Category Archives: Education

Educators Are Using Video Games To Enhance Learning In Class

“History has long served as a backdrop in the Assassin’s Creed video games, whose story lines center on pivotal times in history — from the Third Crusade to Imperial China and beyond…Following last year’s release of Assassin’s Creed Origins, set in Ptolemaic Egypt, the team behind it decided that allowing players to learn more about life in ancient Egypt might make for a pretty cool teaching aid. So they traded in the quests and violence for antiquities and history lessons, and created a mode with a series of Discovery Tours. By putting history front and center, the game may give teachers a new way to connect with some students.” J. Porter, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Learning History through video games. Visions of Education

Excerpt: Assassin’s Creed Has a New Mission: Working in the Classroom, By Justin Porter, The New York Times

“Edyeli Marku, a middle-school teacher at Intermediate School 230 in Jackson Heights, Queens, said there could be ‘tremendous value in it,’ for both students and educators — particularly for students who might test as primarily visual, auditory or kinesthetic learners. For those students, she added, ‘exposing them to a different learning vehicle is always beneficial.’   

Ms. Marku said she understands the importance of games to her students and has even used Oregon Trail as a teaching tool…Maxime Durand, who has been the lead researcher and history consultant for the Assassin’s Creed franchise since 2010, and Jean Guesdon, the creative director on Origins, said they had often heard from educators who saw the potential of using the games. Some had even used small portions in their lessons.

This class is playing video games and learning. Photo-The Day

But so much of Assassin’s Creed, given its violence and fictional narrative, is problematic in a school setting. Even Ms. Marku said the violent content could hamper the franchise’s acceptance for education purposes, especially for parents reacting to the name of the series or those familiar with its subject matter.

In this version of the game, though, players guide their chosen avatar. It can be the sheriff-like character Bayek, the original protagonist of Assassin’s Creed Origins, or one of 25 possible others…A voice-over details the objects on view, including artifacts like pottery, scrolls, farm tools and baking ovens. At some locations, non-playable characters are seen performing tasks like baking bread, tilling a field or inscribing scrolls.

Image: Fenix Bazaar

Here players can elect to have their chosen avatar perform the activity. Maybe Cleopatra and Caesar never knelt before a bread oven to remove a hot loaf from the coals, but here players can have that experience…To make the games accessible to broader range of schools, which typically have computers or tablets rather than game consoles, Ubisoft released a stand-alone version of the Discovery Tour for computers, even those with aging hardware.”

 

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Photo courtesy of ABC15 Arizona

“John McCain was a warrior, a patriot, and a man of immeasurable courage. What a privilege it was to know him.-Victoria Reggie Kennedy, The Boston Globe

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ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


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


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

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

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

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. History has long served as a backdrop in the Assassin’s Creed video games.
  2. The story lines center on pivotal times in history.
  3. Exposing students to a different learning vehicle is always beneficial.
  4. Many educators saw the potential of using  video games.
  5. In this version of the game players guide their chosen avatar.
  6. A voice-over details the objects on view.
  7. Some characters are seen performing tasks like baking bread, tilling a field or inscribing scrolls.
  8. Professor  Éthier was intrigued by the game.
  9. Today the Sphinx and the the pyramids are bleached white  by the sun.
  10. Once these monuments were once vividly colored.

 

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.

Marc-André Éthier, a professor at the ___of Montreal who ___materials that are being used to___ high school history, noticed that ___tools like ___were being used less. When he ___about the Discovery Tour, he said, ‘I was___ and I prepared a ___to test if Discovery Tour could ___someone as much as a lecture.’

WORD LIST: teach, traditional, University, teach, intrigued, studies,textbooks,study, heard,

 

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. They traded in the quests and violence for antiquities and history.
  2. Teachers has a new way to connect with students.
  3. Ms. Marku said she understands the importance of games.

II

  1. They can spend hours in front of the computer.
  2. Durand has been the lead researcher since 2010.
  3. A avatar  can be any character the students choose.

III

  1. The 75 available tours cover daily life.
  2. A lot of history’s secret are lost to time.
  3. Students learn how games are created and the way stories are told.

 

III. Post Reading Activities

Finding The Main Idea

Directions:  Have students use this advanced organizer from Write Design to assist them with  discussing  or writing about  the main idea and points from the article.

Discussion 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 do you think that certain video games can enhance learning in the classroom? Explain why or why not.
  2. Have you ever used video games in your class? If yes, describe the experience. If no, would you like to try one?
  3. Review the descriptions of the following video games. Choose one and explain why you think it would be beneficial for your class.

