Category Archives: Holidays

New Year’s Celebrations!

“Celebrating the start of the New Year has been practiced for at least four thousand years. The following article reviews the history,  significance, and common traditions of this festive, and meaningful holiday.” History.com

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

The earliest recorded festivities in honor of a new year’s arrival date back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon.

Excerpt: The History of New Year’s Celebration–History.com

“Civilizations around the world have been celebrating the start of each new year for at least four millennia. Today, most New Year’s festivities begin on December 31 (New Year’s Eve), the last day of the Gregorian calendar, and continue into the early hours of January 1 (New Year’s Day).

The earliest recorded festivities in honor of a new year’s arrival date back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon. Throughout antiquity, civilizations around the world developed increasingly sophisticated calendars, typically pinning the first day of the year to an agricultural or astronomical event.

New Year Celebration, Tendillas Square, Spain

Revelers often enjoy meals and snacks thought to bestow good luck for the coming year. In Spain and several other Spanish-speaking countries, people bolt down a dozen grapes-symbolizing their hopes for the months ahead-right before midnight.

In many parts of the world, traditional New Year’s dishes feature legumes, which are thought to resemble coins and herald future financial success; examples include lentils in Italy and black-eyed peas in the United States. Because pigs represent progress and prosperity in some cultures, pork appears on the New Year’s Eve table in Cuba, Austria, Hungary, Portugal and other countries.

New Year Celebration, Vienna, Austria.

In Sweden, it is believed that whoever gets that one peeled almond hidden inside the rice pudding at Christmas will get married within a year. the scoop.

 

In Sweden and Norway, meanwhile, rice pudding with an almond hidden inside is served on New Year’s Eve; it is said that whoever finds the nut can expect 12 months of good fortune.

The London Eye on the River Thames during New Year fireworks and celebrations. The Telegraph.

Other customs that are common worldwide include watching fireworks and singing songs to welcome the new year, including the ever-popular “Auld Lang Syne” in many English-speaking countries. The practice of making resolutions for the new year is thought to have first caught on among the ancient Babylonians, who made promises in order to earn the favor of the gods and start the year off on the right foot. (They would reportedly vow to pay off debts and return borrowed farm equipment.)

Chinese New Year, Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong. Photo-NBC News

New Year Celebration New York City’s Times Square. Photo- C. Morris.

In the United States, the most iconic New Year’s tradition is the dropping of a giant ball in New York City‘s Times Square at the stroke of midnight…Over time, the ball itself has ballooned from a 400-pound iron-and-wood orb to a brightly patterned sphere 12 feet in diameter and weighing in at nearly 12,000 pounds.”

WISHING EVERYONE A SAFE AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate -Advanced

Language Skills: reading, writing, speaking,  vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: approximately 2 hours.

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

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article about New Year’s celebrations 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 Task

Prediction: Analyze headings and photos.

Directions: Read the title of the post, and article.  Analyze the photo(s) to see if  you can predict what  information the article will discuss.  Then based on this information,  make a list of ideas,  words and phrases that might be in the article.

The K-W-L Chart

Directions: Have students use the KWL chart to list the information they already know about New Year’s celebrations.  Later in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about the topic.

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

II. While Reading Activities

 

Vocabulary: 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. Civilizations around the world have been celebrating the start of each new year for at least four millennia.
  2. Today, most New Year’s festivities begin on December 31st.
  3. New Year’s Eve is the last day of the Gregorian calendar.
  4. Common traditions include attending parties, and eating special New Year’s foods.
  5. Other traditions include making resolutions for the new year and watching fireworks displays.
  6. The earliest recorded festivities date back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon.
  7. Throughout antiquity, civilizations around the world developed increasingly sophisticated calendars.
  8. The calendars would pin the first day of the year to an agricultural or astronomical event.
  9. In Egypt the year began with the annual flooding of the Nile, which coincided with the rising of the star Sirius.
  10. The first day of the Chinese new year, meanwhile, occurred with the second new moon after the winter solstice.

Vocabulary Organizer by Against the Odds

 

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. Civilizations around the world have been celebrating the start of each new year for at least five millennia.
  2. Common traditions include attending parties, eating special New Year’s foods, making resolutions for the new year and watching fireworks displays
  3. The earliest recorded festivities in honor of a new year’s arrival date back some 4,000 years to ancient Rome.
  4. The first day of the Chinese new year, meanwhile, occurred with the second new moon after the winter solstice.
  5. In medieval Europe, Christian leaders temporarily replaced January 1 as the first of the year with days carrying more religious significance, such as December 25 (the anniversary of Jesus’ birth).
  6. In many countries, New Year’s celebrations begin on the evening of December 3 and continue into the early hours of January 1.
  7. Revelers often eat specific foods that are believed to bring good crops for the coming year.
  8. Grapes in Spain, round fruits in the Philippines, suckling pig in Austria, soba noodles in Japan are all considered good-luck food.
  9. Other customs that are common in the U.S. include making resolutions.
  10. In the United States, the most iconic New Year’s tradition is the dropping of a giant ball in New York City‘s Times Square at the stroke of midnight.

III Grammar Focus

Identifying Parts of Speech: Nouns

Directions: Identify the nouns in the following paragraph, then use the words to write a short paragraph about \ New Year celebrations in the United States.

