Category Archives: Language

Good Gossip vs. Bad Gossip

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

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

image Credit- Gwendle Le Bec, NYT

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

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

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

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

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

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

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 60 minutes.


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


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

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

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

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

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

Word Map by Against the Odds

 

Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

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

I

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

II

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

III

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

Reading Comprehension Fill-ins

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

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

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

III. Post Reading Activities

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

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

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

ANSWER KEY

Category: Culture, Language, People | Tags:

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

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

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

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

 

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

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

Brave new word

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

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

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

Who gets to have the label “native speaker”?

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

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

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

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

All accents welcome

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

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

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

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

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 60 minutes.


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


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

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

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

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

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

 

 Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

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

I

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

II

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

III

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

 

Identify The  Speakers

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

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

 

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

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

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

3-2-1-Writing

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

ANSWER KEY

 

Category: Culture, Education, Language | Tags:

Amanda Gorman, U.S. Youth Poet Laureate and ‘The Hill We Climb’

Verse has mostly been erased from the curriculum. After Inauguration Day, [and Amanda Gorman, U.S. youth poet laureate reading her poem “The Hill We Climb’] it should be easy to see why that’s a mistake.” A. Gabor, Bloomberg News January 23, 2021

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

National youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman reads a poem during Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony. Patrick Semansky-Pool:Getty Images

EXCERPT: Amanda Gorman Showed Why Schools Should Teach Poetry, By Andrea Gabor, Bloomberg News January 23, 2021

“President Joe Biden finally took his oath of office during the inauguration ceremony on Wednesday. Having overcome historic obstacles, he was almost upstaged by a poet — a fitting coda to the investiture of the nation’s poetry-lover-in-chief.

The performance of “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman, the U.S. youth poet laureate, brought politicians and dignitaries to their feet and set YouTube ablaze.

Amanda Gorman on the Charles River near Harvard in Cambridge, Mass. Credit- Tony Luong for The New York Times

Nobody was more enthusiastic than teachers, who took to Twitter to celebrate the 22-year-old poet and her work as an inspiration for their students and quickly incorporated the poem into their lesson plans.

Gorman’s debut turned out to be a much needed uplift, not just for a nation battered by Covid-19 and shocked by the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, but for English curricula that have often been shorn of great literature and poetry…With schools encouraged to focus on practical subjects such as math, science and engineering, and a growing emphasis on nonfiction in the Common Core standards used to help states and school systems decide what to teach, poetry has become an afterthought…For children, poetry serves as a key to literacy with the rhythm and cadence of books like Dr. Seuss’s ‘Cat in the Hat’ helping even the youngest decode words and meaning, while its absurd rhymes make reading fun…For Gorman and Biden, who both wrestled with speech impediments, reciting poetry paved the way to eloquence.

Amanda Gorman at Harvard University.

Gorman has trouble pronouncing Rs, so she practiced the rap lyrics of ‘Aaron Burr, Sir’ from ‘Hamilton.’  To help him overcome a stutter, Biden recited the poems of William Butler Yeats… Gorman’s Inauguration Day performance is a reminder of the power of poetry to salve a nation struggling to recover from disease, economic devastation and attacks on democracy itself.”

Amanda Gorman

Amanda Gorman

Related:

National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman Reciting Her Poem, ‘The Hill We Climb’ during the inauguration of President Joe Biden, January 20, 2021 –

 

Here is a transcript of the poemThe Hill We Climb’  By Amanda Gorman, From CNN.

An Interview with Amanda Gorman, ByAdeel Hassan, The New York Times, Feb. 28, 2018  “I grew up at this incredibly odd intersection in Los Angeles, where it felt like the black ’hood met black elegance met white gentrification met Latin culture met wetlands. Traversing between these worlds, either to go to a private school in Malibu, or then come back home to my family’s two-bedroom apartment, gave me an appreciation for different cultures and realities, but also made me feel like an outsider. I’m sure my single mother, Joan Wicks, might describe me as a precocious child, but looking back in elementary school I often self-described myself as a plain “weird” child. I spent most of elementary school convinced that I was an alien. Literally.”

