Category Archives: People

Back at Work After the Pandemic: How to Handle Annoying Office Colleagues

“After two years of working from home during the pandemic, and plenty of false starts, employees are officially heading back to work…The gossip, the loud talker and the nosy colleague are all manageable with the right mind-set.”J. Dunn, The New York Times, April 24, 2022

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

image The New York Times

 

Excerpt: Your Office Is More Annoying Than You Remembered. Here’s How to Handle It.  By Jancee Dunn, The New York Times, April 24, 2022

“Roughly 60 percent of U.S. workers who could work from home were still signing in remotely as of January, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center, as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus set back [return to office] R.T.O. plans.

But now companies like Google are insisting that their workers return to the office on hybrid work schedules.

For many workers, the commuter train has already left the station. And after controlling our own environment at home, returning to work means we’ll be faced with annoying behaviors among our colleagues again: loud talkers, nosy cubicle mates, the olfactory emanations of the shared microwave.

Image: The New York Times

How do we confront these people — and how do we check our emotions, which may be in overdrive after working in relative isolation, to keep ourselves from snapping?

Consider this a fresh start for everybody, said Darian Lewis, who, with his wife, Monica, founded the Monica Lewis School of Etiquette in Houston. ‘You know all those things you wanted to change in your workplace prior to the pandemic, but you just couldn’t figure out how to do it?’ he said. “Well, seize the opportunity right now.’

Here’s how to deal quickly and effectively with some of the most irritating workplace habits.

The Loud Talker If your attention is consistently being pulled away by a colleague’s loud chatter, Mr. Lewis said, take a deep breath and approach the person, using what he calls the ‘S.E.C.’rule: smile, maintain eye contact and remain calm… The Gossip ‘Gossip is what we would call ‘harmful speech,’ said Mr. Miglioli, the Buddhist priest… The Nosy Cubicle Mate When your overly inquisitive co-worker begins to dig, ‘find a mantra, and then be a broken record,’ suggested Ms. Pollak, the workplace expert…One of the takeaways of the pandemic is that communities survive better than individuals.

Image- The New York Times

As we all return to the workplace, Mr. Miglioli said, we have two choices. ‘One way is to disconnect as soon as possible with all that has happened and get back to your life’…“The other is to embrace the pandemic as a great teacher.”

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: 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. 

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. Workers return to the loud talkers, nosy cubicle mates and the olfactory emanations of the shared microwave.
  2. How do we confront these annoying people?
  3. More importantly, how do we check our emotions, which may be in overdrive after working in isolation?
  4. The article teaches you how to handle unpleasant situations at work.
  5. The gossip, the loud talker and the nosy colleague are all manageable.
  6. There are three things to keep in mind when you’re getting back in the groove.
  7. There’s actually a big difference between responding and reaction.
  8. That pause will give you a chance to choose your battles.
  9. Try to exercise tolerance.
  10. One of the takeaways of the pandemic is that communities survive better than individuals.

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.

For many worker/workers, the commuter train/trainshas/have already leave/left the station. And after controlling our own/owner environment in/at home, returning too/to work means/meanwe’ll/well be faced with annoy/annoying behaviors among our colleague/colleagues again: loud talkers, nosy cubicle mates, the olfactory emanations of/off the shared microwave.

 

Reading Comprehension

Reading Comprehension: Identify The  Speakers

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

  1. “You know all those things you wanted to change in your workplace prior to the pandemic, but you just couldn’t figure out how to do it? Well, seize the opportunity right now.”
  2. “There are three things to keep in mind when you’re getting back in the groove. Acknowledge that we are out of shape dealing with other people. Lower your expectations and assume that you’re going to have some annoyances. And really give thought to the new habits that you want to create from Day 1, and be deliberate about making changes now.”
  3. “There’s actually a big difference between responding and reaction. What I do is pause, breathe and connect with the present moment.”

 

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 been back to work since the pandemic ended?
  2. Describe your reactions on the first day in the office.
  3. If you don’t work in an office, how did you feel on your first day back at school?
  4. What advice does author Lindsey Pollack offer for those going back to work?
  5. What are some of the characteristics listed as being annoying? Give a brief description of each.
  6. How does Mr. Lewis advise handling a person who talks loudly?
  7. What is an important lesson concerning communities  that we’ve learned from the pandemic?
  8. List 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.  Share your responses with your class.

