Category Archives: Health Issues

Robots Caring for the Elderly Bring Increasing Questions of Concern

“Robotic companions are being promoted as an antidote to the burden of longer, lonelier human lives. At stake is the future of what it means to be human.” M. Jackson, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Credit- Mojo Wang, The New York Times

Excerpt: Would You Let a Robot Take Care of Your Mother? By Maggie Jackson, The New York Times

“After Constance Gemson moved her mother to an assisted living facility, the 92-year-old became more confused, lonely and inarticulate. Two full-time private aides, kind and attentive as they were, couldn’t possibly meet all their patient’s needs for connection.

Credit- ABC Radio Perth – Gian de Poloni

So on a visit one day, Ms. Gemson brought her mom a new helper: a purring, nuzzling robot cat designed as a companion for older adults. “It’s not a substitute for care,” says Ms. Gemson, whose mother died last June at age 95. “But this was someone my mother could hug and embrace and be accepted by. This became a reliable friend.” When her mom was upset, her family or helpers brought her the cat to stroke and sing to, and she grew calmer. In her last days “what she could give, she gave to the cat,” says Ms. Gemson.

Photo- Next Avenue

An aging population is fueling the rise of the robot caregiver, as the devices moving into the homes and hearts of the aging and sick offer new forms of friendship and aid…Winsome tabletop robots now remind elders to take their medications and a walk, while others in research prototype can fetch a snack or offer consoling words to a dying patient… Yet we should be deeply concerned about the ethics of their use. At stake is the future of what it means to be human, and what it means to care.

Issues of freedom and dignity are most urgently raised by robots that are built to befriend, advise and monitor seniors. This is Artificial Intelligence with wide, blinking eyes and a level of sociability that is both the source of its power to help and its greatest moral hazard

When do a robot assistant’s prompts to a senior to call a friend become coercion of the cognitively frail? Will Grandma’s robot pet inspire more family conversation or allow her kin to turn away from the demanding work of supporting someone who is ill or in pain? ‘Robots, if they are used the right way and work well, can help people preserve their dignity,’ says Matthias Scheutz, a roboticist who directs Tufts University’s Human-Robot Interaction Lab. ‘What I find morally dubious is to push the social aspect of these machines when it’s just a facade, a puppet. It’s deception technology.’

For that is where the ethical dilemmas begin — with our remarkable willingness to banter with a soulless algorithm, to return a steel and plastic wink. It is a well-proven finding in the science of robotics: add a bit of movement, language, and ‘smart’ responses to a bundle of software and wires and humans see an intentionality and sentience that simply isn’t there. Such ‘agency’ is designed to prime people to engage in an eerie seeming reciprocity of care.

Credit- The Star Online

Social robots ideally inspire humans to empathize with them, writes Maartje de Graaf of the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, who studies ethics in human-robot interactions. Even robots not designed to be social can elicit such reactions: some owners of the robot vacuum Roomba grieve when theirs gets ‘sick’ (broken) or count them as family when listing members of their household.

Many in the field see the tensions and dilemmas in robot care, yet believe the benefits can outweigh the risks. The technology is ‘intended to help older adults carry out their daily lives,’ says Richard Pak, a Clemson University scientist who studies the intersection of human psychology and technology design, including robots…

We know little about robot care’s long-term impact or possible indirect effects. And that is why it is crucial at this early juncture to heed both the field’s success stories and the public’s apprehensions.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


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


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

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

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

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. The 92-year-old became more confused, lonely and inarticulate.
  2. The pet robots are not a substitute for care.
  3. The robot became a reliable friend.
  4. Care robots are increasly seen as an antidote to the burden of longer, lonelier human lives.
  5. Winsome tabletop robots now remind elders to take their medications and a walk.
  6. Others in research prototype can fetch a snack or offer consoling words to a dying patient.
  7. Since their 2016 debut, sales of robots to assist older adultsare expected to rise 25 percent annually through 2022.
  8. Yet we should be deeply concerned about the ethics of their use.
  9. This is Artificial Intelligence with wide, blinking eyes and a level of sociability that is both the source of its power to help and its greatest moral hazard. 
  10. Some worry robot care would carry a stigma the potential of being seen as not worth human company.

 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. Constance Gemson moved her mother to a assisted living facility.
  2. Two full-time private aides were also hired.
  3. Ms. Gemson brought her mom a new helper: a purring, nuzzling robot cat.