Civilizations around the world have been celebrating the start of each new year for at least four millennia. Today, most New Year’s festivities begin on December 31 (New Year’s Eve), the last day of the Gregorian calendar, and continue into the early hours of January 1 (New Year’s Day). Common traditions include attending parties, eating special New Year’s foods, making resolutions for the new year and watching fireworks displays.

III. Post Reading Tasks

Reading Comprehension Check

WH-How Questions format

Directions: 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?

K-W-L Chart

Directions:  Have students  fill in the last column of the KWL chart if they used one in the pre-reading segment of this lesson.

Discussion/Writing Exercise

Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. 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. The article states, “ Civilizations around the world have been celebrating the start of each new year for at least four millennia. Today, most New Year’s festivities begin on December 31 (New Year’s Eve), the last day of the Gregorian calendar, and continue into the early hours of January 1 (New Year’s Day).  Common traditions include attending parties, eating special New Year’s foods, making resolutions for the new year and watching fireworks displays.”
  2. Provide a description of when and how the New Year is celebrated in your country. If you live in the U.S. then discuss how you celebrate the New Year.
  3. Discuss the types of foods you like to eat on New Year’s Day and the significance of the food.
  4. A big New Year  tradition in the U.S. is making resolutions. Discuss a few of your own resolutions and why you are making them.
  5. What new ideas have you learned from this article? Discuss them with group members and the class.

ANSWER KEY

 

 

Category: History, Holidays, Social Issues | Tags:

Lesson Plan for “A Christmas Carol” by Dickens with 5 Unknown Facts

“Charles Dickens was perplexed as to how to convince his fellow Londoners to give to the less fortunate during the holiday season. He planned to write a pamphlet on the subject, but it was over the course of one fateful train ride that Dickens came up with a better way to communicate his Christmas message…and save his flagging literary career.” C. DeVito CBS Philly

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for A Christmas Carol with Answer Key

Excerpt: 5 Little Known Facts About “A Christmas Carol” By Carlo DeVito CBS PHILLY

“Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol within six short weeks following his trip, and he began writing immediately upon his return. He walked the streets of London by night, turning the story and its characters over and over in his head. These walks were a metaphor—Dickens’ figurative journey was a trip into his own past, both pleasant and powerful, and intensely personal.

Here are five of the many real-life inspirations behind the beloved story:

The real Ebenezer Scrooge was Ebenezer Scroggie. Dickens has misread Scroggie’s tombstone in a Scottish cemetery to read ‘mean man,’ and wrote it down in his notebook for later use.

Who Was Tiny Tim? Scrooge’s sister, Fanny, was based on Dickens sister Fanny whom he adored. Many of young Scrooge’s memories are those of Dickens and his sister… Dickens stayed with Fanny, her husband, and their severely hampered young son, Henry Burnett Jr. Dickens placed his nephew of his favorite sibling at the center of his new Christmas tale.

Where Did The Cratchits Live? The Cratchits lived at 18 Bayham Street, in Camden Town. How do we know this exact address? Dickens describes the stroll Bob Cratchit took everyday to work. It is the same route Charles took as a boy into the city. The Cratchits were based on John and Elizabeth Dickens and their family (Charles’ parents). The eight Dickens lived in a four room house, exactly like the Cratchits on John Dickens paltry clerk’s salary.

Why That Weird Scene In The Pawnbroker’s Shop? As the Ghost of Christmas Future and Scrooge standby, a charwoman, a  chambermaid, and an undertaker go through Scrooge’s things with a pawnshop owner. What few people realize is that  A Christmas Carol was an intensely personal story for Dickens. When Dickens father was sent to debtor’s prison, as the oldest boy, Dickens was sent to the pawnbrokers each day to sell the family’s belongings to keep them from starving, until they had nothing, and slept in their clothes on the floor. He had actually watched the pawnbrokers go through their shirts, and sheets, and ice tongs. This was one of the painful memories Dickens relived as he wrote A Christmas Carol.

What’s A Turkey Doing In  A Christmas Carol? Many consider the addition of a turkey a complete anachronistic addition to the ending of A  Christmas Carol. Why not a goose? Goose was the traditional English holiday meal. Turkey was American. However, Turkeys had been brought to Europe from the new word two centuries previously. The turkey was very much in vogue. In fact, while goose was the traditional English dish served for Christmas, back then, the purchasing of a turkey, which was harder to find, and more expensive, was a showing of wealth and prosperity. Scrooge is trying to treat the Cratchits to a feast unlike any other.

The classic film  – a Christmas Carol 

 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS! STAY SAFE!

~ESL-VOICES~

 

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for A Christmas Carol

 

Lesson Plan: A Christmas Carol By Charles Dickens

Level: intermediate-advanced

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

Time:  approximately 2  hours.

Objectives: Students will achieve a better understanding of the story A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens by learning literary devices and terms  (e.g., imagery, symbolism, protagonist, themes)  used for analyzing stories.  They will also learn how to  analyze the relationship between characters, and events and in the story using these literary devices.

Reading Strategies: Students will make predictions based on the title; draw conclusions and make generalizations about what they have read by utilizing background knowledge, looking for the main ideas, making notes, highlighting or underlining specific information, and by answering discussion questions. They will learn new vocabulary through inference, highlighting unknown words, and using the dictionary.

Materials: An ebook copy of the story A Christmas Carol, biography of Charles Dickens, Examples of  Components for Literary Analysis

I. Pre-Reading Activities

Background information: Some points about the life of Charles Dickens to help students make connections to the story.