ANSWER KEY

Employees Are Suing Their Employers for Their Work From Home Expenses

“In the more than two years since the pandemic shut down many offices, employees across the country have been forced to set up desks in cluttered kitchens and cramped bedrooms… A rise in employee lawsuits demanding reimbursement [some as high as $5,000] for expenses incurred while working from home during the pandemic.” H. Martín, Los Angeles Times, April 12, 2022

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Getty Images

 

Excerpt:  Workers are suing their bosses to get their work-from-home costs reimbursed By Hugo Martín, Los Angeles Times, April 12, 2022

‘We have tons of these in the pipeline,’ said Jacob Whitehead, an attorney who has filed about 20 class-action lawsuits over business expenses demanded by employees.

Home expenses such as telephone and internet fees, extra energy to heat or cool a house and office supplies can add up to $50 to $200 a month per employee, according to more than a dozen lawsuits examined by The Times.

If expenses were incurred during the entire duration of the pandemic, that could add up to as much as $5,000 for every worker. Some lawsuits are also demanding payment for the potential revenue employees could have collected had they rented out their home office instead of using it for work…

Other lawsuits, many of which are still working their way through the court system, have targeted such business giants as Wells Fargo Bank, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Visa, Oracle and Bank of America…The lawsuits highlight one of the most dramatic changes the pandemic brought to the business world: the widespread transfer of employees from business offices to home offices to help minimize the spread of the coronavirus.”

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

KWL Chart

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

Directions: Have students use the KWL chart to list the information they already know about people working from home during the pandemic. Next, have students list the information they would like to learnLater in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about the topic.

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. It has been more than two years since the pandemic shut down many offices.
  2. White-collar employees across the country have been forced to set up desks in cluttered kitchens and cramped bedrooms.
  3. Another consequence of the mass relocation of office workers: A rise in employee lawsuits demanding reimbursement for expenses.
  4. There are tons of lawsuits over business expenses demanded by employees.
  5. If expenses were incurred during the entire duration of the pandemic, that could add up to as much as $5,000 for every worker.
  6. Many companies paid for snacks and lunch for employees who worked in the office — perks that were eliminated when members were ordered to work from home.
  7. Other lawsuits, many of which are still working their way through the court system, have targeted business giants.
  8. Companies that are being sued for failing to reimburse their employees have argued that the pandemic caught them off guard and unprepared to respond.
  9. The lawsuits highlight one of the most dramatic changes the pandemic brought to the business.
  10. Workers said they teleworked frequently before the coronavirus outbreak.

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. New social codes developed between employees and employers.
  2. This was another consequences of the mass relocation of office workers.
  3. Home expenses such as telephone and internet fees can add up.

II

  1. Seppala was laid off from Better Mortgage in December of 2021.
  2. Better Mortgage did knot respond to emails seeking comment on the case.
  3. The tech industry has faced strong criticism from workers after cutting perks during the pandemic.

III

  1. Meta, the parent company of Facebook, got pushback from employees last month.
  2. Other lawsuits  have targeted such business giants as Wells Fargo Bank, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Visa, Oracle and Bank of America.
  3. Visa declined too comment on the lawsuit.

Reading Comprehension: Identify The  Speakers

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

  1. “We have tons of these in the pipeline.”
  2. “This is one of those pandemic-related issues that rose very suddenly.”
  3. “As soon as we started working from home, I realized how much day-to-day money I really had because of how much went toward paying for that stuff.”
  4. Her bosses have failed to reimburse her and other employees for a variety of business expenses since sending them to work from home in March 2020.
  5. The cost shouldn’t be shifted to the employees…This benefits the business.”
  6. “For equipment like laptops, webcams, microphones and a work desk, it is reasonable for an employer to pay for this…For more general costs like refurbishing a home office, improved broadband or lunch, that is less common and would depend on a case-by-case basis.”

 

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. Did you have to work from home during the pandemic? Did you incur expenses while you worked? If so what were they?
  2. Did you have to attend school from home? If so, do you think students should be reimbursed for expenses incurred while working on their computers?  Why or why not?
  3. What are some of the expenses incurred by employees who were forced to work from home during the pandemic?
  4. Do you agree that employees should be reimbursed for these expenses?  Why or why not?
  5. What were some of the perks employees had while working from the office?
  6. Why are so many well known businesses being targeted with lawsuits?
  7. What are the reasons companies are giving for not reimbursing their employees?
  8. Do you agree with the companies or the employees? Provide reasons for your response.
  9. Why are some employees conflicted about suing their employers? Do you think they are correct in feeling this way?
  10. List 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.  Share your responses with your class.

