s affectionate style is far from limited to women.

On Obama’s last birthday in office, Biden delivered him a birthday message that called Obama a best friend forever. businessinsider.com

There are countless images of Biden and Obama’s brotherly bear hugs, clasped hands and close-in whispers. (The same search of Bush and Cheney could not tell a more different story.)

In this era of #MeToo, when we are finally free to share our experiences and stories and no longer be the ones to feel shame for what was done to us, it is incredibly important that we differentiate.

Vice President Joe Biden kisses his wife, Jill Biden, before he addresses the troops. CTPost

 

With Biden, it is not about objectifying women or asserting male dominance; it’s about doing what he can to encourage others and make them feel comfortable — especially in stressful and overwhelming situations.”

 

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:  Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a 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. I was caught off guard.
  2. He was devastated by the death of his son.
  3. Biden was trying to distract me.
  4. Some people have a penchant for showing affection.
  5. Biden’s affectionate style  is far from limited to women.
  6. There are countless images of Biden and Obama’s brotherly bear hugs.
  7. With Biden, it is not about objectifying women.
  8. He does what he can to encourage others.
  9. My experiences tell me he is sincere in this commitment.
  10. Joe Biden is willing to listen to his critics and learn from them.

 

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. His shirt needed cuff links.
  2. His mother got two nut and bolt.
  3. As the plane hit its cruising altitude I was calm.

II

 

  1. Someone had told him about my terrible fear to flying.
  2. I was driving by myself through a snowstorm.
  3. It’s just who he is.

III

  1. In this era of #MeToo, when we are free to share our experiences.
  2. It is incredible important that we differentiate.
  3. Biden is not asserting male dominance.

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___ of an incredibly ___primary ___for president, Joe Biden was always ___of those around ___and their___. I saw it throughout the ___and, quite frankly, sometimes it made___a little crazy.

WORD LIST:  me, campaign, him, campaign, aware, needs, midst, tough,

 

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. From everything you’ve read, how would you describe Joe Biden?
  2. In your opinion is Joe Biden doing anything incorrect by hugging women or men?  Explain why or why not.
  3. In many countries showing affection upon meeting people is normal. Do you think this country has different standards about greeting people?
  4. If you are from a different country, describe how people greet family, friends and strangers.
  5. What is Marion Steinfels’s (the author of this article) point of view about Joe Biden?  Why do you think she wrote this particular article at this time? 
  6. With your group compose 3 questions you would like to ask Joe Biden or Ms. Steinfel. Share questions as a class.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Culture, Political Issues | Tags:

Psychics Can Tell Your Future and Keep You Healthy

“While psychics have traditionally profited from claiming to predict the future or communicating with deceased relatives, many are now working in the general field of wellness, calling themselves ‘intuitives’ or ‘intuitive healers’.” L. Held, The New York Times
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

A healthy juice in your future.CreditCreditIllustration by The New York Times; Pamela C. Smith

 

Excerpt: Psychic Mediums Are the New Wellness Coaches, By Lisa Held, NYT

Intuition is magical, but it’s not reserved for a couple of people,’ said Laura Lynne Jackson, 46. She’s from Commack, N.Y., and makes her living as a psychic medium, and she was talking to hundreds who attended this year’s In Goop Health Summit in New York City (tickets start at $1000) who were there to learn how to tap into their inner intuition. ‘It’s for all of you,’ she said.Ms. Jackson, who was joined by four other professional ‘intuitives’ at the event (which also featured speakers like medical doctors, nutritionists and C.E.O.s), is one of several new mediums entering the growing industry of self-care.

Tarot cards image- people.com

‘A majority of the mediums that we work with are less interested in the party trick of showing off their psychic abilities and more focused on teaching people, women in particular, how to trust their guts and lean into their intuition,’ Noora Raj Brown, the senior vice president of communications at Goop, wrote in an email.

In a so-called Spirit Studio, Joe Perreta, 29, and Kim Russo, 54, both psychic mediums, hosted group readings where believers seemed to significantly outnumber skeptics, with teary attendees reaching for tissue boxes placed around the room.

Apple podcast

During one session, Ms. Russo approached Lauren Lamb, 38, and said her mother, who had died, wanted to pass on advice related to redecorating a room. Ms. Lamb said she was redoing her house, and some of the details Ms. Russo provided felt inexplicably specific to her. ‘How would she possibly know that? I’m a believer now,’ Ms. Lamb said.’

Thomas John, of television’s Seatbelt Psychic

But, spirit visitations aside, Ms. Lamb is far from alone. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that 62 percent of Americans believe in at least one of four spiritual concepts identified as ‘New Age’ (like reincarnation and astrology) and 41 percent believe in psychics. Lifetime promotes its show ‘Seatbelt Psychic’ by declaring that the star, the medium Thomas John, is ‘a trusted adviser to influencers and celebrities’ including Courteney Cox and Goldie Hawn.