1- Biographical information about Dickens

Charles John Huffam Dickens  (1812 – 1870) was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. Dickens left school to work in a factory when his father was incarcerated in Marshalsea debtors’ prison in Southwark, London in 1824… To pay for his board and to help his family, Dickens was forced to leave school and work ten-hour days at Warren’s Blacking Warehouse... he earned six shillings a week pasting labels on pots of boot blacking. The harsh working conditions made a lasting impression on Dickens…  becoming the foundation of his interest in the reform of socio-economic and labour conditions for he poor. Despite his lack of formal education, he edited a weekly journal for 20 years, wrote 15 novels, five novellas…and campaigned vigorously for children’s rights, education, and other social reforms…His plots were carefully constructed, and he often wove elements from topical events into his narratives. His 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol, remains popular and continues to inspire adaptations in every artistic genre,  Oliver Twist and Great Expectations are also frequently adapted, and, like many of his novels, evoke images of early Victorian London.

Source: Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Dickens

2- What prompted Charles Dickens to write the story A Christmas Carol?

Early in 1843, as a response to a government report on the abuse of child laborers in mines and factories, Dickens vowed he would strike a “sledge-hammer blow . . . on behalf of the “Poor Man’s Child.”  That sledge-hammer was A Christmas Carol.

The Cratchit family is based on Dickens’ childhood home life. He lived in poor circumstances in a “two up two down” four roomed house which he shared with his parents and five siblings. Like Peter Cratchit, young Charles, the eldest boy, was often sent to pawn the family’s goods when money was tight. Like many poor families the Cratchit’s had nothing in which to roast meat. They relied on the ovens of their local baker which were available on Sundays and Christmas when the bakery was closed. At the time Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol Christmas wasn’t commonly celebrated as a festive holiday. In The Pickwick Papers and Christmas Carol Dickens’ descriptions of feasting, games and family unity combined with his message that Christmas was a time “when want is keenly felt and abundance rejoices” helped revive popular interest in many Christmas traditions that are still practiced today. In 1867 Dickens read A Christmas Carol at a public reading in Chicago.  One of the audience members , Mr. Fairbanks, was a scale manufacturer.  Mr. Fairbanks was so moved that he decided to “break the custom we have hitherto observed of opening the works on Christmas day.”  Not only did he close the factory on Christmas day, but he gave Christmas turkeys to all of his employees.

Source: A Christmas Carol Trivia: Charles Dickens website

3- Why did Dickens use Staves instead of Chapters in A Christmas Carol?

Instead of using the word chapters, which divides a piece of writing in a book, Charles Dickens used staves to signify that the novel was a carol in prose form.In music, a stave or staff is the series of horizontal lines and four spaces and is the archaic form of a verse of stanza in a song.

In the book “A Christmas Carol,” each stave or chapter represents a different story. Dickens wrote each chapter in a form of Christian allegory of redemption about Christmas and used the word stave to remind readers that he created the book with carols in mind.

Source: Reference Literature

Stimulating Background Knowledge

Prediction Organizer Charts

Directions: Students may use these reading charts by Pace High School as  pre-reading, while-reading and post-reading tools to aid their comprehension of the events and characters in the story.

Pace High School- Prediction Outcomes Chart

 

Character Predictions

 

Pre-reading Discussion Questions

Directions: Place students in groups and  let them discuss the following questions.

  1. Do you celebrate Christmas? Describe how you your family and friends celebrate.
  2. Have you ever met someone who was very cheap and mean during Christmas?  If so, describe this person to your group members.
  3. Do you know people who are so poor they cannot afford to buy anything for Christmas?  Describe the characters of these people
  4. If you could help some people during the Christmas season would you?  Explain how you could help.

II. While Reading

Vocabulary Word Inference

Directions: Place students in groups and have them infer the meanings of the words in bold font taken from the story. The vocabulary lists are taken from each of the five Staves in the story. They can use this Vocabulary Chart by Learnnc.org as a guide.

STAVE ONE

MARLEY’S GHOST

  1. Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
  2. Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were partners for I don’t know how many years. Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, and sole mourner.
  3. Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster…
  4. The door of Scrooge’s counting-house was open, that he might keep his eye upon his clerk, who in a dismal little cell beyond, a sort of tank, was copying letters. Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk’s fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal…
  5. “A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!” cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach. “Bah!” said Scrooge. “Humbug!”
  6. Scrooge took his melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern; and having read all the newspapers, and beguiled the rest of the evening with his banker’s book, went home to bed. He lived in chambers which had once belonged to his deceased partner.
  7. …Scrooge, having his key in the lock of the door, saw in the knocker, without its undergoing any intermediate process of change—not a knocker, but Marley’s face…Marley’s face. It was not in impenetrable shadow, as the other objects in the yard were, but had a dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a dark cellar.
  8. “Who were you, then?” said Scrooge, raising his voice. “You’re particular, for a shade.” He was going to say “to a shade,” but substituted this, as more appropriate.”In life I was your partner, Jacob Marley.”
  9. “You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free-will,…” a
  10. Not so much in obedience as in surprise and fear; for, on the raising of the hand, he became sensible of confused noises in the air; incoherent sounds of lamentation and regret; wailings inexpressibly sorrowful and self-accusatory.