Suggestions For Video Games For The Classroom From Rubicon:

Elegy for a Dead World — The premise of this game is that students visit alien planets and act as the storyteller of that world, creating stories of the possible people and cultures that lived there.  These words are inspired by poets Byron, Keats, and Shelley, providing an easy connection to English curriculum.

Never Alone — This game has set a precedent for the respectful representation of indigenous people.  Co-developed by native Alaskans, it shares Inupiat stories, themes, and values, in addition to making cooperation a critical part of success in the gameplay.  Best of all, it features documentary-style videos on of the Inupiat people who provide context for the sights, sounds, and stories found in gameplay.

Valiant Hearts — A major complaint I have with popular war games is that they can, to some audiences, glorify war while downplaying the intricacies of cause and effect.  The beauty of Valiant Hearts is that it doesn’t attempt to glorify war, and it doesn’t  focus on the guns and battles.

The Republica Times: For older students, there are a wide variety of games addressing social and political issues available for use and analysis.  Games, like The Republica Times, essentially play the role of interactive social commentary.  In the game, your students are tasked with organizing the headlines for each day’s paper in the game.

Enercities: Science teachers, don’t fret!  There are games addressing science topics, like the balance between economy, ecology, population growth, and quality of life found in the free online game Enercities.  A more focused Sim-style game, Enercities provides a sandbox for students to create a city with the goal of keeping a balance between all of the aforementioned categories.

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

Some Preschools Are Including “Kindness” Training in Their Curriculums

“Thanks to a challenge from the Dalai Lama, a number of preschools are trying to teach something that has not always been considered an academic subject: kindness… preschoolers are introduced to a potpourri of sensory games, songs and stories that are designed to help them pay closer attention to their emotions.” R. Schiffman, New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post  with Answer Key

Excerpt:  Can Kindness Be Taught?  By Richard Schiffman New York Times

“Can you look inside yourself and tell me what you’re feeling?” Danielle Mahoney-Kertes asked a class of prekindergarten students at P.S. 212 in Queens recently.

‘Happy,’ one girl offered. ‘Sick,’ said another. A boy in a blue T-shirt gave a shy thumbs down. ‘That happens too,’ Ms. Mahoney-Kertes, a literacy coach, reassured him. The exercise was part of the  Kindness Curriculum, developed by the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, Madison…’Our world is kind of a scary place,’ Ms. Mahoney-Kertes said. ‘We can’t always control what is happening outside us. But what we’re teaching them is that they can control how they respond.’

P.S. 212, is in a neighborhood in Jackson Heights that is home to many new immigrants…’A child can come in and say, ‘My father was deported last night.’ How do you deal with that?” said the school’s principal, Carin Ellis. ‘We give them tools to cope with their hurt and pain.’

Ms. Ellis believes the Kindness Curriculum has also helped kids manage the stress of standardized testing and cut down on interpersonal conflicts…Richard Davidson, the founder of the Center for Healthy Minds, believes that ancient Buddhist wisdom provides clues. He was inspired, he said, by a request from Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who asked him to take insights from contemplative practice out of their religious context and use them to develop strategies to help improve people’s lives... On “Sesame Street,” the characters model a variety of kind actions. For example, Big Bird’s friends help him conquer his stage fright; Elmo patiently waits as Zoe learns to use his scooter. The program then cuts to its ‘kindness cam,’ which shows real children engaging in similar behaviors… Ms. Mahoney-Kertes points out, however, that, educators must practice what they preach for their lessons to be truly effective.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


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


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

I. Pre-Reading Activities

Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming

Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about  the topic (kindness).  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.

G. Cluster Brainstorming-workshopexercises

 

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 Dalai Lama presented the challenge.
  2. Preschoolers are introduced to a potpourri of sensory games.
  3. The Kindness Curriculum has also helped kids manage the stress of standardized testing.
  4. We give them tools to cope with their hurt and pain.
  5. The Kindness Curriculum is part of a growing global movement.
  6. Dr. Davidson said he used the Buddhist  concept as the basis for teaching children.
  7. Children are able to empathize with the feelings of others.
  8. Sesame Street’s own research prompted its focus on kindness.
  9. The period between ages 4 and 7 is a critical developmental window when the brain is reorganizing.
  10. Youngsters who received the kindness training become more altruistic as they grew older.

Color Vocabualry Map by Enchanted Learning

 

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.

One ___working on ___with older ___ the Los Angeles-based ‘Kind Campaign’, founded in 2009, organizes middle and high school that ___the problem of ___between young women. The girls are ___to write a ‘kind apology’ and___it to who they have wronged.