II

  1. A aging population is fueling the rise of the robot caregiver.
  2. Thousands of robotic cats and dogs designed as companions for older people have been sold in the U.S. since 2016.
  3. Yet we should be deeply concerned about the ethics of their use.

III

  1. Robots, if they are used the right way and work well, can help people preserve their dignity.
  2. Social robots ideally inspire humans to empathize  with them.
  3. The robot is designed to stress that it’s not an doctor or nurse but part of someone’s care team.

 

Reading Comprehension

Identify The  Speakers

Directions: Place students in groups. Hand out the following quotes from speakers in the article. Members are to identify the speakers from the article.

  1. “Robots, if they are used the right way and work well, can help people preserve their dignity. “What I find morally dubious is to push the social aspect of these machines when it’s just a facade, a puppet. It’s deception technology.”
  2. “Even robots not designed to be social can elicit such reactions: some owners of the robot vacuum Roomba grieve when theirs gets “sick” (broken) or count them as family when listing members of their household.”
  3. “The technology is intended to help older adults carry out their daily lives.   If the cost is sort of tricking people in a sense, I think, without knowing what the future holds, that might be a worthy trade-off. Still he wonders, “Is this the right thing to do?”
  4. “The robot is one thing, but you still need interaction that’s not programmed.”
  5. It’s not a substitute for care,”

 

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.

  1. Who or What is the article about?
  2. Where does the action/event take place?
  3. When does the action/event take place?
  4. Why did the action/event occur?
  5. How did the action/event occur?

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

  1. Do you interact with any robots in your home (e.g., the  Roomba vacuum), school,  job, public facilities (e.g., restrooms, recreation areas ) or institutions such as banks, museums or libraries? If yes, describe them and how you interact with them.
  2. Have you ever interacted with an actual  robot pet? what was your experience like?
  3. Is there a senior member in your family who has a robotic companion? If yes, how do they interact with the pet?
  4. Do you think robotic pets are a good idea for seniors? Why or why not?
  5. According to the article what are the benefits of seniors having robot companions?
  6. The article raises two issues of concern with the robots programmed to befriend and advise seniors. What are the issues and why do they cause concern?
  7. There are new “soft-law” guidelines that professionals state the robots need to have. What are they?
  8. In your opinion, are there certain tasks we should not allow robots to do because they would be considered unethical?
  9. List something  new that you have learned from this article. List something that you did not understand in this article. List something that you would like to add to this article. Share your responses with the class.

ANSWER KEY

The Coronavirus: What We Need to Know

“Wuhan Coronavirus: A respiratory virus has spread from China to at least a dozen other countries, including the U.S. Here’s what you need to know.” R. C. Rabin, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Travelers at a train station in Yichang, China, about 200 miles from Wuhan. Credit- CHINATOPIX, via Associated Press

 

Excerpt: What Is the Coronavirus? Symptoms, Treatment and Risks By Roni C. Rabin the New York Times

“An international outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus has killed at least 132 people and sickened about 6,000, according to the Chinese health authorities. The outbreak began in Wuhan, China, apparently at a market selling live poultry, seafood and wild animals.

A woman checks her son’s forehead in Wuhan, China, on January 27, 2020:The Atlantic

Now the virus has turned up in more than a dozen other countries, including Japan, South Korea, France, Australia and the United States. Investigators in still other nations, and in several American states, are evaluating possible cases…Schools have been closed in affected regions. Major attractions, festivals and movie theaters have been closed down, and sales of tourist packages from China to other countries have been halted. Federal health officials are telling Americans not to visit the Wuhan area, and to avoid traveling to any part of China unless necessary. Some airlines are cutting back on flights to China because of low demand.

Spread of the Wuhan coronavirus in China- CNN

Five cases have been confirmed in the United States: one in Washington State; one in Chicago; one in Arizona; and two in California. All patients had recently traveled to China. More than 100 other patients are being tested.

But much is still unknown about the newly identified virus, including how easily it is transmitted and how often it causes severe disease that can lead to death…Here’s what we have learned so far about the virus and the outbreak.

What is a coronavirus?

model of a coronavirus -Credit NativeAntigen

Coronaviruses are named for the spikes that protrude from their membranes, which resemble the sun’s corona. They can infect both animals and people, and can cause illnesses of the respiratory tract, ranging from the common cold to dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, which sickened thousands of people around the world — and killed nearly 800 — during an outbreak in 2003.