STAVE TWO

THE FIRST OF THE THREE SPIRITS

  1. When Scrooge awoke it was so dark, that, looking out of bed, he could scarcely distinguish the transparent window from the opaque walls of his chamber.
  2. The idea being an alarming one, he scrambled out of bed, and groped his way to the window.
  3. Scrooge went to bed again, and thought, and thought, and thought it over and over, and could make nothing of it. The more he thought, the more perplexed he was; and, the more he endeavoured not to think, the more he thought.
  4. Marley’s Ghost bothered him exceedingly. Every time he resolved within himself, after mature inquiry, that it was all a dream, his mind flew back again, like a strong spring released, to its first position, and presented the same problem to be worked all through, “Was it a dream or not?”
  5.  Scrooge, starting up into a half-recumbent attitude, found himself face to face with the unearthly visitor who drew them: as close to it as I am now to you, and I am standing in the spirit at your elbow.
  6. It was a strange figure—like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man, viewed through some supernatural medium, which gave him the appearance of having receded from the view, and being diminished to a child’s proportions.
  7. …so the figure itself fluctuated in its distinctness: being now a thing with one arm, now with one leg, now with twenty legs, now a pair of legs without a head, now a head without a body: of which dissolving parts no outline would be visible in the dense gloom…
  8. The Spirit gazed upon him mildly… He was conscious of a thousand odours floating in the air, each one connected with a thousand thoughts, and hopes, and joys, and cares long, long forgotten!
  9. “You may—the memory of what is past half makes me hope you will—have pain in this. A very, very brief time, and you will dismiss the recollection of it gladly, as an unprofitable dream, from which it happened well that you awoke. May you be happy in the life you have chosen!”
  10. The Spirit dropped beneath it, so that the extinguisher covered its whole form;… He was conscious of being exhausted, and overcome by an irresistible drowsiness; and, further, of being in his own bedroom.

____________________________________________________________

STAVETHREE

THE SECOND OF THE THREE SPIRITS

  1.  He felt that he was restored to consciousness in the right nick of time, for the especial purpose of holding a conference with the second messenger dispatched to him through Jacob Marley’s intervention.
  2. The moment Scrooge’s hand was on the lock, a strange voice called him by his name, and bade him enter. He obeyed.
  3. It was his own room. There was no doubt about that. But it had undergone a surprising transformation. The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green, that it looked a perfect grove; from every part of which bright gleaming berries glistened.
  4. Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head before this Spirit…”I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,” said the Spirit. “Look upon me!”
  5. Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in one simple deep green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur.
  6. And perhaps it was the pleasure the good Spirit had in showing off this power of his, or else it was his own kind, generous, hearty nature, and his sympathy with all poor men, that led him straight to Scrooge’s clerk’s; … and stopped to bless Bob Cratchit’s dwelling with the sprinklings of his torch.
  7. Then up rose Mrs. Cratchit, Cratchit’s wife, dressed out but poorly in a twice-turned gown, but brave in ribbons, which are cheap, and make a goodly show for sixpence; and she laid the cloth, assisted by Belinda Cratchit, second of her daughters, also brave in ribbons;
  8. Martha didn’t like to see him disappointed, if it were only in joke; so she came out prematurely from behind the closet door, and ran into his arms, while the two young Cratchits hustled Tiny Tim, and bore him off into the wash-house, that he might hear the pudding singing in the copper.
  9. It was a long night, if it were only a night; but Scrooge had his doubts of this, because the Christmas holidays appeared to be condensed into the space of time they passed together.
  10. The bell struck Twelve.Scrooge looked about him for the Ghost, and saw it not. As the last stroke ceased to vibrate, he remembered the prediction of old Jacob Marley, and, lifting up his eyes, beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming like a mist along the ground towards him.

____________________________________________________________

STAVE FOUR

THE LAST OF THE SPIRITS

  1. The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came near him, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery.
  2. It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible, save one outstretched hand. But for this, it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded.
  3. But Scrooge was all the worse for this. It thrilled him with a vague uncertain horror to know that, behind the dusky shroud, there were ghostly eyes intently fixed upon him, while he, though he stretched his own to the utmost, could see nothing but a spectral hand and one great heap of black.
  4. “If there is any person in the town who feels emotion caused by this man’s death,” said Scrooge, quite agonized, “show that person to me, Spirit! I beseech you.”
  5. The Ghost conducted him through several streets familiar to his feet; …They entered poor Bob Cratchit’s house,—the dwelling he had visited before,—and found the mother and the children seated round the fire.
  6. They were very quiet again. At last she said, and in a steady, cheerful voice, that only faltered once: “I have known him walk with—I have known him walk with Tiny Tim upon his shoulder very fast indeed.”
  7. recollect how patient and how mild he was, although he was a little, little child, we shall not quarrel easily among ourselves, and forget poor Tiny Tim in doing it.”
  8. Mrs. Cratchit kissed him, his daughters kissed him, the two young Cratchits kissed him, and Peter and himself shook hands. Spirit of Tiny Tim, thy childish essence was from God!
  9. The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come conveyed him, as before—though at a different time, he thought: indeed, there seemed no order in these latter visions, save that they were in the Future—into the resorts of business men, but showed him not himself.
  10. The Spirit stood among the graves, and pointed down to One. He advanced towards it trembling. The Phantom was exactly as it had been, but he dreaded that he saw new meaning in its solemn shape.