 

ANSWER KEY

This Woman Saved Lives While on a Zoom Call

“All three crew members of a fishing boat named Bing Bing were rescued after a woman working from home saw the vessel capsize off Scituate, Mass. “She saved our lives,” one survivor said.” N.  Vigdor,The New York Times,Feb. 4, 2022

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Members of the Bing Bing fishing boat being rescued as seen in drone footage from the Scituate Fire Department.Credit- Scituate Fire Department

Excerpt: A Sinking Boat Caught Her Eye During a Zoom Call,  By Neil Vigdor,The New York Times,Feb. 4, 2022

“On a very clear day, Pam Harght can see Boston from her third-floor home office, which is roughly 30 miles to the southeast, but her eyes darted away from a Zoom call with her boss on Tuesday to the sea…A commercial fishing boat named Bing Bing that had been combing the choppy seas near Scituate, Mass., for surfclams had rolled over and partially disappeared, the authorities said…At that point, Ms. Harght said she excused herself from the meeting and called 911, figuring that surely others must have seen the overturned vessel and had already contacted emergency responders. But there was no one else, according to John P. Murphy, Scituate’s fire chief, who said on Friday that Ms. Harght had played a pivotal role in facilitating the rescue of all three of the boat’s crew members from the 42-degree waters of Massachusetts Bay…“She saved our lives,” he said. “If it wasn’t for her calling, nobody would have found us and nobody would have known.”

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: 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. 

Pre-reading Organizer By Scholastic

 

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. Pam eyes darted away from a Zoom call with her boss on Tuesday to the sea.
  2. A commercial fishing boat named Bing Bing had been combing the choppy seas near Scituate, Mass.
  3. Ms. Harght, 38 started working from home during the pandemic.
  4. Seconds later, the boat just vanished.
  5. The crew members, who were in the water for 45 minutes, were experiencing hypothermia.
  6. They also had ingested diesel fuel and were clinging to a hose from the boat.
  7. It is likely that part of the boat’s equipment for dredging caught on something, causing the vessel to overturn.
  8. Mr. Roderick, 50, a father of four from New Bedford, Mass. began to weigh his mortality.
  9. Mr. Roderick said that his chest was sore from treading water.
  10. Monte Rome, the owner of Intershell International, said that it was serendipitous that Ms. Harght had been watching.

 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. Over a very clear day, Pam Harght can see Boston.
  2. Ms. Harght, lives in Marshfield, Mass.
  3. A commercial fishing boat had been combing the choppy seas.

II

  1. Ms. Harght started working from home during the pandemic.
  2. The crew members were in the water for 45 minutes.
  3. Chief Murphy said that all three men were expected to recover.

III

  1. All three crew member of a fishing boat were rescued.
  2. Ms. Harght, excused herself from the meeting and called 911.
  3. All three crew members had ingested diesel fuel.

 

Reading Comprehension: Identify The  Speakers

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

  1. “My boss is in L.A. Thirty seconds later, the boat just vanished. That’s when my jaw just dropped.”
  2. “She must have just looked up at the right time. The stars were aligned for these gentlemen being alive today.”
  3. “I was thinking about my children. In my imagination, I was never going to make it home. It was ice-cold water out. It was terrifying.”
  4. “It was serendipitous that Ms. Harght had been watching and that the hose acted as a float.”

 

III. Post Reading Activities

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

Main idea chart By Write Design

 

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 saved someone’s life? If yes please describe the incident.
  2. Do you know of other stories where someone saved another person’s life or had their life saved?
  3. How did Ms. Harght see the sinking boat?
  4. Where does Ms. Harght’s boss live?
  5. What caused Ms. Harght to work from home?
  6. What did Ms. Harght do after she saw the boat vanish?
  7. How many crew members were there on the boat?
  8. How many of the men recovered?
  9. According to Chief Murphy  what caused the boat to capsize? 
  10. Why didn’t the men use their cell phones?
  11. List 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.  Share your responses with your class.

ANSWER KEY

When Siblings Fight: A Bouncer, A Referee and a Therapist Have the Answers

“What do a bar bouncer, kindergarten teacher, hockey referee, marriage and family therapist, and police officer all have in common? They know how to break up a fight… But would their techniques work on my brawling twins? E. J. Sullivan, The New York Times, Nov./21

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Credit- Janik Söllner

Excerpt: Kids Won’t Stop Fighting? A Bouncer, a Therapist and a Referee Have Advice, By Emily J. Sullivan 11/2021

“I work from home, like countless professionals around the world. Apparently even Jimmy Fallon works from home now. Lately, when I scroll through my Twitter feed, I see memes and rants from frazzled parents new to the work-from-home hustle. Shouting siblings saturate the backgrounds of video posts, and wide-eyed parents stare helplessly into the lens.