WORD LIST: somebody,students,bullying,hand, program, kindness,target, assemblies, invited,

 

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 exercise was part of the Kindness Curriculum.
  2. The Kindness Curriculum was an natural fit.
  3. When you’re unkind to another, it’s usually about how we are feeling.

II

  1. The program strengthened children’s ability to focus.
  2. They may also fare better later in life.
  3. The Kindness Curriculum is part of an growing global movement.

III

  1. Richard Davidson believes that ancient Buddhist wisdom provides clues.
  2. The program encourages children to identify there feelings and to put a label to them.
  3. On Sesame Street, the characters model a variety of kind actions.

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

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

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

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

The articles states, “Another group, the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, has developed lesson plans for all age groups through high school. Students are guided in classroom discussions and asked to come up with positive actions, like sitting with someone who is alone in the lunchroom and writing imaginative thank you letters to their future selves.”

  1. Can you think of a time during your life when you were taught to be kind to others?  Share your experience with the group.
  2. In your opinion is this a good curriculum for  all students? Explain why or why not.
  3. With your group create a list of activites for young children that will teach the ideas of kindness, sharing and caring.

 

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: Education, Social Issues | Tags:

Kids Learn How to Code Using Sony’s Building Blocks

“Forget everything you think you know about programming: the long hours behind a screen, the lines of code stacking up, all that time spent debugging someone else’s mess. Koov makes learning to code—the basics, at least—as easy as playing with building blocks.” L. Stinson, Wired

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key!

Sony’s KOOV building blocks get your kids coding and building robots in no time

Excerpt: Get Your Kids Coding With Sony’s Clever Building Blocks, by Liz Stinson, WIRED

“The candy-colored blocks snap together like Legos to create interactive robot penguins, trucks, and other cool things. Blueprints guide kids through the process, but as with all the best toys, the real learning comes when the imagination runs wild. ‘These robot recipes are something we see as more of an inspiration,’ says Tim McGregor, a senior marketing manager at Sony Global Education. ‘[We] want to give them skills to build their own unique robots.’ Sony introduced the blocks in Japan last year.

Sony’s programing kit allows children to build what they want.

A companion app teaches programming concepts like looping and  “if-then” logic. (Sony developed the app’s curriculum using MIT’s drag-and-drop Scratch programing language.)

The Koov app includes an educational track explaining how to use the seven different blocks to create all sorts of objects.

‘We teach them techniques to make shapes out of their imagination,’ McGregor says. ‘You have to have a creative mind to be able to do some of these things.” 

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


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


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

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. Koov blurs the line between learning and playing.
  2. There is an  educational app for the Koov block set.
  3. Koov is a highly marketable toy.
  4. Companies are placing  computing in an environment for kids.
  5. Kids can create interactive robot penguins, and other toys.
  6. Blueprints guide kids through the process.
  7. A companion app teaches concepts like looping and  f-then logic.
  8. Kids can build their own unique robots.
  9. These robot recipes are an inspiration.
  10. The real learning comes when the imagination runs wild.

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.

The candy-colored___ snap together like___ to___interactive robot penguins, trucks, and other cool things. Blueprints ___kids ___the process, but as with all the best toys, the real ___comes when the runs wild. These___recipes are something we ___as more of an inspiration.

WORD LIST:  see, create,  robot, blocks, Legos, guide, through, learning, imagination,

 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. A companion app teach programming.
  2. Blueprints guide kids through the process.
  3. Sony introduced the blocks in Japan last year.

II

 

  1. Kids want to build his own unique robots.
  2. Creating is as easy as playing with building blocks.
  3. The real learning comes  with the imagination.

III

  1. Kids can build a glowing lantern that turns  in and off.
  2. An advanced lesson include a dancing, singing penguin.
  3. The trick is translating abstract into tangible objects.

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

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

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

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

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

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

ANSWER KEY

Category: Education, Technology

The Forbidden Word: Dyslexia

“Megan Lordos, a middle school teacher, says she was not allowed to use the word ‘dyslexia.’ She’s not alone. Parents and teachers across the country have raised concerns about some schools hesitating, or completely refusing, to say the word. As the most common learning disability in the U.S., dyslexia affects somewhere between 5 and 17 percent of the population. That means millions of school children around the country struggle with it.” G. Gmanuel, NPR

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Excerpt: Dyslexia: The Learning Disability That Must Not Be Named By Gabrielle Emanuel, NPR

“Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), schools are required to provide special services to help these students — things like reading tutors and books on tape. But those special services can be expensive, and many schools don’t have the resources to provide these accommodations.

That has led some parents and advocates to worry that some schools are making a careful calculation: If they don’t acknowledge the issue — or don’t use the word ‘dyslexia’ — then they are not obligated to provide services.