____________________________________________________________

STAVE FIVE

THE END OF IT

  1. “I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!” Scrooge repeated as he scrambled out of bed. “The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. Oh, Jacob Marley! Heaven and the Christmas Time be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob; on my knees!”
  2. He was so fluttered and so glowing with his good intentions, that his broken voice would scarcely answer to his call. He had been sobbing violently in his conflict with the Spirit, and his face was wet with tears.
  3. “They are not torn down,” cried Scrooge, folding one of his bed-curtains in his arms, “they are not torn down, rings and all. They are here—I am here—the shadows of the things that would have been may be dispelled. They will be. I know they will!”
  4. His hands were busy with his garments all this time; turning them inside out, putting them on upside down, tearing them, mislaying them, making them parties to every kind of extravagance.
  5. Really, for a man who had been out of practice for so many years, it was a splendid laugh, a most illustrious laugh. The father of a long, long line of brilliant laughs!
  6. What’s to-day?” cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes, who perhaps had loitered in to look about him.
  7. “No, no,” said Scrooge, “I am in earnest. Go and buy it, and tell ’em to bring it here, that I may give them the directions where to take it.
  8. The chuckle with which he said this, and the chuckle with which he paid for the Turkey, and the chuckle with which he paid for the cab, and the chuckle with which he recompensed the boy, were only to be exceeded by the chuckle with which he sat down breathless in his chair again, and chuckled till he cried.
  9. It’s I. Your uncle Scrooge. I have come to dinner. Will you let me in, Fred?”Let him in! It is a mercy he didn’t shake his arm off. He was at home in five minutes. Nothing could be heartier… Wonderful party, wonderful games, wonderful unanimity, won-der-ful happiness!
  10. “A merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge with an earnestnessthat could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year!

__________________________________________________________

Questions for  Character Analysis

  1. From whose point of view is the story being told?
  2. Who is the protagonist in this story?  
  3. What are the professions of Ebeneezer Scrooge and Bob Crachit?
  4. In today’s society in what context is Scrooge’s last name used? What about the phrase “Bah! Humbug!”?
  5. Identify the main characters in the story. Provide short descriptions of each.

____________________________________________________________

Questions for Literary Analysis

  1.  What are some of  the themes in the story?
  2.  Provide examples of how Dickens uses imagery.
  3. Does Dickens provide symbolism the story? How?

Questions For Reflection

  1. How did Dickens’ personal life affect his writing A Christmas Carol?
  2. In what ways did the publication (the original) of A Christmas Carol help bring success to Dickens?  Hint: Was it only financial success?

Ideas for Writing Assignment

  1. Students could choose one of the themes and write an essay, giving their point of view.
  2.   Have students write a short paragraph on their favorite or least favorite character in the story.
  3.   Have students write a different ending for the story.

ANSWER KEY

The Greatest Gift By Philip Van Doren Stern

The Greatest Gift is a 1943 short story written by Philip Van Doren Stern which became the basis for the film ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (1946). It tells the story of George Pratt, a man who is dissatisfied with his life and contemplates suicide. As he stands on a bridge on Christmas Eve 1943, he is approached by a strange, unpleasantly dressed but well-mannered man with a bag. The man strikes up a conversation, and George tells the man that he wishes he had never been born. The man tells him that his wish has been granted and that he was never born.” ~Courtesy Wikipedia

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Note: This is an Excerpt. For the entire story visit: Wikipedia

The little town straggling up the hill was bright with colored Christmas lights. But George Pratt did not see them. He was leaning over the railing of the iron bridge, staring down moodily at the black water. The current eddied and swirled like liquid glass, and occasionally a bit of ice, detached from the shore, would go gliding downstream to be swallowed up in the shadows under the bridge.

“The water looked paralyzingly cold. George wondered how long a man could stay alive in it. The glassy blackness had a strange, hypnotic effect on him. He leaned still farther over the railing. . .‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you,’ a quiet voice beside him said.

George turned resentfully to a little man he had never seen before. He was stout, well past middle age, and his round cheeks were pink in the winter air as though they had just been shaved. ‘Wouldn’t do what?’ George asked sullenly.’What you were thinking of doing. ‘How do you know what I was thinking?’ ‘Oh, we make it our business to know a lot of things,’ the stranger said easily.

George wondered what the man’s business was. He wore a moth-eaten old fur cap and a shabby overcoat that was stretched tightly across his paunchy belly. Nothing else about him was noteworthy. He wore a moth-eaten old fur cap and a shabby overcoat that was stretched tightly across his paunchy belly. He was carrying a small black satchel. It wasn’t a doctor’s bag—it was too large for that and not the right shape. It was a salesman’s sample kit, George decided distastefully. The fellow was probably some sort of peddler, the kind who would go around poking his sharp little nose into other people’s affairs.

‘Looks like snow, doesn’t it?’ the stranger said, glancing up appraisingly at the overcast sky. ‘It’ll be nice to have a white Christmas. They’re getting scarce these days— but so are a lot of things.’ He turned to face George squarely. ‘You all right now?’

‘Of course I’m all right. What made you think I wasn’t? I—’George fell silent before the stranger’s quiet gaze.

The little man shook his head. ‘You know you shouldn’t think of such things—and on Christmas Eve of all times! You’ve got to consider Mary—and your mother too.’

George opened his mouth to ask how this stranger could know his wife’s name, but the fellow anticipated him. ‘Don’t ask me how I know such things. It’s my business to know ’em. That’s why I came along this way tonight. Lucky I did too.’ He glanced down at the dark water and shuddered.  ‘Well, if you know so much about me,’ George said, “give me just one good reason why I should be alive.’