Handily, dead celebrities can also be invoked: At In Goop Health, Deganit Nuur, a ‘clairvoyant intuitive,’ said John Lennon was ‘totally” one of her spirit guides.’ I call him in all the time, and he’s always like, ‘Do this, do that,’ and I’m like, ‘Thanks, John!'(Supposedly clairvoyant healing sessions with Ms. Nuur are available at the Four Seasons hotel’s spas in New York City and Los Angeles.) This is, of course, one of the planet’s oldest professions.

Science of the seance. The Guardian

In various ancient cultures, shamans were considered a link to the spirit world. Haitian Voodoo, Puerto Rican Brujeria, and Wiccan traditions all focus heavily on communing with spirits. In the United States in the late 1800s, Spiritualism, a religious movement in which séances to communicate with the dead were a central practice, was incredibly popular. While the language is different, communicating with spirits on the so-called other side is also an accepted practice in Christianity.

Cathy Tyson as Haitian Voodoo priestess in The Serpent and the Rainbow

Sometimes duped-feeling clients call foul: in May 2015, a psychic named Priscilla Kelly Delmaro, 26, was charged with grand larceny after Niall Rice, a 33-year-old British consultant, accused her of taking thousands of his dollars. Ms. Delmaro was charged and spent eight months in jail. A reading can be harmless fun, like reading horoscopes, but the incursion of psychics into health care might raise eyebrows.

Photo of The Native Shaman. georgehathaway

Anthony William, the self-proclaimed ‘medical medium,’ whose website includes praise from Pharrell Williams, Miranda Kerr and Robert De Niro, is behind a recent Instagram-fueled celery juice craze. Mr. William advocates drinking a strict regimen of 16 ounces of celery juice every morning on an empty stomach. There is no science to substantiate his claim that this will solve all sorts of issues, only his citation of messages from ‘Spirit of Compassion.’

The internet, with its troves of personal data, can be a boon to people claiming they are psychics — or a trap. At the end of February, John Oliver ran a scathing segment on psychics, which focused on mediums, many of whom were caught making predictions that were wrong…MaryAnn DiMarco, 48, a medium,said that her clients are increasingly not looking for predictions. ‘They’re coming to me and saying, ‘I have so much going on in my life. Can you teach me how to make connection so that I can make transformation happen in my life for the better?’ she said.

Lisa Levine, 42, is the founder of Maha Rose, a wellness center in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn…She regularly hosts workshops with Ms. Nuur, the clairvoyant intuitive at Goop Health, and said she believes there are people who can connect with the ‘other side’ and bring back valuable information, but that the medium’s intention is crucial.  ‘Is their intention to be a conduit for the spirits and to be of service to their clients, or is their intention to make a lot of money?

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

Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming

Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know aboutthe topic.Next, have students look at the pictures in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article.Regroup as a class and list these ideas on the board. Students can use a brainstorming chart for assistance.

Brainstorming chart by UIE

 

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. Psychic readings are sometimes referred to as A woo-woo profession.
  2. People learn how to tap into their inner intuition.
  3. Several new mediums are entering the growing industry of self-care.
  4. At the meeting believers seemed to significantly outnumber skeptics.
  5. She was saying some stuff where she wasn’t just channeling people.
  6. Psychics have many critics.
  7. Many people believe in reincarnation and astrology.
  8. Mr. Nuur proclaims to be a clairvoyant.
  9. In various ancient cultures, shamans were considered a link to the spirit world.
  10. Séances are performed to communicate with the dead.

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. Angels is central characters in biblical stories.
  2. She was joined by four other professional intuitives.
  3. Psychics have profited from claiming to predict the future.

II

  1. I’m an believer now, Ms. Lamb said.
  2. Spirit visitations aside, Ms. Lamb is far from alone.
  3. Research found that 62 percent of Americans believe In spiritual concepts.

III

  1. Puerto Ricans practice Brujeria.
  2. Communicating with spirits is an accept  practice in Christianity.
  3. Séances are incredibly popular.

Sentence Scramble

Directions:  The following sentences from the article are scrambled. Have students unscramble each sentence. See if students can find the original sentences in the reading to check their work.

  1. N.Y. Commack, from  She’s
  2. psychic her living medium makes a as She
  3. Tickets $1000     at  start
  4. the room  boxes were  Tissue  around placed
  5. was house said redoing  Ms. Lambshe  her
  6. advice  Here’s  my
  7. of one spirit John Lennon guides was her
  8. also celebrities invoked be Dead can

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. Do you believe in psychics? Explain why or why not?
  2. Have you or someone you know ever visited a psychic? If yes, describe the experience.
  3. The article states, Celebrities, many of whom have extended their brands to content (if only on their personal social-media accounts), increasingly include mediums in their self-care entourage. Rosanna Arquette and Kathy Hilton (mother of Paris and Nicky) plugged Ms. Jackson. Erika Gabriel, another medium, boasts that her clients include Minka Kelly and Tory Burch.” In your opinion, will celebrities help convince skeptics that mediums are real? Why or why not?
  4. List 3 questions that you would like to ask any psychic if you had the chance.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

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

ANSWER KEY

Category: Culture