How dangerous is it?

police officer takes the temperature of a driver at a checkpoint on a street on the outskirts of Wuhan on January 27, 2020. :The Atlantic

Health officials around the world are alarmed, but it is hard to accurately assess the lethality of a new virus. On Thursday, the World Health Organization declined to declare the outbreak a global health emergency…’When we get a new infectious disease, we learn about the most severe cases first, the top of the pyramid as it were,’ said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center…By comparison, roughly 200,000 people are hospitalized with the flu each year in the United States, and about 35,000 people die. But while some scientists say the new virus appears to be less severe than other coronaviruses, like SARS and MERS, it is not clear whether the Chinese authorities have been fully transparent about the number of infections and deaths, or even whether these figures are being carefully tracked.

How is it transmitted?

Photo- Forbes

The Wuhan coronavirus is most likely transmitted through coughing and sneezing, as is the case with influenza and other respiratory viruses, Dr. Vaishampayan said…The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed 198 confirmed cases in Wuhan. Researchers found that 22 percent had direct exposure to the meat market, and 32 percent had contact with people who had a fever or respiratory disease. But roughly half had neither been to the market nor had contact with anyone who was sick… Researchers at Imperial College London estimated that in the current outbreak, each infected person has passed the virus to 2.6 other people, on average.

What treatment is available?

People wearing face masks to help stop the spread of the coronavirus wait inside the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital on January 25, 2020. The Atlantic

The main treatment is supportive care, including making sure the patient is getting enough oxygen, and using a ventilator to push air into the lungs if necessary, Dr. Vaishampayan said. Patients should rest and drink plenty of fluids ‘while the immune system does its job and heals itself,’ she said.

No drugs have been approved for any coronavirus diseases, including the Wuhan coronavirus, though an antiviral medication called remdesivir appears to be effective in animals… Chinese officials are experimenting with at least one other H.I.V. drug to treat the infection.

What is the source of the outbreak?

Animals are the most likely primary source of the outbreak, but it is still not clear which animals. Past outbreaks of similar illnesses, including SARS, also are believed to have emerged from live animal markets.

But though the first patients sickened by the Wuhan coronavirus were thought to have contracted the disease at the market, the illness can also be transmitted from person to person.

What are the health authorities doing to contain the virus?

The Chinese authorities have closed off transportation links from and within Wuhan and other affected cities, encircling roughly 50 million people.

Large public gatherings and performances were banned in Wuhan, and the government announced that all residents were required to wear masks in public to help prevent the disease from spreading.

What are the symptoms of infection?

Source- Center for Disease Control and Prevention:USA Today

Symptoms include fever, severe cough and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Milder cases may resemble the flu or a bad cold, making detection difficult. The incubation period — the time from exposure to the onset of symptoms — is believed to be about two weeks.

I’m traveling to China. What can I do to protect myself?

A fully protected man checks out at the self-help machine of a supermarket in Wuhan on January 25, 2020. The Atlantic

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned against all nonessential travel to China…Dr. Schaffner, of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said travelers should practice ‘good hand hygiene’ — washing hands frequently and avoiding touching their faces — and maintain a distance from anyone who is coughing and sneezing. Travelers should monitor their health upon their return. If a cough or fever develops, call health providers before going in, so they can prepare and put protective measures in place.

Should I wear a mask?

People wearing masks in China. Londonpost

Wearing a surgical mask may somewhat protect you from infection in a crowd if there is an outbreak, but, generally, surgical masks are not close fitting enough to filter all the air you are breathing in.

Roads remain empty in Wuhan on January 27, 2020.

At the moment, the risk of infection with the new coronavirus in the United States — where there are only five confirmed cases so far — ‘is way too low to start wearing a face mask,’ Dr. Rabinowitz said. The risk is very, very low to the general public.”

RELATED: Fears of coronavirus fuel anti-Chinese racism. By Deanna Pan, Boston Globe

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


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


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

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

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

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. An international outbreak of respiratory illness has killed at least 132 people and sickened about 6,000.
  2. Now the virus has turned up in more than a dozen other countries.
  3. Investigators in still other nations, and in several American states, are evaluating possible cases.
  4. Five cases have been confirmed in the United States.
  5. One of the key questions is whether it can be transmitted by patients who have not yet shown any symptoms of illness themselves.
  6. Health officials around the world are alarmed, but it is hard to accurately assess the lethality of a new virus.
  7. When we get a new infectious disease, we learn about the most severe cases first.
  8. Some scientists say the new virus appears to be less severe than other coronaviruses.
  9. A close examination of one family, suggested that the virus was passed from one ill relative to six others.
  10. Epidemics caused by other members of the viral family, SARS and MERS, have had high death rates.