The little man made a queer chuckling sound. ‘Come, come, it can’t be that bad. You’ve got your job at the bank. And Mary and the kids. You’re healthy, young, and—’

‘And sick of everything!” George cried. ‘I’m stuck here in this mud hole for life, doing the same dull work day after day. Other men are leading exciting lives, but I—well, I’m just a small-town bank clerk that even the army didn’t want.  I never did anything really useful or interesting, and it looks as if I never will. I might just as well be dead. I might better be dead. Sometimes I wish I were. In fact, I wish I’d never been born!’

The little man stood looking at him in the growing darkness. ‘What was that you said?’ he asked softly.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate -Advanced

Language Skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening. Vocabulary activities are included.

Time: approximately 2 hours.

Materials:  Copy of story The Greatest Gift, biography of Philip Van Doren Stern, examples of Components for Literary Analysis, and access to the video clips below.

Objectives:  Students will  read and discuss the short story The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern. Students will achieve a better understanding of the story by learning literary devices and terms  (e.g., imagery, symbolism, setting,) used for analyzing stories.  They will also learn how to  analyze the relationship between characters, and events in the story by using these literary devices.

I. Pre-Reading Exercises

Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming

Directions: Ask students to think about what they already know about  the film It’s A Wonderful Life. Next, have students look at  any pictures in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the story  As a class and list these ideas on the board. Students can use a brainstorming chart for assistance.

Brainstorming Map by rentonschools.us

 

Pre-reading Discussion Questions

Directions: Have students discuss the following questions prior to reading the story.

The Greatest Gift  is a story about a man who is very unhappy with his life and wishes that he was never born. His wish is granted and the story follows how he handles being unborn.

Think about the following questions.  Discuss your ideas with your  group members.

1. Describe a time when you were very unhappy with the way your life was going. First, how did you feel? Second, what did you do to help the situation?

2. In your opinion what makes life valuable?

3. In general, when people are frustrated and unhappy with their lives, what’s the best advice you would give them?

II. While Reading Tasks

Vocabulary:  Word Inference

Directions: Have students  infer the meanings of the words in bold font taken from the story. They can use this great Vocabulary Chart.

  1. The current eddied and swirled like liquid glass.
  2. George turned resentfully to a little man he had never seen before.
  3. “Wouldn’t do what?” George asked sullenly.
  4. He was a most unremarkable little person.
  5. Nothing else about him was noteworthy.
  6. The little man made a queer chuckling sound.
  7. You’d better take this with you,” he said, holding out his satchel.
  8. After that, of course, it’s a cinch.
  9. George felt a sudden burst of affection.
  10. His father waved toward the door. “Go on in,” he said cordially.
  11. His voice faltered.
  12. His mother smiled at his awkwardness.
  13. The choir was making last-minute preparations for Christmas vespers.

 

Prediction and Character Organizer Charts

Directions: Students may use these Prediction and Character  profile charts by Pace High School as  a while-reading tool to aid in their comprehension of the events and of the characters in the story.

Questions for Comprehension

Directions: After students have reviewed Components for Literary Analysis have them answer the following questions from the story. They can use their  analysis charts as guides.

  1. During what holiday does the story take place?
  2. What was the one thing George felt was outstanding about the stranger?
  3. Describe the stranger.
  4. What kind of profession did George think the stranger had?
  5. The stranger begins to tell George why his life “can’t be that bad.”  What are some of the things he tells George?
  6. Why is George “sick of everything”?
  7. The stranger tells  George why his life “can’t be that bad.”  What are some of the things he tells George?
  8. Why is George “sick of everything?”
  9. What wish does George make?
  10. Describe the stranger’s reaction to George’s wish.
  11. What is George’s reaction after the stranger grants him his wish?
  12. Why did the stranger give George the satchel?
  13. What was inside the satchel?
  14. What happened when George tried to return the satchel to the stranger?
  15. What quarrel did George have with Hank Biddle?
  16. When George inspected the damaged tree in Hank’s yard, what was his reaction?
  17. Why did the ‘nonexistent scar’ on the tree bother George?
  18. Describe what George saw when he  reached the bank where he worked.
  19. Who was Jim Silva?
  20. Why didn’t Jim Silva recognize George?
  21. Who was Marty Jenkins and what did he do involving the bank?
  22. Who was Art Jenkins?  What problem did Art have?
  23. Who did Art Jenkins marry?
  24. Why do you think this information disturbed George Platt?
  25. Why didn’t George go find Mary right away?
  26. How did George’s parents behave when he visited them?
  27. What did George find out about Mary from his parents?
  28. Who was Harry?
  29. Why did George’s mother get upset when Harry’s name was mentioned
  30. How did George remember the incident with Harry?
  31. What changes occurred because George Platt did not exist?
  32. Why did the stranger let George live again?
  33. When George reached Hank Biddle’s house, what did he do first?
  34. At the end of the story what did George find in his house that made his voice freeze

 

Questions for Literary Analysis

Themes are messages or ideas in a story. Usually themes are some beliefs about life or life experiences the author is trying to express to the reader. Examples: honesty, death and dying, love, importance of family)

What are some of the themes in the story?

Symbolism is the practice using an object, place, person or words to represent an abstract idea in a story. When an author wants to suggest a certain mood or emotion they use symbolism to hint at it, as oppossed to just saying it.Examples: flowers can represent romance, fog might represent a bad omen.