FROM: CDC/ image: google

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 60 minutes.


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


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

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

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

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. President Joe Biden was almost upstaged by a poet at his inauguration ceremony.
  2. Amanda Gorman is the U.S. youth poet laureate.
  3. Teachers  took to Twitter to celebrate the 22-year-old poet and her work as an inspiration for their students.
  4. Gorman’s debut turned out to be a much needed uplift for English curricula.
  5. For too long, poetry has been treated as impractical, and even frivolous.
  6. In many school systems poetry has become an afterthought.
  7. Poetry teaches grammar in bite-sized stanzas.
  8. Elevating the role of poetry could serve as a low-cost way to bolster student creativity and engagement.
  9. For children, poetry serves as a key to literacy with the rhythm and cadence of books like Dr. Seuss’s “Cat in the Hat” .
  10. As children get older, the metaphors and ambiguity of more complex poems serve as an intellectual puzzle, which fosters critical thinking.

Vocabulary Cluster By Learnnc.org

 

 Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

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

I

  1. President Joe Biden finally took him oath of office during the inauguration ceremony on Wednesday.
  2. Amanda Gorman, the U.S. youth poet laureate.
  3. Nobody was more enthusiastic than teachers.

 

II

  1. Gorman’s debut turned out to be a much needed uplift.
  2. For to long, poetry has been treated as impractical.
  3. Poetry can be inspirational and teach important lessons about communication.

III

  1. For Gorman and Biden, who both wrestled with speech impediments.
  2. To help him overcome an stutter, Biden recited the poems of William Butler Yeats.
  3. Gorman has trouble pronouncing Rs, so she practiced the rap lyrics of ‘Aaron Burr, Sir’ from ‘Hamilton.’

Reading Comprehension: Fill-ins

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

Poetry has its real-world___ too. Sidney Harman, the ___of the audio-technology company Harman Kardon, once___said: “Get me poets as___. Poets are our systems thinkers.” (Harman endowed a writer-in-residence program at Baruch College; I’m on the program’s___committee.)

WORD LIST: selection, original, managers, famously, founder, uses,

 

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

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

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

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

  1. What is a poet Laureate?
  2. What group of people were most enthusiastic about Amanda Gorman’s poem? Why?
  3. How has the subject of poetry been treated in schools?
  4. How many adults read poetry?
  5. Which subjects are encouraged in schools? Why?
  6. The article states that “Poetry can be inspirational and teach important lessons about communication.” Give an example of how poetry can be inspirational.
  7. How does poetry help children? Do you agree with this statement? Why?
  8. Which people did Gorman research for her inaugural poem?
  9. The following is from Gorman’s poem, “We’ve seen a force that would shatter this nation rather than share it.”  To what force was she referring?
  10. What speech problems did Amanda and President Biden have? How did they each overcome these impediments?

 

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.

Extra Writing Ideas from The New York Times:

Write Your Own Occasional Poem:

Consider writing your own occasional poem inspired by a news event that moves, angers, saddens or inspires you.

For example, right now, many poets are writing about the losses Covid-19 has wrought. Julia Alvarez’s “How Will This Pandemic Affect Poetry?,” which you can read in this piece, is a remarkable example, and a collection edited by Alice Quinn, “Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic,” contains many more.

ANSWER KEY

How to Comfort People During Covid-19

“The coronavirus won’t be going anywhere for a long time — and neither will our fears about it…There’s a lot to be scared of. But when people share their fears with you, what do you say?” A. Goldfarb, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post  with Answer Key

Credit- Eric Mower and Assosciates

Excerpt: What to Say When People Tell You Their Coronavirus Fears, Anna Golfarb, The New York Times

“It may feel as if you’re offering comfort with a comment meant to lift their spirits — ‘You’ve got this!’ “’ know you’ll be fine!’ — but to those who are aching, these rah-rah sentiments can sound like you’re bulldozing over their pain, leaving little room for understanding or vulnerability.

Responding to someone’s expression of distress with an unhelpful, cheerful attitude is what the psychotherapist Whitney Goodman calls dismissive, or toxic, positivity.

An empathetic response reassures the other person that you’re seeing the situation from their side and sharing in their suffering. A dismissively positive response subtly shifts the burden of coping back onto the person who is expressing the negative emotion: If you tweaked your attitude, you’d feel better…At its root, dismissive positivity is a response from someone who feels uncomfortable in the situation aiming to make you feel better and quell your concerns, said Nicolle Osequeda, a psychotherapist. But it often ‘results in someone feeling unheard, frustrated, unsupported and alone.’Just because you say, ‘You’ll be fine!’that doesn’t mean that’s actually going to happen…‘That’s not how the world works,’said Ayanna Abrams, a licensed clinical psychologist. ‘That’s not how our bodies work. That’s not how our brain works.’

So here’s what to say — and what not to say — when people express their fears and worries to you right now.

Steer clear of fixing or reframing negative emotions.

Saying something like, ‘The vast majority of people who are infected recover,’ doesn’t help somebody manage their concerns in the moment, Dr. Abrams said.

Don’t minimize the other person’s fears. Saying things like, ‘You have nothing to worry about,’ does not make anxiety magically disappear… Nix the word ‘should.’ Statements with the word ‘should’ sound supportive, but they aren’t.

That’s because we are telling people what to do or how to feel, saidSonia Fregoso, a licensed marriage and family therapist…Instead, we should reflect, validate and be curious. A better way to phrase your concern is by using reflection, validation and curiosity, and in that order, Ms. Fregoso said. Mirror the emotion you hear in your friend’s voice. Fear, sadness and worry are all common emotions people are feeling right now…If you’ve said the wrong thing, you can still repair.

Once you realize what dismissive positivity statements sound like, you may realize you’ve botched the job as a confidant. It’s not too late to do some damage control. Dr. Abrams suggests reaching out and being transparent about missing the mark. Say something like, ‘Hey, I noticed when we were talking earlier, it didn’t seem like you were connecting with what I was saying. I realize I slipped into cheerleader mode too quickly. Can we try again? How are you doing now?’

If you’re at a loss for what to say next time you feel compelled to slip into cheerleader mode, she suggests asking the person directly what they would find helpful. Recruit them as an ally so you can face the issue together.

 

~Democratic Presidential Leader Joe Biden~

“European diplomats and foreign policy experts say that a Joe Biden presidency would restore the United States’ strained alliances with Europe.” Business Insider

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 any photos, then create a list of  words and  ideas  that you  and your group members think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: 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’s hard to lift someone’s spirit in times like these.
  2. Many people are aching.
  3. People are also vulnerable at this time.
  4. Responding to someone’s expression of distress with an unhelpful, cheerful attitude is dismissive.
  5. An empathetic response reassures the other person that you’re seeing the situation from their side.
  6. If you tweaked your attitude, you’d feel better.
  7. At its root, dismissive positivity is a response from someone who feels uncomfortable in the situation.
  8. Try not to minimize the other person’s fears.
  9. Try not to give unsolicited advice.
  10. Nix the word ‘should’ when giving advice.

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.

Try not/no to gave/give unsolicited advice. Unless/useless the other person explicitly ask/asks you for suggestions on/in managing his/he or she/her concerns, you shouldn’t offer/off your two cents. Most likely, people are just looking/look for a/an ear, Dr. Abrams said. They’re looking for a/an heart, nobody/somebody who can meet/met them in the experience and then they can better figure it out on their own.”

Reading Comprehension: Identify The  Speakers

Directions:  Have students read the following quotes from speakers in the article to  see if they can identify the speakers.

  1. Responding to someone’s expression of distress with an unhelpful, cheerful attitude is dismissive, or toxic, positivity.”
  2. At its root, dismissive positivity is a response from someone who feels uncomfortable in the situation.”
  3. “That’s not how the world works. That’s not how our brain works.”
  4. Offering counsel like, ‘You should just practice self-care’ or ‘You shouldn’t be so negative,’ is not helpful.”

 

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

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

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

  1. Have you had to comfort anyone since the covid-19?
  2. What advice did you give the person?
  3. List 3 things that one should not say to people in distress. List 3 things to say that are helpful to people in distress.
  4. What is one important  thing Dr. Abrams warns against when attempting to help a person who has fears?
  5. According to Sonia Fregoso what is the one word you should “nix”  when offering advice?
  6. After reading this article, would you change the way you give comfort and advice to people? If yes, explain how you would change.
  7. What new information have you learned from this article?

 

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

What Does it Mean to Identify as Nonbinary?

“As nonbinary teenagers push for driver’s licenses that reflect their identity, a fraught debate over the nature of gender has arrived in the nation’s statehouses.” A. Harmon, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

image- google

 

Excerpt:Which Box Do You Check? Some States Are Offering a Nonbinary Option By Amy Harmon, The NYT

“Ever since El Martinez started asking to be called by the gender-neutral pronouns “they/them” in the ninth grade, they have fielded skepticism in a variety of forms and from a multitude of sources about what it means to identify as nonbinary.

El Martinez, 17, at home in Massachusetts. Credit Tony Luong for The New York Times

There are faculty advisers on El’s theater crew who balk at using “they” for one person; classmates at El’s public school on the outskirts of Boston who insist El can’t be “multiple people”; and commenters on El’s social media feeds who dismiss nonbinary gender identities like androgyne (a combination of masculine and feminine), agender (the absence of gender) and gender-fluid (moving between genders) as lacking a basis in biology. Even for El’s supportive parents, conceiving of gender as a multidimensional sprawl has not been so easy to grasp. Nor has El’s suggestion that everyone state their pronouns gained much traction.

So last summer, when the Massachusetts State Legislature became one of the first in the nation to consider a bill to add an ‘X’ option for nonbinary genders to the ‘M’ and ‘F’ on the state driver’s license, El, 17, was less surprised than some at the maneuver that effectively killed it.

Beyond the catchall ‘X,’ Representative James J. Lyons Jr. (he/him), a Republican, had proposed that the bill should be amended to offer drivers 29 other gender options, including pangender, two-spirit  and genderqueer. Rather than open the requisite debate on each term, leaders of the Democratic-controlled House shelved the measure.

He articulated an anxiety that many people, even folks from the left, have: that there’s this slippery slope of identity, and ‘Where will it stop?’ said Ev Evnen (they/them), director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, which is championing a new version of the bill…‘Nonbinary gender identity can be complicated,’ said Mx. Evnen, 31, who uses a gender-neutral courtesy title. ‘It’s also threatening to an order a lot of people have learned how to navigate.’

The wave of proposed gender-neutral legislation has prompted debate over whether extending legal recognition to a category of people still unknown to many Americans could undermine support for other groups vulnerable to discrimination…

Some of the antipathy toward nonbinary identities may reflect a generational divide. Over a third of Americans now in their teens and early 20s know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns, according to a recent survey by Pew Research — more than people in their later 20s and 30s, double the number of those in their 40s, and triple the number of those in their 50s and 60s.

image- Detroit Free Press

‘Possibly it’s an age issue,’ said Jocelyn Doane (she/her), 39, a longtime advocate for progressive causes in Hawaii who struggled with whether to support the gender-neutral license bill in her state. ‘I want to respect their challenges, but the use of ‘their’ for a single person is making me crazy.’

Objections to the bills have also been raised by social conservatives, like State Senator J.B. Jennings (he/him) of Maryland, who made a distinction in public comments between transgender people who transition from male to female or vice versa, and those who identify as nonbinary.

image- The Daily Beast

‘They’re either going one way or the other, they’re not stuck in the middle,’ he said. Mr. Jennings suggested that the license would be inaccurate if it listed a gender other than male or female…other opponents, like the Women’s Liberation Front, an advocacy group that has submitted testimony on so-called ‘Gender X’ bills in several states, argue that bolstering the nonbinary category will harm people who face discrimination and violence precisely because they are born with female anatomy…Proponents of adding a gender-neutral option to state identification documents say it would remove a form of discrimination against nonbinary people by providing them with the means to carry identification that matches their identity.

The gender-neutral designation option on a Maine driver’s license. Credit Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles, via Associated Press

Perhaps also because some critical mass has been reached, nine state motor vehicles bureaus have recently added the ‘X’ option to driver’s licenses without involving the legislature…Several other jurisdictions, including New York City, Oregon, New Jersey and New Mexico, have also begun to allow people to change the gender on their birth certificate to ‘X.’

The nation’s major airlines have announced that they will allow passengers to identify as an ‘undisclosed’ or ‘unspecified’ gender when booking tickets…Nonbinary teens themselves have also petitioned for a third gender on state identity documents. Ed Luiggi (they/them), 17, president of an after-school club for gender nonconforming students, skipped school to testify before the Maryland Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee in Annapolis earlier this 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, 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. The faculty advisers on El’s theater crew balk at using ‘they’ for one person.
  2. Commenters on El’s social media feeds dismiss nonbinary gender identities.
  3. Critics say that it  can be disorienting to lose the gendered cues like pronouns and  names.
  4. Beyond ‘X’ there are 29 other gender options.
  5. Nonbinary gender identity can be complicated.
  6. There is a  wave of proposed gender-neutral legislation.
  7. Some of the antipathy toward nonbinary identities may reflect a generational divide.
  8. Several nonbinary teenagers claimed that their gender identity was a visceral feeling.
  9. Nonbinary gender identity could provoke social ostracism.
  10. Many young people have transitioned from one binary gender to the other. 

ELLteaching 2.0 vocabulary chart

 

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. Scholars say that nonbinary genders has existed across history and cultures.
  2. Massachusetts was the first to consider a bill for the ‘X’ option.
  3. He articulated an anxiety that many people have.

II

  1. Their requests for recognition have been met with reservations.
  2. Elected officials has listened to tutorials on gender identity.
  3. These issues  of gender identity are foreign to many people.

III

  1. Over a third of teens knows someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns.
  2. Many hope it will lend legitimacy to liberate people of all genders.
  3. Gender identity was a visceral feeling, they said, not a political choice.

Reading Comprehension Fill-ins

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

A state agency in ___that tracks the ___of ___took the opposite tack…The state does not have a ___interest in identifying ___based on their___, the agency’s testimony asserted. That ___did not advance, said its sponsor, State Senator Karl Rhoads probably because ___law ___air travelers to carry identification that includes a gender marker, and in the island state, the only way to get anywhere is flying.

WORD LIST:  requires, residents, status, Hawaii,   women, legitimate,    gender, bill, federal,

III Post Reading

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.

Wikipedia defines non-binary as the following:

“Non-binary, also known as genderqueer, is a spectrum of gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine‍—‌identities that are outside the gender binary and cisnormativity.[1] Non-binary people may express a combination of masculinity and femininity, or neither, in their gender expression.”

Here is a Glossary of LGBT Terms for Health Care Teams

After carefully reviewing the terms answer the following:

  1. Which of the terms would you say describes you? If none are on the list then how do you identify your gender?
  2. Are there any terms on the list you do not understand? Share your responses with the class.
  3. In your opinion is it necessary to carry an ID that reflects  a person’s gender identity? Provide reasons for your answers.
  4. The article states, The wave of proposed gender-neutral legislation has prompted debate over whether extending legal recognition to a category of people still unknown to many Americans could undermine support for other groups vulnerable to discrimination.” Which groups of people are discriminated against? Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Provide reasons for your answers.
  5. Make a list of questions you would like to ask a nonbinary person. Share your questions with the class.

 

3-2-1-Writing

Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading,  two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.

ANSWER KEY