Grammar Focus: Identifying Prepositions

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

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

An international outbreak___respiratory illness caused___ a novel coronavirus has killed ___least 132 people.

The outbreak began___ Wuhan, China, apparently ___a market selling live poultry, seafood and wild animals.

Investigators ___still other nations, and___ several American states, are evaluating possible cases.

Federal health officials are telling Americans not___visit the Wuhan area, and ___avoid traveling ___any part___China unless necessary.

Coronaviruses are named ___the spikes that protrude___ their membranes, which resemble the sun’s corona.

 

Reading Comprehension

True /False/NA-Statements

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

  1. The outbreak began in Japan
  2. The coronavirus has killed at least 132 people and sickened about 6,000 so far.
  3. It appears that the outbreak started in a large crowed village.
  4. The virus has turned up in more than a dozen other countries, including Japan, South Korea, France, Australia and the United States.
  5. Federal health officials are telling Americans not to visit the Wuhan area, but it’s ok to visit other parts of China.
  6. Ten cases have been confirmed in the United States: one in Washington State; one in Chicago; one in Arizona; and two in California.
  7. The virus can only infect people.
  8. There are less severely infected people, and people who are infected who don’t get sick at all.
  9. The Wuhan coronavirus is most likely transmitted through coughing and sneezing.
  10. The main treatment is making sure the patient is getting enough oxygen, and using a ventilator to push air into the lungs if necessary.

III. Post Reading Activities

Directions:  Have students use this advanced organizer from Enchanted Learning to assist them with  discussing  or writing about  the main points from the article.

Topic organizer. By Enchanted Learning

 

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 subjects mentioned.

  1. Before reading this article how much did you know about the coronavirus?
  2. Why do you think people are beginning to panic?
  3. According to the article, where exactly in Wuhan China did the coronavirus start?
  4. The article mentions an incident involving a hospital in Seoul, South Korea, in 2015, where one man with MERS transmitted it to 82 patients. Why is this a major concern today with the coronavirus?
  5. How is the coronavirus similar and different from other epidemics like SARS and MERS?
  6. How is the coronavirus transmitted?
  7. What precautions can people take to avoid getting the virus?
  8. Can you think of any additional ways people might protect themselves from contacting the virus?
  9. So far is there any treatment that can cure the virus?
  10. According to doctors, what are patients advised to do if they contact the virus?
  11. Do you think people in the U.S. and other countries  will act negatively towards  Chinese students or people from China? Why or why not?

3-2-1-Writing

Directions: In 5 minutes to 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 you  would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.

ANSWER KEY

5 People Who Made Positive World Changes in 2019

“In a year of many dispiriting headlines, Fixes still found the better angels of human nature at work.” T. Rosenberg, The New York Times

Note: Fixes is a column from the New York Times that looks at solutions to social problems and why they work.

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post  with Answer Key

Excerpt: Five Who Spread Hope in 2019-By Tina Rosenberg, The New York Times

“O.K. so Time magazine has Greta Thunberg. But many other individuals also changed the world for the better in 2019. Here, for a second year, is a list of five whose contributions Fixes wrote about.

Scott O’Neill fights tropical disease.

Scott O’Neill, director of the World Mosquito Program, with a cage of Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes in his Melbourne laboratory. Credit- Shaney Cameron

There’s a new weapon in the fight against mosquito-borne diseases.

Before 1970, only nine countries had experienced severe epidemics of dengue fever. Now, the disease is endemic in 100 countries, infects 400 million people a year and is intensifying rapidly.

Like Zika and chikungunya, dengue is spread by the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, and no workable vaccine or cure has been found.

The normal public health response to mosquitoes is attack: spray pesticide, eliminate breeding grounds and help people ward off their bites. But these strategies have failed to control dengue. The world is desperate for something new. Scott O’Neill leads a team that is doing just the opposite — adding millions of mosquitoes to areas affected by disease. Professor O’Neill directs the World Mosquito Program, which is based at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

The mosquitoes the program releases are infected with Wolbachia bacteria, which block their ability to transmit disease. Wolbachia occurs naturally in most insect species and is harmless to vertebrates and humans. When enough Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes are released, they take over the whole population…In Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Wolbachia zones had 76 percent fewer cases of dengue than other areas. Wolbachia has also led to reductions in disease in Brazil and Vietnam.

Kimberly McGrath heals trafficked children.

Kimberly McGrath coordinates foster care services at the Citrus Health Network in Hialeah, Fla. Credit- Maria A. Cardona for The New York Times

What happens to a child who is exploited commercially for sex? Kimberly McGrath is changing the answer to that question. Historically, trafficked children have been arrested for solicitation and sent to juvenile court…’The core understanding was that these were defiant, rebellious youth who would rebel in a family,’ Dr. McGrath said. In 2013, Florida officials asked Dr. McGrath, who coordinates foster care services at the Citrus Health Network in South Florida, to come up with a different response.

She started from the premise that these children were not defiant criminals. A vast majority had been abused, which made them more susceptible to the manipulations of traffickers. And they had never gotten help to recover from that abuse.

Dr. McGrath and her colleagues looked at what had worked for other traumatized children and adapted it to trafficked children. They educated not just therapists and social workers, but also foster parents…’When foster parents are equipped and prepared to deal with their special needs, children thrive in family-based environments,’ she said. “They really are just traumatized kids.’

Dr. Dixon Chibanda transforms global mental health care.

Dr. Dixon Chibanda turned benches into destinations for therapy. Credit- Markus Schreiber:Associated Press

Depression occurs everywhere. By some measures, it’s the world’s most debilitating disease. But treatment is not everywhere. Even in New York City, less than 40 percent of people with depression get treatment. In poor countries, it’s closer to zero percent.

So what can be done in places with no public mental health care and only a tiny number of mental health professionals? As with medical care, the answer is training nonprofessionals. Every health clinic in Harare, Zimbabwe, has a ‘friendship bench‘ in its yard. It’s an ordinary wooden bench. Seated on it is a community health worker with a few weeks’ training in problem-solving therapy. Patients go to the bench, talk to the health worker about their problems and come up with possible solutions. They go home and try them, and return.

The friendship bench was invented in 2006 by a psychiatrist, Dixon Chibanda, after a patient committed suicide. He had asked her to come see him at Harare Central Hospital, but she lived in another city and didn’t have bus fare.

Dr. Chibanda decided to bring treatment for depression to Harare’s health clinics. At first he wanted to train nurses and put offices inside the buildings, but the nurses had not enough  time and clinics had not enough space. But what seemed like a setback is what has allowed the program to spread.

Now, there’s a bench in the yard of every government-run health clinic in Harare, and the practice is spreading throughout Zimbabwe and to other African countries. In a different form, the strategy has also reached New York. Research shows that friendship benches are effective at treating depression.

Dr. Rebekah Gee makes medicines affordable.

Dr. Rebekah Gee, Louisiana’s health secretary. Credit- Tom Williams:CQ Roll Call, via Associated Press

Louisiana is doing two things no other state is doing about hepatitis C, which kills more Americans than all other infectious diseases combined. One is that the state is suddenly treating more people.

Hep C is curable — but the drugs are astronomically expensive. Even the cheapest generic version in the United States costs $24,000 for a course of treatment. (In India, the same drug is $550.) Because of the price, state Medicaid programs ration the drugs. In 2018, Louisiana treated 1,200 people… Louisiana could do that because of the second innovation: The drugs were made a lot less expensive. In July, the state began buying hep C medicines in a new way. Just as you pay Netflix a flat fee for all you want to watch, Louisiana now pays Asegua Therapeutics $58 million per year for all the hep C medicine the state can use.

Dr. Rebekah Gee, Louisiana’s secretary of health, adopted the scheme from Australia, where it has allowed Australia to treat seven times as many patients for the same money. Louisiana is the first state in America to do the same. The State of Washington is about to start as well. Other states are likely to follow.

Phil Keisling deepens democracy.

Illustration by Jeffrey Henson Scales; photographs by Marcin Jastrzebski and Digiphoto:iStock, via Getty Images

There’s a lot of attention, and rightly so, paid to Republican efforts to suppress voting. But there’s also a movement in both parties to expand voting. It abandons the traditional polling booth in favor of voting at home

It’s one of the most effective ways to increase turnout — possibly the best way.

Increasingly, other states are following the path first set by Oregon, which mails every voter a ballot. Voters fill it out at their leisure and mail it in or drop it off at a ballot center.

In next year’s elections, all voters in Oregon, Colorado, Washington, Utah and Hawaii will vote at home. California will soon follow. Large parts of North Dakota and Nebraska vote at home. In last year’s midterms, 69 percent of all votes in the West were cast by voters who received ballots in the mail.

Phil Keisling was Oregon’s secretary of state, in charge of elections, when Oregon began home voting in 1998. Now he leads the Vote at Home Institute.

The institute asserts that it saves taxpayers money (some election officials disagree). It argues that because the approach uses paper ballots, it’s secure against hacking… Home voting probably doesn’t affect turnout in big elections. But it does in local elections, races at the end of the ballot, ballot propositions and judicial elections.

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 Exercises

 

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions: Have  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. Before 1970, only nine countries had experienced severe epidemics of dengue fever.
  2. The normal public health response to mosquitoes is attack: spray pesticide.
  3. What happens to a child who is exploited?
  4. Historically, trafficked children have been arrested for solicitation.
  5. Depression occurs everywhere.
  6. So what can be done in places with no public mental health care?
  7. Louisiana is doing two things no other state is doing about hepatitis C.
  8. Hepatitis C kills more Americans than all other infectious diseases combined.
  9. There’s a lot of attention, and rightly so, paid to Republican efforts to suppress voting.
  10. Increasingly, other states are following the path first set by Oregon, which mails every voter a ballot.

Source: New Oxford American Dictionary   

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

Many other individual also changed the world for the better in 2019.

The normal public health response to mosquitoes is attack.

The mosquitoes the program releases are infected with Wolbachia bacteria.

II

The friendship bench was invented in 2006.

There’s a bench in the yard of every government-run health clinic in Harare.

Louisiana is treating more people for hepatitis C.

III

Because of an price, state Medicaid programs ration their drugs.

In next year’s elections, all voters in Oregon, Colorado, Washington, Utah and Hawaii will vote at home.

Turnout for these elections can be in the single digits.

Identify The  Speakers

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

  1. “People who understand dengue and live in transmission areas are horrified and scared.”
  2. “Now we know they really are just extremely traumatized youth.”
  3. I started to realize that psychiatry in an institution is not the way to go. We have to take it to the community.”
  4. “Why couldn’t we change health care in this country?”
  5. “For millions of citizens, especially those with uncertain work schedules, family obligations and other daily demands, the traditional polling place has now become the most powerful voter suppression tool of all.”

 

III. Post Reading Activities

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. Which of the profiles do you find most inspiring or heartwarming? Why?
  2. Do they make you more hopeful and optimistic about the world?
  3. Do they inspire you to make a difference? How?
  4. Have you observed other ordinary heroes of 2019 in the news?In your community? Describe them.
  5. What qualities make it possible for individuals to affect change?
  6. Do you think you made a positive difference in the lives of others in 2019? Explain how.
  7. Has anyone made a difference in your life this past year? 

 

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

Robotic Duck Helps Kids Battling Cancer

“Children battling cancer can’t always express their feelings. Now a robotic duck is doing it for them.” P. Holley, The Washington Post

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Savi Abdallah-Sinha, a 4-year-old battling leukemia, interacts with a robotic duck (Peter Holley:The Washington Post)

Robotic Duck Help Children  By Peter Holley, The Washington Post   

It was hard enough that Savi Abdallah-Sinha was only two years old when he began undergoing chemotherapy treatment to rid his body of leukemia. What made his situation even more difficult, his parents say, was knowing that the little boy was so young he lacked the words to communicate the many varieties of acute pain he was experiencing. Each time a new drug was introduced or a round of treatment completed, the boy’s inner world remained largely mysterious to the adults caring for him. 

This adorable robot duck helps kids cope with cancer treatments. Mashable

‘He couldn’t even say, ‘Why am I taking this medication?’ his father, Rachid Abdallah, said from a family room inside Children’s National Health System in Washington D.C., recalling the first months after his son’s chemotherapy began. ‘At the same time, we didn’t have the words to give him answers or explain to him what was making him sick.’ Nearly a year ago — as Savi’s own understanding of his illness was just beginning to come into focus — the Washington D.C. family received a new tool to help them communicate through the fog of cancer: a quacking robotic duck resembling a soft stuffed animal.