What are some of the symbols in the story?

Imagery is descriptive language authors use to create a picture in the reader’s mind. Imagery usually involves the senses: sight, taste, sound, touch andsmell. Examples: ‘the tangy taste of lemon’ ‘the loud ringing of the bells’, ‘the red and gold sunset’)

Identify some examples of how the author used imagery in the story.

 

Questions for Reflection

Directions:  Have  students discuss the following questions.

  1. The stranger says to George, “Oh, we make it our business to know a lot of things,” the stranger said easily.   Who is the “we”  the stranger is referring to? 
  2. George opened his mouth to ask how this stranger could know his wife’s name, but the fellow anticipated him. “Don’t ask me how I know such things. It’s my business to know ’em.” What  do you think his  business is?
  3. After George told the stranger his wish, why did the stranger react the way he did? (Why that’s wonderful!) In your opinion, should he have reacted differently?  Were you surprised by this response? Why or why not?
  4. When George tells the stranger, “they need me here.”  Who needs George and why do they need him? 
  5. Do you think George needs those  people?  Why?
  6. When George Pratt asks for his life back, the stranger tells George Pratt,  “You got everything you asked for. You’re the freest man on earth now.”  Give some examples of  how George is “free”.
  7. In your opinion, What is the Greatest Gift?
  8. At the end of the story, George thinks perhaps it was all a dream. What do you think happened to George?  Why?
  9. What have you  learned from this story?
  10. The stranger says to George, “Oh, we make it our business to know a lot of things,” the stranger said easily.   Who is the “we”  the stranger is referring to? 
  11. George opened his mouth to ask how this stranger could know his wife’s name, but the fellow anticipated him. “Don’t ask me how I know such things. It’s my business to know ’em.” What  do you think his  business is?
  12. After George told the stranger his wish, why did the stranger react the way he did? (Why that’s wonderful!) In your opinion, should he have reacted differently?  Were you surprised by this response? Why or why not?

Writing Assignment 

Directions: Have students choose a topic from below and write an essay to share with the class.

1.Choose one of the themes and write an essay describing your thoughts about the theme.

2. Write a description for each character that appears in the story.

3. In the The Greatest Gift , Philip Van Doren Stern had a happy ending.See if you can write a different a different ending for the story. Share your ending with the class.

IV. Listening Activity

Compare Opening scenes from film “It’s A Wonderful Life” to opening scenes from the short story The Greatest Gift.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is a 1946 American Christmas fantasy drama film produced and directed by Frank Capra, based on the short story and booklet The Greatest Gift, which Philip Van Doren Stern published in 1943. Wikipedia

1st clip:

It’s A Wonderful Life | Suicide Attempt | Frank Capra

 

 

2nd clip:

It’s a Wonderful Life Movie CLIP

 

Beginning of Short Story The Christmas Gift By Philip Van Doren Stern

The little town straggling up the hill was bright with colored Christmas lights. But George Pratt did not see them. He was leaning over the railing of the iron bridge, staring down moodily at the black water. The current eddied and swirled like liquid glass, and occasionally a bit of ice, detached from the shore, would go gliding downstream to be swallowed up in the shadows under the bridge.

The water looked paralyzingly cold. George wondered how long a man could stay alive in it. The glassy blackness had a strange, hypnotic effect on him. He leaned still farther over the railing. . .“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” a quiet voice beside him said.

George turned resentfully to a little man he had never seen before. He was stout, well past middle age, and his round cheeks were pink in the winter air as though they had just been shaved.

“Wouldn’t do what?” George asked sullenly.
“What you were thinking of doing.”
“How do you know what I was thinking?”
“Oh, we make it our business to know a lot of things,” the stranger said easily.

3rd clip:  It’s a Wonderful Life  Movie CLIP – Careful What You Wish For (1946)

 

Excerpt From Short Story The Greatest Gift

“Well, if you know so much about me,” George said, “give me just one good reason why I should be alive.”

The little man made a queer chuckling sound. “Come, come, it can’t be that bad. You’ve got your job at the bank. And Mary and the kids. You’re healthy, young, and—”

I never did anything really useful or interesting, and it looks as if I never will. I might just as well be dead. I might better be dead. Sometimes I wish I were. In fact, I wish I’d never been born!”

The little man stood looking at him in the growing darkness. “What was that you said?” he asked softly.

“I said I wish I’d never been born,” George repeated firmly. “And I mean it too.”

The stranger’s pink cheeks glowed with excitement. “Why that’s wonderful! You’ve solved everything. I was afraid you were going to give me some trouble. But now you’ve got the solution yourself. You wish you’d never been born. All right! OK! You haven’t!” “What do you mean?” George growled.

“You haven’t been born. Just that. You haven’t been born. No one here knows you. You have no responsibilities—no job—no wife—no children. Why, you haven’t even a mother. You couldn’t have, of course. All your troubles are over. Your wish, I am happy to say, has been granted—officially.”

 

Questions

Directions: Review the clips from the film “It’s A Wonderful Life”. Read the excerpts from the short story The Greatest Gift. Answer the following questions:

1. In the beginning of It’s A Wonderful Life what are the differences between the opening scenes in the film (directed by Frank Capra) and the opening scenes in the short story written by Philip Van Doren Stern?

2. Which version do you prefer? Explain Why?

ANSWER KEY

 

The Gift of The Magi, By O. Henry

“The magi, as you know, were wise men – wonderfully wise men – who brought gifts to the new-born King in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones…. And here I have related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the Magi.” O. Henry.