Last year, when Lordos was teaching English at a public school in Arlington, Va., she recalls a parent-teacher meeting in the conference room. Things started smoothly.

Lordos says two parents had come in to talk with teachers and administrators about their son – Lordos’ student, an eighth-grader – who was struggling to read.

Partway through the meeting, Lordos says she suggested that the student might have orthographic dyslexia.

When I mentioned that in the meeting, I was stopped. Lordos remembers being interrupted. They said: ‘Oh no no. We don’t say that.’  It wasn’t until after the meeting adjourned and the parents left that Lordos understood why.

We’re not allowed to say it because we don’t have the capabilities to support that particular learning difference, Lordos recalls the school administrator saying. Several parents in the district recounted similar experiences.

However, Brenda Wilks, an assistant superintendent of the Arlington Public Schools, says educators and administrators there use the term dyslexia, but they have to use it carefully. That’s because educators cannot officially diagnose dyslexia.

To help the situation, the district launched a Dyslexia Task Force last year. Its website now has a page explaining dyslexia, the district has expanded literacy screening, and it has hosted training sessions to inform teachers about the disability. Many years ago it wasn’t a word that was widely used, says Kelly Krug, who is co-chairing the task force. And in the past few years, it’s really become a focus.

Both Megan Lordos and the other parents say things are beginning to get better. But this issue is not limited to Arlington, and the U.S. Department of Education is paying attention.

Schools engage in strategies to lower their special education expenses… And dyslexia is by far the largest group within the special education category.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


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


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

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions:  Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a 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. Several schools are not required to provide special services.
  2. That has led some parents and advocates to worry.
  3. Parents feel that the schools should be obligated to provide services.
  4. Orthographic dyslexia is common.
  5. There is nothing legally preventing schools from saying the word dyslexia.
  6. Many schools don’t have the resources to provide these services.
  7. The woman chairing the meeting came over and apologized.
  8. Many districts have expanded literacy screening.
  9. Dyslexia should be treated just like any other disability.
  10. Long after she left the conference room the explanation lingered with her.

 

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: The following sentences are from the article. Choose the correct word for each blank space from the word list  or make up your own words.

Hal Malchow, of the International Dyslexia Association, says there’s another___at play:___. He says those ___services are all things the ___district could have to fund.

And since there are so many ___school children who have___, that___ tag adds up – and school___are tight.

WORD LIST:   special, budgets, American,  school, money, dyslexia, factor, price,

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. Schools are required to provide special services.
  2. The meeting  started smoothly.
  3. Two parents had come in to talk with teachers about there children.

II

  1. A eighth-grader was struggling to read.
  2. They thought that the student might have dyslexia.
  3. The woman chairing the meeting came over and apologized.

III

  1. Many years ago it wasn’t an word that was widely used.
  2. In the past few years, it’s really become a focus.
  3. This issue is not limited to Arlington.

 

III. Post Reading Activities

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

“Ryder says they heard from school administrators about what might be going on: “What we were told was that, when they used the term ‘dyslexia,’ then families thought that it meant they would get a specific kind of instructional program.”

“IDEA requires schools to help students who have dyslexia – just like any other disability – but the exact help they receive is decided locally. Some kids may get a trained reading specialist, others could get one-on-one tutoring, and still others might receive adaptive technology.”

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: Education

Do You Have What it Takes to Be A Hero Teacher?

“Maybe you have had the fantasy: Chuck your day job to teach in a public school in a blighted neighborhood. The money is lousy, of course, but that’s part of the fantasy — no one wants to turn around the lives of poor children just for a paycheck… Ed Boland  had seen movies like [Lean On Me] and Stand and Deliver in which heroic teachers reach into the lives of at-risk adolescents and make a difference. Mr. Boland believed he could be one of them.” J. Leland New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Ed Boland outside the Henry Street School for International Studies, where he taught ninth-grade history. Photo- Hilary Swift, New York Times

Ed Boland outside the Henry Street School for International Studies, where he taught ninth-grade history. Photo- Hilary Swift, New York Times

Lean On Me The dedicated but tyrannical Joe Clark is appointed the principal of a decaying inner-city school that he is determined to improve

Lean On Me The dedicated but tyrannical Joe Clark is appointed the principal of a decaying inner-city school that he is determined to improve.

 

Excerpt: The Myth of the Hero Teacher, John Leland, NYT

“ An executive at Prep for Prep, a nonprofit organization that places minority children in elite private schools, he quit to teach ninth-grade history at a low-performing public school on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.  I thought, I can do this, he said the other day, at a coffee shop near the Henry Street School for International Studies, where he arrived as a first-year teacher in fall 2006. I thought, I want to work on the front lines. I want to be one of those teachers that kids really like and listen to and learn from, and you can turn a kid around.

James Olmos in Stand and Deliver.

James Olmos in Stand and Deliver.

On his fifth day, as he describes it in his new memoir, The Battle for Room 314: My Year of Hope and Despair in a New York City High School,  his students schooled him in just how wrong he was.

On the other side of the room, someone had hurled a calculator at the blackboard, he writes. A group of boys were shoving one another near a new laptop. Two girls swayed in sweet unison and mouthed lyrics while sharing the earphones of a strictly forbidden iPod…When he turned to the girl who had started the disruption, he found her now standing on top of her desk, towering above me like a pro wrestler on the ropes about to pounce. She… then told him to perform an act that was anatomically impossible. The class erupted in laughter. Man, came the verdict that would follow Mr. Boland until year’s end, he can’t even control the girls.

Sidney Poiter film To Sir With Love

Sidney Poiter film To Sir With Love

The Battle for Room 314  arrives in a charged atmosphere, where public education has somehow become a contentious topic. Teachers are definitely talking about it, said Christopher Emdin, 37, who teaches science education at Teachers College, Columbia University…For Dr. Emdin, Mr. Boland’s book wrongly blames students for what is really a failure to train teachers, especially those working with students from backgrounds that are different from their own. Teaching in an urban school is a specialty, like surgery…who urges teachers to see beyond the thuggish behavior of difficult students, which might be a performance that itself involves great strategy and talent… Mr. Boland agreed with at least part of that assessment. Of all the hours I was at graduate school, I don’t think there was all together an hour devoted to classroom management…I just wish, when that girl stood on top of that desk, I knew what to do.

Glen Ford starred in 1955 movie Blackbord Jungle, a movie about juvenile delinquency in schools

Glen Ford starred in 1955 movie Blackbord Jungle, a movie about juvenile delinquency in schools

The teachers at his school, Mr. Boland said, often shared their frustrations at happy hours at local bars… Teacher training, especially in classroom management, has long been a point of contention between teachers and the city’s Education Department, said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers…As he prepared for publication, Mr. Boland said, he contacted as many students as he could, to tell them about the book and to apologize for his shortcomings as their teacher. Most were gracious…they had too many clueless teachers to get hung up on one.”

Read: Some Natives Take Offense to J K Rowling’s “Fantasy” Writing…Seriously??

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level:  Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


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


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

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Tasks

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. On the other side of the room, someone had hurled a calculator.
  2. A group of boys were shoving one another.
  3. Earphones are strictly forbidden.
  4. The girl started the disruption.
  5. The act was anatomically impossible.
  6. The Battle for Room 314 arrives in a charged atmosphere.
  7. Mr. Boland agreed with at least part of that assessment.
  8. The teachers at his school shared their frustrations.
  9. There’s a mind-set that it’s O.K. to make your mistakes on the job.
  10. Certain behavior  is not acceptable.
Vocabulary Cluster By Learnnc.org

Vocabulary Cluster By Learnnc.org

 

Reading Comprehension

Word -Recognition

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

As he prepared/prepped  for publication, Mr. Boland say/said, he contracted/contacted as many/menu students/student as he could, to teach/tell them about the book and to apologizes/apologize for his shortcomings as their tutor/teacher. Most were gracious/grace, he said; they had too many clueless teachers to get hung/hang up on one.

Grammar Focus: Prepositions

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

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

“Teaching ___an urban school is a specialty, like surgery.

Especially those working with students from backgrounds that are different ___their own.

Teacher training, especially___ classroom management, has long been a point___contention___ teachers and the city’s Education Department.

Nee-cole is now working part-time___ a Whole Foods___ Westchester County.

She gets___  ___4:30___ the morning___ take a bus.”

III. Post Reading Tasks

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/Writing Exercise

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

  1. “Mr. Boland said he hoped people would not conclude from his book that the students were to blame for their chaotic classrooms, or that poor kids could not be taught. He wrote the book,to dispel the myth of the hero teacher, and the idea that just caring was enough. In the book’s final section, he blames poverty for the school dysfunction, nodding only briefly to the teachers and the methods that succeed with impoverished students, even where others fail.”
  2. “For Mr. Boland, the year did not get much better after that fifth day. By spring he was sleeping poorly, realizing that he had become like the cynical teachers he once disparaged — those who gave thanks when students skipped class or fell asleep at their desks. I thought, Where’s your self-respect?”

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: Education