Even before the pandemic had confined us to our homes, parents were seeking help from therapists and scanning parenting blogs for the answer to an age-old question: How do I get my kids to stop fighting?

My twin 5-year-olds, Penny and Layla, are sweet as pie but hell raisers when provoked. They clutch each other lovingly one minute and curse each other the next. Hell hath no fury like a sibling scorned.

As the mediator for mini quarreling versions of myself, I want to pull out my hair by the fistful. Sometimes, I channel my inner yogi and lead an impromptu group meditation. During other crises, I’ve sent us all to separate rooms, so I could hide from the bickering and guzzle rosé. At this point, I’d try just about anything.

Then it occurred to me — maybe I should turn to the pros.

Chris Harrod worked at pubs and nightclubs in Manchester, England, as a bar bouncer, or doorman as the Brits call it, for 11 years. According to Harrod, the gritty night stops were often run behind the scenes by gangsters and dark money…’The trick is using minimum force and maximum effort,’ Harrod told me when I asked how to stop a fight before it starts… Steve Stevens, retired referee in chief for the U.S.A. Hockey Pacific District…’Before you skate in to break up a fight, you look ‘em over. If it’s a lopsided fight, you break it up,’ Stevens explained when I asked how he handled on-ice altercations.

‘If it’s a willing fight, you let ‘em fight,’ he continued… Let ‘em fight. I had to do some mental bargaining to wrap my head around this…I tracked down a veteran kindergarten teacher to find out her secret to coaxing good behavior.

Chriss Thompson has been teaching kindergarten for 18 years at Roynon Elementary School in La Verne, Calif. ‘I teach them that when someone is doing something they don’t like, to tell them in a nice firm voice, ‘Stop it, I don’t like that,’ Thompson explained.

This method sounded simple enough, and I love the concept of teaching my girls to be assertive and vocal, and to set boundaries. These are life lessons beneficial to everyone, especially budding young women.”

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. A  Bouncer has advice for  parents.
  2. A referee also had some sound advice to stop kids from fighting.
  3. These conflict resolution experts know how to stop fights before and after they start.
  4. But would their techniques work on my brawling twins?
  5. Apparently even Jimmy Fallon works from home now.
  6. Shouting siblings saturate the backgrounds of video posts.
  7. Even before the pandemic had confined us to our homes, parents were seeking help from therapists.
  8. My twin 5-year-olds, Penny and Layla, are sweet but hell raisers when provoked.
  9. Sometimes, I channel my inner yogi and lead an impromptu group meditation.
  10. I like to hide from the bickering and guzzle rosé.

 

Grammar Focus: Identifying Prepositions

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

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

As the mediator for mini quarreling versions of myself, I want to pull out my hair by the fistful. Sometimes, I channel my inner yogi and lead an impromptu group meditation. During other crises, I’ve sent us all to separate rooms, so I could hide from the bickering and guzzle rosé. At this point, I’d try just about anything.

Reading Comprehension Identify The  Speakers

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

  1. “The trick is using minimum force and maximum effort. “Even the roughest, toughest lads would use the same approach, and much of what they did was just menace. You’d look at ‘em and think there’s no way I want to fight you.”
  2. “Before you skate in to break up a fight, you look ‘em over. If it’s a lopsided fight, you break it up.If it’s a willing fight, you let ‘em fight. Keep watch but don’t jump into the fray until one of ‘em grabs a hold of the other or they go down. You do not get in the fight — that’s the fastest way to get knocked out.”
  3. “Maintain composure — it’s easy to get rattled when you’re with people who are arguing. You want to soften the anger of both parties. Validate each person. Point out what the two sides have in common so they can stop feeling like they are on opposing teams and can get on the same team.”
  4. “Have one stay in the house, one step outside. Get them far away from each other and out of each other’s eyesight. If they both live there, we can’t tell either of the parties to leave; we try to come to a resolution.”
  5. “I teach them that when someone is doing something they don’t like, to tell them in a nice firm voice, ‘Stop it, I don’t like that’.”

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. When you were young did you fight your siblings?
  2. How did your parents stop the fights?
  3. If you are a parent, do your kids fight? How do you stop them from fighting?
  4. According to Chris Harrod, what is the trick to stopping a fight?
  5. What happened when the mom tried the “Manchester” bar bouncer approach?
  6. What was the outcome when the mom used the “Hockey” referee advice with her kids?
  7. According to the author of this article when did the “L.A.P.D.”  method worked the best?
  8. When did the author’s twins behave nicely? Why do you think they did this?
  9. List 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.  Share your responses with your class.

ANSWER KEY

The Value of Sibling Rivalry

“My 4- and 8-year-old are closer now than they were before the pandemic – I hear the sounds of giggling… But the more time my girls spend together, the more they fight, too. You can’t avoid fighting… Just because sibling rivalry is to be expected does not mean there aren’t ways to mitigate it.” J. Grose, The New York Times, January 2021

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Credit- JooHee Yoon, The New York Times

 

EXCERPT: The Psychology Behind Sibling Rivalry, By Jessica Grose, The New York Times, January 2021

“The most common battlegrounds for my kids are perceived injustices and jockeying for position. The most absurd instance of the latter was when we were waiting to get flu shots this past fall. The girls got into a brawl over who received the first shot. My older daughter “won” that argument, but it was only as she was walking toward the pharmacist’s door that she realized a shot was not actually a prize.

On days when we are trapped in the house together and their screaming matches reach operatic levels, their dad and I worry we did something horribly wrong as parents to encourage this volume of strife. But according to Jeanine Vivona, a professor of psychology at the College of New Jersey who has studied sibling rivalry, ‘competition with siblings is just a fact of life. And we, as people with siblings and people with children, can just try to manage it as best we can.’

Observational studies have shown that sibling conflict may happen up to eight times an hour. Other research finds that pairs of sisters tend to be the closest, and that sibling dyads that include a brother have the most conflict.

‘Conflict does decrease into adolescence; it sort of levels off,’ said Mark Ethan Feinberg, a research professor of health and human development at Pennsylvania State University. ‘Early and middle childhood are particularly difficult times for sibling aggression.’

As a study that Feinberg co-authored notes,  the book of Genesis, which includes the ‘founding stories of the Western psyche,’ is dripping with tales of murderous and covetous siblings, like Cain and Abel and Jacob and Esau…dastardly deeds, conflict over parental love is so profound that hundreds of years ago, when child mortality was much higher, children under 5 with close-in-age siblings were more likely to die… While most siblings aren’t fighting for actual scraps, psychologically, sibling rivalry serves a developmental purpose: It helps children figure out what is unique and special about themselves, otherwise known as ‘differentiation.’   Read the entire article for  five suggestions from the experts to handle squabbling sibs.”

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: 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. 

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. The most absurd instances are ones for getting attention.
  2. We did something horribly wrong as parents to encourage this volume of strife.
  3. The girls got into a brawl over who received the first shot.
  4. Some dastardly deeds, in the Bible are centered around sibling rivalry.
  5. This knowledge certainly puts my kids’ fights over who got more ice cream into perspective.
  6. Most siblings don’t continue to fight into adult age.
  7. Psychologically, sibling rivalry serves a developmental purpose.
  8. Just because sibling rivalry is to be expected does not mean there aren’t ways to mitigate it.
  9. Praise them in public and punish them in private.
  10. Children have a tendency to get twitchy when they’re cooped up.

Word Map by Against the Odds

 

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 too/to find moments where/wear everyone can came/come together. You’re/Yourkids/kids’ temperaments and personalities may be/bee similar, oar/or they may not/knot. They may both love/loves dance, ore/or one loves/love dance an/and the other just wants/wantto/two play chess. One might bee/be rigid, and the other is an/a free spirit.

Reading: Identify TheSpeakers

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

  1. “Competition with siblings is just a fact of life. And we, as people with siblings and people with children, can just try to manage it as best we can.”
  2. “Conflict does decrease into adolescence; it sort of levels off,”
  3. “Early and middle childhood are particularly difficult times for sibling aggression
  4. “Hundreds of years ago, when child mortality was much higher, children under 5 with close-in-age siblings were more likely to die.”
  5. “Figure out what sets them off. Pay attention to what tends to happen before conflict breaks out,”

III Post Reading

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 have sisters or brothers?
  2. Do you get along with them? Why or why not?
  3. According to the article what are some of the themes in the Bible involving siblings?
  4. What is the  famous story of  sibling rivalry from the Bible? Do you know the story? 
  5. Why were children under 5 with close-in-age siblings more likely to die hundreds of years ago?
  6. Explain the developmental purpose that sibling rivalry serves.
  7. What are the five suggestions from experts to handle sibling rivalry?
  8. When should parents criticize their children?  According to Hunter, what is the advantage of this?

 

3-2-1-Writing

Directions:  List 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.  Share your responses with your class.

ANSWER KEY