My Special Aflac Duck. Broadchannel

A partnership between the insurance company Aflac, whose company mascot is a duck, and the robotics toy company Sproutel, the social robot, known as My Special Aflac Duck uses a series of touch sensors that enable the device to respond to the person interacting with it. Merging play with tools that help doctors do their jobs, the robot — which has four patents pending — can turn it’s neck, nuzzle, open it’s beak and emit sounds and vibrations. When doctors need a patient to breathe in a rhythmic pattern, the duck can emit a series of pulses, designed to mimic a heartbeat, that can help to calm a child and guide their breathing.

Aaron Horowitz, co-founder and CEO of Sproutel. People

When doctors administer medication to their patients, a toy syringe can be attached to the robot that allows a child to mimic giving the duck medication as well. Aflac, which introduced a quacking duck in its commercials nearly two decades ago, has donated just over 4,000 of the robotic ducks to nearly 200 hospitals across the country.

Though the duck is designed to be a companion for children battling illness, hospital workers say it also gives children a way to express their emotions when their words are not readily available.

The robot includes multiple plastic emoji discs, each representing a different emotion. When a disc is placed against the duck’s chest, the robot acts out the emotion, unleashing happy chirps or uneasy moans. Abdallah calls the robot a ‘great translator.’

Now four, his son is able to express how he’s feeling with much more precision, offering his parents small details that were unavailable to them when he was younger (Savi is in his final phase — and the least intensive — of his 3-year chemotherapy plan, doctors say).”

Another Great Story:

“A young girl was afraid of IVs. So she invented a teddy bear to disguise them [Medi Teddy].” https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/13/health/iv-teddy-bear-medi-teddy-trnd/index.html

Medi Teddy is designed to conceal a bag of IV fluid, medication, or blood product from the patient.

MEDI TEDDY Website for Donations: “Donations received through this site are for the purpose of donating Medi Teddys to children from all over the world who are requesting them.  Thank you for your generosity!” https://www.medi-teddy.org

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


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


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

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

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

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. Savi Abdallah was only two years old when he began undergoing chemotherapy.
  2. The little boy was so young he lacked the words to communicate.
  3. There were many varieties of acute pain he was experiencing.
  4. Aflac is a quacking robotic duck.
  5. The insurance company Aflac, had a partnership with robotics toy company Sproutel.
  6. Merging play with tools help doctors do their jobs.
  7. The duck can emit a series of pulses, designed to mimic a heartbeat.
  8. Aflac introduced a quacking duck in its commercials nearly two decades ago.
  9. It can be therapeutic to educate a child.
  10. Now four, his son is able to express how he’s feeling with much more precision.

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.

It can/was be therapeutic too/to educate a/an child or its/it can just be/bee therapeutic of/for them/they to play with an/a duck and knot/not even talk/talks about the medical aspect of/for things.

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.

To ___with the painful___of___, children often___ to develop ___strategies that either give them a sense of control in an ___environment or ___them during moments of___stress, experts say.

WORD LIST: pricks, uncertain,extreme,syringes,coping, deal, need,distract,

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

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

  1. In your opinion is this a good solution to help kids communicate with doctors? 
  2. Have you or anyone you know ever used an Aflac duck to help a child?
  3. Can you think of any improvements for the Aflac duck?
  4. Can you see any negative aspects to the Aflac duck? If yes, please explain.
  5. List 3 questions you would like to ask anyone mentioned in the article.  Share your questions with the 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, Health Issues | Tags:

Helping Pediatrics Dispel Myths About Gender Identity

“We’ve all seen news stories about schools attempting to grapple with gender identity issues in children and adolescents, from name changes to restroom policies. In many cases, educators have found themselves making it up as they go along in trying to serve these children — and so has the medical system.” P. Klass, M.D., The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

New guidance for care of Transgender children and teens.Image credit Medscape

Excerpt: Helping Pediatricians Care for Transgender Children PerriKlass, M.D., The New York Times

“This month, the American Academy of Pediatrics put out its first policy statement to guide people providing medical care for children and adolescents who are transgender or questioning their gender identity. 

It arose in part as a direct response to queries from pediatricians, parents and patients, said Dr. Cora Breuner, a professor of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital…The goal of treatment is ‘understanding who each individual child is, and supporting them on that journey,’ said Dr. Jason Rafferty, a pediatrician and psychiatrist at Thundermist Health Center and Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Rhode Island, who was the lead author on the statement; he spoke of “creating a system where all children feel they have access to supportive and nonjudgmental care.’

Ellie, left, who is transgender, hugs her brother Ronnie. (Courtesy Ford family). Photo- Washington Post

Dr. Breuner said that ‘many times, when there are gender issues, we don’t have a road map.’ The statement puts forward a model of ‘gender-affirmative care,’ based in the idea that ‘variations in gender identity and expression are normal aspects of human diversity,’ and that mental health problems in these children arise from stigma and negative experiences, and can be prevented by a supportive family and environment — including health care. The term ‘gender diverse’ describes those whose gender identity does not match the sex they have been assigned, or the norms that are expected to go with that assignment.

Notes Blog – Boston Children’s Hospital

‘Gender identity is a brain thing, it’s your sense of whether you’re male or female in your head; it is independent of your body parts, it is independent of who are you attracted to,’ said Dr. John Steever, an adolescent medicine specialist and assistant professor of pediatrics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

‘People can have a sense of being male, female, both, somewhere in between, all of these are normal variations,” he said. ‘Just because they’re not very common doesn’t mean they’re abnormal, and my job is to help patients and parents understand all this.

The new A.A.P. statement tries to dispel a variety of myths about growing up with gender identity questions, Dr. Breuner said, such as the idea that parents should assume this is only a passing phase. ‘And still, colleagues look at me askance, say, ‘Isn’t this something they grow out of, I was taught that in medical school,’Dr. Breuner said. ‘So was I. It’s incorrect.’

And these issues sometimes emerge in relatively young children. Children may say that they don’t feel right in their bodies as young as 4 or 5, Dr. Breuner said, or may say more specifically something like, ‘even though I look like a boy, I feel like I’m a girl.’ Some adolescents will decide to pursue further interventions, medical or surgical, sometimes called transitioning.

‘I always tell parents I’m in no rush, I don’t have an agenda here,’ he said. Many kids, he said, feel much better after they start transitioning. On the other hand, ‘just because you start transition doesn’t mean it’s going to be always sunshine and rainbows — kids are going to need support.’

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

KWL Chart

The K-W-L chart is used to activate students’ background knowledge of a topic in order to enhance their comprehension skills.

Advanced K-W-L chart.Intervention for Reading–Michigan State University

 

II. While Reading Activities: Word Inference

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

  1. It  can be difficult growing up with gender identity questions.
  2. The American Academy of Pediatrics tries to dispel myths.
  3. The guidelines  were written in part as a direct response to queries from pediatricians, parents and patients
  4. Dr. Jason Rafferty is  a pediatrician.
  5. Dr. Rafferty wants to create a system where all children feel they have access to supportive and nonjudgmental care.
  6. The goal of treatment is understanding who each individual child is.
  7. Just because they’re not very common doesn’t mean they’re abnormal.
  8. Growing up gender-diverse means children and adolescents are much more likely to be bullied.
  9. Dr. Breuner agreed, It’s the environment that endangers the child, she said, not the gender issues.
  10. More adults are also identifying as transgender.

 

Word Map by Against the Oddstiff

 

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

The biggest ___for doing a lot of this___is to try and ___ some of the traditional ___outcomes that ___or gender-nonconforming youth have ended up with,” Dr. Steever said. “We know that many of these___, if unsupported, have grown up and dealt with ___ ___ideation and attempts, substance use and abuse.

WORD LIST: suicidal, depression, people, transgender, horrible reason,work,prevent, 

 

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.

Growing up/out gender-diverse means child/children and adolescents are/is much more likely/likable to be bully/bullied and excluded, and their/they are at/on high risk for depression, suicidal thoughts and suicide. “The statistics are pretty stark,” Dr. Breuner said/say, “triple the/an rate of suicide, five times the risk of suicidal ideation, bullying, teasing, abuse. It’s just horror/horrific.”

 

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 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. What would your reaction be if  your best friend told you that they were transgender?
  2. If there are transgender members in your group see if they’s like to share their experiences. 
  3. The article states,And these issues sometimes emerge in relatively young children. Children may say that they don’t feel right in their bodies as young as four  or five,  Dr. Breuner said, or may say more specifically something like, “even though I look like a boy, I feel like I’m a girl.”   In your opinion, can a young child really know and understand which gender they want to be? Provide reasons for your answer.

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.

ANSWER KEY