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post  with Answer Key


O. Henry: Portrait by W. M. Vanderweyde, 1909- Credit-Wikipedia

William Sydney Porter (September 11, 1862 – June 5, 1910), better known by his pen name O. Henry, was an American short story writer.

O. Henry’s stories frequently have surprise endings. In his day he was called the American answer to Guy de Maupassant. While both authors wrote plot twist endings, O. Henry’s stories were considerably more playful, and are also known for their witty narration.

Most of O. Henry’s stories are set in his own time, the early 20th century. Many take place in New York City and deal for the most part with ordinary people: policemen, waitresses, etc…He had an obvious affection for the city, which he called ‘Bagdad-on-the-Subway’ and many of his stories are set there—while others are set in small towns or in other cities.

One of his most favorite stories is The Gift of the Magi . It is about a young couple, Jim and Della, who are short of money but desperately want to buy each other Christmas gifts. The essential premise of this story has been copied, re-worked, parodied, and otherwise re-told countless times in the century since it was written.

Gift of the Magi by O. Henry — Short Story Film — 1980

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: This is a short version for this lesson plan. For the extended version visit HERE

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: Copy of story The Gift Of The Magi,  biography of O. Henry, 

Objective: Students will  read and discuss the short story The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry. Students will achieve a better understanding of the story.

I. Pre-Reading Exercises

 Stimulating Background Knowledge

Directions:  Ask students to read the title of the short story. Then, have them  examine the photo carefully. Based on these sources,  ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article.

II. While Reading Tasks

Vocabulary:  Word Inference

Directions: Place students in groups and have them infer the meanings of the words in bold font taken from the story.

  1. This is a  story about the meaning of true love and unselfishness.
  2. Della sat  down on the shabby little couch and howled.
  3. They lived in a furnished flat at $8 per week.
  4. In the vestibule below was a letter-box. 
  5. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated.
  6. Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass
  7. There were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride.
  8. Once she faltered for a minute.
  9. She was ransacking the stores for Jim’s present.
  10. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

 

Questions for Comprehension

Directions: After students have read the short story, have them answer the following questions from the story.

  1. During what holiday does the story take place?
  2. Identify the characters in the story.
  3. What are the two valuable possessions  belonging to Della and Jim?
  4. How much money did Della have at first to buy Jim’s gift?
  5. What did Della do to get additional money for his gift?
  6. What gift did Della buy for Jim?
  7. How did Jim get additional money to buy Della’s gift?
  8. What gift did Jim buy for Della?
  9. Did things work out the way Jim and Della planned? Explain why or why not.

 

III. Post-Reading Exercises

Questions for Reflection

Directions:  In groups have students discuss the following questions.

The Gift of the Magi is a story about a young married couple who are very poor. This story tells of  how they handle the challenge of  secretly buying Christmas gifts for each other with very little money to spend. The questions below ask you to think about gifts and their value.  Discuss your ideas with your class members.

1. In your opinion what makes a gift  valuable?

2. Describe the most valuable gift you have ever received.

3. What was the most valuable gift you have given someone?

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: Holidays | Tags: ,

The Origins of Halloween in The U.S.

“Halloween is a holiday celebrated each year on October 31, and Halloween 2021 will occur on Sunday, October 31. The tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts.” History.com Editors, September 7, 2021

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key (VOCABULARY ONLY)

Pumpkin from NASA-Time Magazine

 

Excerpt: How Halloween Began, History.com, September 2021

Ancient Origins of Halloween

“Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago, mostly in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1.

This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death.

A family is silhouetted by a bonfire on Halloween night. (Credit- Shay Murphy:Getty Images)

Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future.  For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort during the long, dark winter.

Halloween Comes to America

An early 20th-century postcard of children on Halloween. Rykoff Collection:Corbis:Getty Images

The celebration of Halloween was extremely limited in colonial New England because of the rigid Protestant belief systems there. Halloween was much more common in Maryland and the southern colonies. As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups and the American Indians meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge.

imagediyhalloween.wordpress.com

The first celebrations included ‘play parties,’ which were public events held to celebrate the harvest. Neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other’s fortunes, dance and sing…In the second half of the 19th century, America was flooded with new immigrants.

image-click2houston

These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing the Irish Potato Famine, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally.”

Additional Information

The Origins of Trick-or-Treating 

https://www.history.com/news/halloween-trick-or-treating-origins

“How do you make a horror tale scarier? Just say it’s ‘based on a true story.’ That’s a technique book publishers and movie producers have been using for decades, whether or not the supposedly ‘true story’ adds up.

The Exorcist, The Conjuring and other horror classics were inspired by actual (although not always factual) stories.”

 

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

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

Word Inference

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

  1. Halloween is a holiday currently celebrated each year on October 31.
  2. The tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain.
  3. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints.
  4. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter.
  5. Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier to make predictions about the future.
  6. The Celts were entirely dependent on the volatile natural world.
  7. To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires.
  8. The Druids originated in Britain during the 18th century.
  9. The symbol of Pomona is the apple.
  10. More people, especially millennials, are buying costumes for their pets.

Word Map by Against the Odds

 

ANSWER KEY

 

ACTIVITIES from the web:

40 Frightfully Fun Halloween Activities, Crafts, and Games For the Classroom

Category: Holidays, Social Issues | Tags: