Category Archives: Political Issues

2020: Let The People Elect The President! End the Electoral College

“If you were looking for how dysfunctional the American system of electing the president is, it would be hard to top last week’s federal appeals court ruling allowing ‘electors’ — the members of the Electoral College — to vote for whomever they want, rather than the candidate they were pledged to support.” Editorial Board, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post  with Answer Key

Excerpt: Fix the Electoral College — Or Scrap It, Editorial Board, The New York Times

“Wait,” you might say, ‘someone I’ve never even heard of can just throw out my vote for president?’ Well, yes. Or maybe not.

First some background: Micheal Baca was a Democratic elector in Colorado in 2016, pledged to Hillary Clinton, who won the state.

Mr. Baca believed Mr. Trump’s electoral victory posed an existential threat to the country, so he began a campaign, with a Democratic elector in Washington State, to persuade electors of both parties to break their pledges and vote for someone they might agree was qualified for the job — like John Kasich, the former Ohio governor and 2016 Republican presidential candidate.

If there were enough ‘faithless electors,’ either Mr. Kasich would be president or the electoral vote would be deadlocked and the election thrown to the House.

While almost no one else joined Mr. Baca’s cause, he cast his ballot for Mr. Kasich anyway, in symbolic protest. In doing so he broke a Colorado law requiring electors pledged to the person who wins the state’s popular vote to cast their ballot for that candidate. The state replaced him with an elector who voted for Mrs. Clinton. Mr. Baca sued, saying that Colorado’s law — similar to those in more than two dozen states — violated his right to cast his electoral vote however he chose, as the framers intended.

Citing Alexander Hamilton’s dictum that the College ensured that ‘the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications,’ Mr. Baca and his allies called themselves ‘Hamilton electors.’

The National Popular Vote! What It Is-Why It’s Needed

The Aug. 20 ruling from a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver, backed up his constitutional claim.

The decision was the reverse of a ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court in May that upheld that state’s law imposing a fine of $1,000 on three faithless electors, including Mr. Baca’s ally. That court noted that the Constitution gives states near-total authority over electors.

If the United States Supreme Court steps in to resolve the conflicting rulings, it will of course note that Hamilton’s vision has not been a reality for more than 200 years.

After electors unanimously chose the nonpartisan George Washington in the first two elections, national political parties developed and electors became partisan actors who voted for their party’s candidate.

In other words, electors aren’t distinguished citizens weighing whether the people have made a wise decision on their presidential ballot; they are men and women chosen because of their partisan loyalty. So it’s understandable that after years of tightly contested elections, Americans are aghast that an elector would dare to substitute his judgment for the will of the people.

But even if Mr. Baca were to win a Supreme Court ruling, not much would change. Outside of a few scattered symbolic protests, electors are almost never truly faithless, even when there’s no law stopping them.

Consider the 2000 election, when George W. Bush won states representing 271 electoral votes — just one more than the minimum he needed to prevail.

Despite losing the popular vote to Al Gore, Mr. Bush didn’t lose a single elector.

If states were forbidden from determining how their electors vote, parties would only be more careful about vetting prospective electors.

The point is that faithless electors are not the real problem. What really disregards the will of the people is the winner-take-all rule currently used by every state but Maine and Nebraska

The winner-take-all rule encourages campaigns to focus on closely divided battleground states, where a swing of even a few hundred votes can move a huge bloc of electors — creating presidents out of popular-vote losers, like George W. Bush and Donald Trump.

This violates the central democratic (or, if you prefer, republican) premises of political equality and majority rule.

What most people don’t realize is that the winner-take-all rule exists nowhere in the Constitution. It’s a pure creation of the states. They can award their electors by congressional district, as Maine and Nebraska do, or in proportion to the state’s popular vote, as several states have considered.

Or they could award them to the candidate who wins the most votes nationwide, regardless of the state outcome. That’s the elegant approach of the National Popular Vote interstate compact, which achieves a popular vote not by abolishing the College but by using it as the framers designed it — as a state-based institution. So far 15 states and the District of Columbia, with 196 electoral votes among them, have joined the compact, promising to award their electors to the national vote-winner.

The compact goes into effect once it is joined by states representing 270 electoral votes — the bare majority needed to become president — thus guaranteeing the White House to the candidate who won the most votes.

Critics say that relying on the popular vote would allow the presidency to be decided by the big cities on the coasts, but big cities don’t come close to having enough votes to swing a national election…

It’s unlikely that battleground states will abandon winner-take-all on their own, since it would lessen their political power. But right now a constitutional amendment to eliminate it would be as unlikely as one eliminating the Electoral College itself.

The College has survived not because it makes sense, but because one party or the other has believed it gives them an advantage. That may be smart politics, but it’s terrible for a democracy.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


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


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

I. Pre-Reading Activities

KWL Chart

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

KWL Chart from Creately,com

 

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. Micheal Baca pledged to Hillary Clinton in 2016.
  2. Mr. Baca cited  Alexander Hamilton’s dictum.   
  3. He had his allies on his side.
  4. He cast his ballot for Mr. Kasich.
  5. Some say that  the state violated his right to cast his electoral vote.
  6. Parties would be more careful about vetting prospective electors.
  7. There was a chance that the electoral vote would be deadlocked.
  8. The decision was the reverse of a ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court.
  9. The United States Supreme Court stepped in to resolve the conflicting rulings.
  10. Americans are aghast that an elector would dare to substitute his judgment for the will of the people.

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.

Micheal Baca was/wasn’t a Democratic elector in/on Colorado in 2016. Mr. Baca believe/believed Trump’s electoral victory posed/pose an/a existential threat from/to the country. While almost no one else joined Mr. Baca’s cause, he/his cast his ballot for Mr. Kasich anyway…The August 20 ruling in/from a three-judge panel of the/an United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in/on Denver, backed up his constitutional claim.

 

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.

In other words, ___aren’t distinguished___weighing whether the people have made a wise ___on their ___ballot; they are men and women chosen because of their partisan loyalty. So it’s understandable that after___ of tightly contested elections, ___are ___that an elector would dare to substitute his ___for the will of the people.

WORD LIST: aghast,  judgment, presidential,  electors, Americans,  years,    citizens, decision,

III Post Reading

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

  1. What are some of the problems with the current Electoral College?
  2. What is it that most people don’t realize about the winner-take-all rule?  Where was this rule created?
  3. The article states, Despite more than 700 proposals for amendments to reform or abolish the Electoral College — by far the most of any provision of the Constitution — it has remained.” Why is the Electoral College still in use in many states?
  4. Why is the National Popular Vote interstate compact considered to be fair?
  5. What are some of the criticisms of the National Popular Voting system?
  6. In your opinion, which better represents the true vote of the American people, the Electoral College or the National Popular Vote? Explain why.

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

When Joe Biden Gives Handshakes and Hugs, He Also Gives Comfort

“I’ll never forget the first time Joe Biden got a little close. Not long after joining his 2008 campaign for president, I found myself on a small plane with him traveling from a town in Iowa to O’Hare International Airport. Just as the plane started taxiing, he grabbed hold of my arm and became very animated.” M. Steinfels, CNN

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Joe Biden- 2020. NBC News

Excerpt: When Joe Biden grabbed my arm … he was trying to help me, By Marion Steinfels, CNN

“I was caught off guard and, honestly, maybe a little uncomfortable for a moment. He told me a story of a time in high school when he was supposed to go to a big dance. His shirt needed cuff links, but he had none. He was devastated until his mother ran to the toolbox and got two nuts and bolts that would do the job.

The Obamas and Bidens share a happy moment. Zimbio

As the plane hit its cruising altitude, what was happening became clear. Someone had told him about my terrible fear of flying, and he was trying to distract and reassure me and, in a way that did not make me feel condescended to or silly for having such a fear. That is who Joe Biden is…It’s also who his family is. His wife, Jill, would tear out articles on conquering fear of flying and share them with me to help defuse my angst. His niece and sister, who also worked on the campaign, would have us over for a home-cooked meal after weeks on the road.

The gunman’s bullets that killed three law enforcement officers in BatonRouge .apnews.com

While I am not questioning anyone else’s experiences with Biden — and at times it may have caused discomfort — there is no doubt in my mind that his penchant for showing affection has absolutely nothing to do with him not respecting a woman’s agency over her own body…Do a quick internet image search of ‘Obama Biden’ and then ‘Bush Cheney,’ and it will show clearly: Biden’s affectionate style is far from limited to women.

On Obama’s last birthday in office, Biden delivered him a birthday message that called Obama a best friend forever. businessinsider.com

There are countless images of Biden and Obama’s brotherly bear hugs, clasped hands and close-in whispers. (The same search of Bush and Cheney could not tell a more different story.)

In this era of #MeToo, when we are finally free to share our experiences and stories and no longer be the ones to feel shame for what was done to us, it is incredibly important that we differentiate.

Vice President Joe Biden kisses his wife, Jill Biden, before he addresses the troops. CTPost

 

With Biden, it is not about objectifying women or asserting male dominance; it’s about doing what he can to encourage others and make them feel comfortable — especially in stressful and overwhelming situations.”

 

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 Using a Pre-reading Organizer

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

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. I was caught off guard.
  2. He was devastated by the death of his son.
  3. Biden was trying to distract me.
  4. Some people have a penchant for showing affection.
  5. Biden’s affectionate style  is far from limited to women.
  6. There are countless images of Biden and Obama’s brotherly bear hugs.
  7. With Biden, it is not about objectifying women.
  8. He does what he can to encourage others.
  9. My experiences tell me he is sincere in this commitment.
  10. Joe Biden is willing to listen to his critics and learn from them.

 

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. His shirt needed cuff links.
  2. His mother got two nut and bolt.
  3. As the plane hit its cruising altitude I was calm.

II

 

  1. Someone had told him about my terrible fear to flying.
  2. I was driving by myself through a snowstorm.
  3. It’s just who he is.

III

  1. In this era of #MeToo, when we are free to share our experiences.
  2. It is incredible important that we differentiate.
  3. Biden is not asserting male dominance.

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.

In the___ of an incredibly ___primary ___for president, Joe Biden was always ___of those around ___and their___. I saw it throughout the ___and, quite frankly, sometimes it made___a little crazy.

WORD LIST:  me, campaign, him, campaign, aware, needs, midst, tough,

 

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

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

  1. From everything you’ve read, how would you describe Joe Biden?
  2. In your opinion is Joe Biden doing anything incorrect by hugging women or men?  Explain why or why not.
  3. In many countries showing affection upon meeting people is normal. Do you think this country has different standards about greeting people?
  4. If you are from a different country, describe how people greet family, friends and strangers.
  5. What is Marion Steinfels’s (the author of this article) point of view about Joe Biden?  Why do you think she wrote this particular article at this time? 
  6. With your group compose 3 questions you would like to ask Joe Biden or Ms. Steinfel. Share questions as a class.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Culture, Political Issues | Tags:

New Zealand’s PM Jacinda Ardern Means Business!

“New Zealand has banned military-style semiautomatic weapons and assault rifles, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Thursday, just six days after attacks on two mosques in Christchurch that left 50 people dead.” A. Fifield, The Washington Post

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. MSN

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post  With Answer Key

Excerpt: In New Zealand, broad support for ban on assault weapons following massacre, By Anna Fifield, The Washington Post

“A buyback program will be launched to take existing weapons out of circulation, and gun owners who do not comply will be subject to fines, she said.

‘On 15 March, our history changed forever. Now, our laws will, too,’ Ardern said. ‘We are announcing action today on behalf of all New Zealanders to strengthen our gun laws and make our country a safer place.’

New Zealand has moved with astonishing speed to rewrite gun laws with support from politicians from across the spectrum and many lobby groups associated with gun use.

‘There is a general recognition that we don’t need these military-style weapons in New Zealand, so it’s very easy to win cross-party support for this,’ said Mark Mitchell, who was defense minister in the previous, center-right government and who supports the ban initiated by the center-left-led Labour Party.  

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Dons a Hijab and Offer Aid to Families of Massacre Victims. The Guardian

Ardern said the ban covers all ‘military-style semiautomatics’ — defined as semiautomatic guns capable of being used with a detachable magazine that holds more than five cartridges. Parts and accessories that can be used to convert less-powerful guns into military-style weapons are also banned, along with all high-capacity magazines. ‘The time for the easy availability of these weapons must end, and today it will,’ Ardern said at a news conference Thursday afternoon, using her power to create rules under existing legislation to put the ban into immediate effect.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern lays flowers for victims of a mass shooting attack. ABC News

‘In short, every semiautomatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned in this country.’  Ardern said the ban takes effect immediately to prevent the stockpiling of firearms while legislation to make it permanent is being drafted.

Ardern acknowledged there are legitimate reasons for people in farming communities to have guns, so exceptions were made for .22-caliber rifles and for shotguns commonly used for duck and rabbit hunting. But these guns can have magazines that hold no more than 10 rounds. There will be narrow exemptions for professional pest control and for the police and defense forces.

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern comforts Muslims at mosque after Christchurch terror attack.

But Thursday’s decision amounts to a total ban on the kind of weapons that were used in Christchurch — and in mass-casualty shootings in the United States, such as in Parkland, Fla., Orlando and Las Vegas.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arrives at the Kilbirnie Mosque on March 17, 2019 in Wellington, New Zealand.

Among gun-control advocates in the United States, there was immediate admiration that New Zealand was able to act so quickly and decisively, and frustration that American lawmakers have not been able to institute even the smallest of gun-control measures, even after 20 first-graders were killed in their Connecticut school in 2012…’It’s easier to do here because we have a different type of democracy,’ said Paul Buchanan, a former American intelligence analyst who has lived in New Zealand for the past 20 years.

‘This is New Zealand’s darkest day’- Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

‘There are so many veto points in the United States, and that’s part of the problem. It allows the lobbyists to come in at any one of the veto points,’ he said…The new law is expected to be in place by April 11…Interest groups including Fish and Game, the agency that regulates bird hunting, and Federated Farmers, an agricultural organization, supported the ban.  Major retailers had already pulled all military-style semiautomatic firearms from sale nationwide.”

~Our Thoughts and Prayers Go Out To The Muslim Community and To The People of New Zealand~ESL Voices

 

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: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

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

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. Weapons  will be banned in this country.
  2. New Zealand has banned military-style semiautomatic weapons.
  3. A buyback program will be launched to take existing weapons out of circulation.
  4. New Zealand has moved with astonishing speed to rewrite gun laws.
  5. The ban was initiated by the center-left-led Labour Party.  
  6. The time for the easy availability of these weapons must end.
  7. The ban takes effect immediately to prevent the stockpiling of firearms.
  8. There will be narrow exemptions for professional pest control.
  9. Among gun-control advocates in the United States, there was immediate admiration.
  10. There is no equivalent of the Second Amendment in New Zealand.

 

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. It is highly unusual to see an human figure as a target.
  2. New Zealand has a unicameral Parliament.
  3. A simple majority is required to pass legislation.

II

  1. The new law is expect to be in place by April 11.
  2. New Zealand is horrified by what has happened.
  3. Ardern announced an amnesty and buyback program

III

  1. Current penalties for possessing guns illegally include fines and three years in jail.
  2. An group of only 7,500 people will be allowed to own military-style weapons.
  3. The death rate from guns fell from 2.9 per 100,000 people in 1996 to 0.9 two decades later.

 

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.

“New Zealand is a___ nation where ___ are often used for ___pests, or recreationally for___and sport. There are as many as 1.5 million___ in the country — one for every ___ people.”

WORDLIST:  three, guns, farming, hunting, guns, controlling, 

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

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

  1. The article states, Only the Council of Licensed Firearms Owners, a small lobbying group, said the ban was not needed. By moving so quickly, Ardern made it impossible for the group to put up much of a fight…Because the country is still in shock, the prime minister caught the gun lobby when they are on the back foot.”  Explain what this statement means.
  2. Do you think  that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern  made the correct move after the shootings? Explain why or why not.
  3. What is your position on gun-control? In your opinion who should be permitted to own  guns? Why?  Who should not own guns? Why?
  4. According to the article there are legitimate reasons for some people to have guns. What are these reasons?

 

Ask/Answer Questions

Directions:  Place students in groups and have each group list 3  questions they would like to pursue in relation to  the article. Have groups exchange questions. Each group tries to answer the questions listed. All responses are shared as a class.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Political Issues

Explaining the Midterm Elections To Students

“The Times recently published an “Everything You Need to Know” guide to the midterm elections that asks and answers many of the same questions students might have about the midterms. The authors went out of their way to provide succinct answers to questions like…■ When are the midterms? ■ What’s at stake in Washington? ■ What about outside of Washington?” The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Image: gc.edu

Excerpt: Everything You Need to Know for the Midterm Elections By Matt Flegenheimer, Grant Gold and Umi Syam, The New York Times

MIDTERM ELECTIONS F.A.Q.

When are the midterms?

Nov. 6, 2018.

What’s at stake in Washington?

435 U.S. House seats and 33 U.S. Senate seats.

Matters of interest include: which party controls the two chambers of Congress and has oversight power of Trump and his administration. (Hint: Democrats will investigate far more aggressively than Republicans have, if given the chance.) 

What about outside of Washington?

6,665 state positions and thousands more local ones. Don’t forget the governorships, state legislative seats and scores of other nonfederal offices, down to the municipal level. Thirty-six states will elect governors this year.

Create a get-out-the-youth-vote campaign. Credit- Credit Leo Espinosa-NYT

If Democrats take the House, what happens?

Politically: investigations, lectern-pounding, maybe impeachment proceedings. Legislatively: probably next to nothing, with a return to divided government. Which Democrats would consider a significant upgrade.

Young voters for the Midterm Elections. Photo- theoutline.com

If Republicans keep the House, what happens?

Politically: more one-party rule in Washington, perhaps an even more emboldened Trump, almost certainly no impeachment.

How many House seats do Democrats need to pick up to take over the House?

23.

How do they get there?

Start with many of the 23 Republican-held seats in districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. But Democrats see plausible openings in dozens of districts, from diverse metro areas and suburbs — where many college-educated voters think little of Trump — to some rural seats.

How many Americans live in competitive congressional districts?

More than 50 million or so. There are about 75 competitive races out of 435 House seats. Districts are each intended to have about 700,000 people. So that gives us more than 50 million in competitive districts.

Does my vote matter?

Yes.

Can I vote early?

Depends on where you live. Early voting has already started in some states.

How late can I register? Where do I vote?

Rules vary by state.

Predict election results. People cheered for Jared Polis, a gay man running for governor of Colorado, after he won the Democratic nomination in June.Credit Ryan Brown-NYT

What role is social media playing in the midterms?

A large one. The prominence of platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat is nothing new for campaigns, but never before have politicians had more options to circumvent traditional media. One critical example: Candidates are aiming to produce the next viral video as a proxy for pricey television commercials, and often sharing the message largely through social media.

How does the special counsel investigation affect the midterms?

Hard to say. Many Democratic candidates have largely avoided the Russia affair to date, preferring to talk about domestic issues. But Nov. 6 is still a long way off, in political terms, and a major breakthrough in the investigation led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III (or other inquiries into the president and those close to him), could become an ‘October surprise.’

What kinds of policy discussions have dominated races?

Healthcare is universally a biggie, often with debates on two tracks: between Democrats and Republicans on the merits of the Affordable Care Act (still) and between Democrats and Democrats on whether Medicare for all is the long-term answer. Others: immigration, education, gun control.

Which Republican-held seats must the Democrats win to have any shot at capturing the Senate?

Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee. Texas is also on the radar, with Representative Beto O’Rourke running a strong race against Senator Ted Cruz.

Is it really the ‘Year of the Woman’?

Certainly looks that way. A record 257 women are running for the House and Senate this fall, and more women have won House primaries than in any year in the nation’s history — 235.

Follow a candidate. Women have won more primaries than ever before. Will the set a record in November 2018? the New York Times

Have scandals affected the House outlook at all?

Two Republican congressmen from solidly red districts — Chris Collins of New York and Duncan Hunter of California — were indicted recently. Republicans, including the president, have expressed some worry about losing those seats now.

Can I trust the polls?

Yes and no!  Generally, polls are more revealing about the electorate and issues than highly accurate predictors for Election Day. This year, many projections suggest that Democrats have a better than 50-50 chance of taking back the House. And no one is saying it’s a sure thing. Here at The New York Times, the Upshot’s live polling project is a great example of both compelling data and radical candor about what we do not (and cannot) know for certain.

O.K., the midterms end and then what?

Joy, relief, despair. And the 2020 presidential campaign basically starts immediately.

*************************************************************************************************

 Click Here for Halloween lesson“Access to Scary Film Just Got Better”

**************************************************************************************************

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

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 the Midterm Elections. Later in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about the topic. K-W-L Chart from Creately.com

Advanced K-W-L chart.Intervention for Reading

 

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. Democrats will investigate far more aggressively than Republicans if given the chance.
  2. In addition, voters are generally eligible for those little “I Voted” stickers.
  3. There’s no guarantee which party will win big.
  4. If Republicans keep the House perhaps more deregulation, maybe another run at repealing the Affordable Care Act.
  5. Democrats see plausible openings in dozens of districts.
  6. There are diverse metro areas and suburbs where Democrats can win votes.
  7. How many Americans live in competitive congressional districts?
  8. The prominence of platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat is nothing new for campaigns.
  9.  Candidates are aiming to produce the next viral video as a proxy for pricey television commercials.
  10. There are state-backed attempts on social media to sway public opinion.

ELLteaching 2.0 vocabulary chart

 

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

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

There are serious___about protecting the ___of the vote — and the ___process. And, as ever, the White House has been a ___card. Mr. Trump, who has often questioned the___community’s consensus on Russian interference in 2016, has signed an executive order to punish foreign meddling, but ___in both parties have been pushing for ___more aggressive.

WORD LIST: something, integrity, questions, lawmakers, intelligence,election,wild,

 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. House seats are up every two year.
  2. Senators serve six-year terms.
  3. Thirty-three states have Senate races this fall.

 

II

  1. Whose going to win the House?
  2. How many House seats do Democrats need?
  3. Midterm turnout generally lags well behind presidential year turnout.

 

III

  1. Can I vote early?
  2. The company has cited outside attempts to affect the midterms.
  3. Healthcare are universally a biggie.

 

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

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

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion for Comprehension/Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions from the article. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. Students may also write about any of the topics discussed.

  1. According to the article who is going to win the House? Provide reasons for your answers.
  2. Are the polls trustworthy?
  3. Which democratic candidates are most popular?
  4. Which republican candidates are most popular?
  5. Is it necessary for everyone to vote? Provide reasons for your answers.
  6. If you are 18 years old do you plan to vote  in November? Explain why or why not.

Group Activities

Role-Plays

Have groups create role-plays. An example would be having two group members represent a democrat and a republican competing for a seat in the Senate or in the House. Each writes a short list of reasons why they would be better suited for the job.

Class Debates

Divide the class into democrats and republicans. Choose 2 members from each side to debate one or two of the major issues mentioned in the article (i.e., the Affordable Care Act, gun control, immigration).

Group Campaigns

As a class or in groups have students create campaigns encouraging the youth vote.

Follow a candidate:

Have groups choose one of the candidates to follow online. Students can use the BALLOTPEDIA website to find out information about various candidates running for federal and state offices.

Fact Checking Sites

Don’t be fooled by Fake News sources! A good fact-checking site uses neutral wording, provides unbiased sources to support its claims and reliable links, says Frank Baker, author of Media Literacy in the K-12 Classroom and creator of the Media Literacy Clearinghouse.”

Snopes  Widely regarded by journalists, folklorists, and laypersons alike as one of the world’s essential resources. Snopes.com is routinely included in annual “Best of the Web” lists and has been the recipient of two Webby awards.

Check The Facts! This independent and nonprofit website offers a comprehensive list of reliable top fact-checking sites.

Media Bias Fact Check  One of the most comprehensive media bias resources on the internet

Additional Election Resources Online

Kid Voting USA: Elections and civics lesson plans broken down by grade level (free downloads with registration).

FiveThirtyEight: Articles relating to the 2018 midterms.

NEA’s Elections Resources: The National Education Association has compiled a list of teacher resources just in time for election season.

Decoding Political Ads: This breaks down political ads in swing states, and provides critical thinking questions for students and possible lesson plans for teachers.

BBC News: How do US elections stack up to others around the world?: A short video that compares political campaigns in the USA to those around the world.

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

The World of Art and Politics

“Somewhere along the I-95 in Philadelphia, a billboard spells out two words in Trump’s campaign font: Pardon Me. This is just one of the challenging artist-designed billboards that have gone up across the US this week as part of the 50 State Initiative, arguably the country’s largest public art project. The crowdfunded spectacle allows artists to have their say – and perhaps their influence – ahead of the midterm elections.” N.Sayei, The Guardian

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post  with Answer Key

Zoë Buckman – Grab ’Em by the Ballots in upstate New York. Photograph- LightWork : For Freedoms

Excerpt: ‘All art is political’: behind America’s most ambitious public art project ever By Nadja Sayei, The Guardian

‘One guy wrote us and said: ‘I see this ‘Pardon Me’ billboard every day on my way to work, can you tell me what this means?’ said Wyatt Gallery, the billboard director at For Freedoms, the New York organization behind the project. ‘He asked: ‘What side are you on? Are you pro-Trump or anti-Trump?’ People can’t figure out what side we’re on, or if there is a side. It makes people think more and to reach out and ask us.’

Christopher Myers – Mayflowers in Rockland. Photograph- Center For Maine Contemporary Art

The goal, according to the For Freedoms co-founder Eric Gottesman, is to make ‘anti-partisan’ statements on the billboards, alongside art exhibitions, installations and public programs to deepen what he calls ‘civic participation’.

Occupy.com

‘It’s not just voting, it’s about using our voices to speak up about the things we feel strongly about,’ said Gottesman. ‘We believe all art is political, so when artists get engaged, the conversation changes. It’s important for artists’ voices not to be marginalized or only to be seen in these elite institutions, but be more at the center of public life.’

Paula Crown – Hurt People Hurt People in Los Angeles. Photograph- Paula Goldman

Each billboard is emblazoned with the For Freedoms logo, which is how people find them online. ‘People look us up or call the billboard company to inquire what the billboards mean,’ said Gallery. ‘That’s a huge sign of success, that people are willing to take that step.’

THIS STORY HASN’T BEEN WRITTEN YET in Raleigh. Photograph- TianranQin : Jeffrey Gibson

Luis Jacob, a Canadian artist, is showing a billboard in Vermont entitled Land Acknowledgement, which reads Abenaki, the name of the tribe based in the region. ‘This piece engages the politics of indigenous land sovereignty on colonized territory,’ said Jacob, who teaches art at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Us Is Them with Wyatt Gallery, NewOrleans, LA, 2016. Photograph- Wyatt Gallery : For Freedoms

As a response to Jacob’s billboard, a member of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs contacted the artist. ‘He said he found the artistic concept behind the image compelling,’ said Jacob, ‘and hoped the project would help build connections between the Abenaki community, artists and institutions, such as VCFA, to improve relations.’

Sanford Biggers, Just Us (West Virginia). Photo courtesy of For Freedoms.

Truthout

Many of the billboards are along highways of rural areas. In a way, they catch people off guard while driving, often a time of solitude or reflection. But the billboards are intentionally timed to coincide with the midterm elections and ultimately, they could change the way Americans look at art, politics and the role of advertising in public space.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


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


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

I. Pre-Reading Activities

KWL Chart

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

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

KWL Chart from Creately,com

 

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. This is America’s most ambitious public art project.
  2. The crowdfunded spectacle allows artists to have their say.and perhaps their influence.
  3. Each billboard is emblazoned with the For Freedoms logo.
  4. Some find the artistic concepts behind the images beautiful.
  5. The billboards are intentionally timed to coincide with the 2018 midterm elections.
  6. When artists get engaged, the conversation changes.
  7. It’s important for artists’ voices not to be marginalized.
  8. This piece engages the politics of indigenous land sovereignty.
  9. We want to add more nuance in the kind of conversation we have in public about these issues.
  10. People are taking notice as to what these billboards mean in the context of what’s happening today.

 

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.

There are more than 50 ___designed by ___, which will be up through the end of November. More than 200___and 400 artists across the ___will be hosting talks, ___and exhibits related to ___art in ___with the organization.

WORD LIST:  institutions, political, partnership, billboards, country, projects,  artists,

 

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.

Some of the/them billboards are/is specific to/too certain cities. ‘Some artists felt/feeling like a certain part of the country wood/would make sense,’ said Gallery. ‘Others wanted/wants to be/being as close to the Mexican border as possible, or in/on certain regions. We tried to/two honor those wishes to create a/an dynamic conversation.’

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. The article states, It’s not just voting, it’s about using our voices to speak up about the things we feel strongly about…We believe all art is political, so when artists get engaged, the conversation changes.” Do you agree that all art is political? Provide reasons for your answer.
  2. It also states, “People look us up or call the billboard company to inquire what the billboards mean,” said Gallery. “That’s a huge sign of success, that people are willing to take that step.” Explain why Gallery thinks this is a sign of success”
  3. Overall, are political billboards by artists helpful to potential voters? Provide reasons for your answer.

Group Projects

What’s The Message?

Directions: In groups, have students choose 3 or 4 of the billboard signs presented in the article. Then have them discuss what they think the message is for each billboard. Share answers with the class.

Create Your Own Billboards

Directions: In groups, have students create their own billboards on any topic they like. Group members may use the web for additional information. Have students draw and color their billboards. After, all billboards can be shared by the class or the school.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. 

ANSWER KEY