Category Archives: Political Issues

We Can’t Let the Coronavirus Postpone Elections

“The integrity of the election is critical to the legitimacy of the nation’s next leader, and never more than in this hazardous moment. It’s essential that every eligible voter has an opportunity to cast a ballot, and that every vote is counted. Voting by mail is key to ensuring the integrity and accessibility of November’s vote.” – New York Times Editorial Board

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post  with Answer Key

Credit…Nicholas Konrad

Excerpt: It’s Time to Protect the 2020 Election, Too, —The New York Times Editorial Board

“There is no good time for a pandemic to hit. Still, it’s hard to imagine a more vulnerable moment than the one we find ourselves in, only months before some 130 million Americans expected to head to the polls to vote for the next president and thousands of other officeholders.

The outcome of the November election could shape the contours of American politics and government for decades.

Right now, most people are rightly preoccupied with the immediate impacts of the coronavirus on public health and the national economy. But a functioning democracy requires elections that are free, fair, accurate and on time, even during a global health crisis.

It is almost certain that the 2020 election won’t look like any we’ve seen before. Assuming the coronavirus outbreak persists into the fall, it will pose unprecedented challenges to holding a nationwide vote, the most obvious of which is the need to keep people physically separated… Several states have already postponed their primaries for this reason.

That may be the right call for the time being, but it won’t work for the general election in November, the date of which is prescribed by federal law, and which is followed soon after by the constitutionally mandated inauguration of the next president on Jan. 20, [2021].

Colorado has already moved over to 100% mail or drop-off voting.(Ivan Couronne : AFP:Getty Images)

The most practical fix is to make voting by mail a clear and free optionfor every eligible voter in the country.

This means, at a minimum: printing tens of millions of mail-in ballots and envelopes; ensuring that all registered voters receive one automatically, can request a replacement if they don’t, and can return it by Election Day; and finally, having the human and technological resources, like ballot scanners, available to count those votes quickly and accurately.

The good news is that we already have evidence that voting by mail works well. In five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington, most or all votes are cast by mail; in three others more than half are. In all, nearly one-quarter of all voters cast ballots by mail in 2016.

The experiments in the states have yielded several key findings: First, turnout is significantly higher nearly everywhere voting by mail is used. Second, voters of all political persuasions use it and like it. Third, it’s safe and secure. Bar codes allow for ballot tracking and validation. And states that use vote-by-mail have encountered essentially zero fraud: Oregon, the pioneer in this area, has sent out more than 100 million mail-in ballots since 2000, and has documented only about a dozen cases of proven fraud…Switching to all or nearly all voting by mail will require printing at least 70 million additional ballots.

These ballots will have to be ready to go out by Labor Day, less than six months from today. They must be postage-paid, so that no one has to pay a penny to vote, and there need to be enough machines and poll workers available to start counting ballots as soon as they come in. Signature-matching software can help ensure ballots are coming from the voters they were sent to, without introducing partisan bias into the process…A bill drafted by Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota would require states to, among other things, provide self-sealing envelopes with prepaid postage to all voters who request an absentee ballot. The bill would provide for all necessary federal funds to help the states.

Making voting easy and widely accessible in a time of social distancing is the biggest thing we can do, but there are other steps we can take to ensure a safe, secure and high-turnout election.

It is Your Right to Vote-NYT

First, educating voters with clear and simple instructions about handling and returning their mail-in ballots.

Second, physical polling sites still must be made available for those voters who are uncomfortable voting by mail or unable to. Many Native Americans living on reservations, for example, do not have traditional postal addresses, and would have a hard time receiving or returning a mail ballot. Many others will have moved as a result of the virus and may be hard to locate…Finally, voter registration needs to be easier across the board, in recognition of the fact that many Americans will have moved or be in transit over the coming months. This means making online registration available now and same-day registration available everywhere.

For the oldest continuously operating democracy in the world, the United States has a poor track record of prioritizing the smooth operation of elections…For all Americans, no matter their politics, the most important thing to remember is that this election is not going to look like what they are used to, and to be patient if final results aren’t in on election night. There has been a lot of criticism, much of it legitimate, about slow or disorganized counts during this primary season. But getting an accurate vote count is far more important than getting a fast one.”

In the Meantime:  Great Teaching  Activities Sites with Free Materials for Teachers, Students and Parents

“Learning Packets” for students During School Closures By Larry Ferlazzo:It seems like a fair number of districts don’t have any kind of learning plan in place for their students right now. Some districts, however, even if they don’t have a full-fledged remote learning program going on, are creating “learning packets” for students to complete. It’s not great, obviously, but it seems like it’s better than nothing and can help out parents.” For more information visit

Home With Your Kids? Writers Want to Help” –  The New York Times Mo Willems, Gene Luen Yang, Amie Kaufman and other authors for young readers are reading their work online and offering drawing tutorials, to help fill our strange new hours. For more information visit

The author and illustrator Mo Willems began hosting sessions on YouTube on Monday.

 

The STEM Sprouts Teaching Guide – Boston Children’s Museum & WGBH Welcome! Are you ready for some fun?

The STEM Sprouts Teaching Kit is the product of a collaborationbetween National Grid, Boston Children’s Museum, and WGBH. The goal of this curriculum is to assist preschool educators in focusing and refiningthe naturally inquisitive behaviors of three to five-year-olds on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

For more information visit here

STEM Teaching Guide

 

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.

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

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

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. There is no good time for a pandemic to hit.
  2. The outcome of the November election could shape the contours of American politics.
  3. Right now, most people are rightly preoccupied with the immediate impacts of the coronavirus.
  4. If the coronavirus outbreak persists into the fall the 2020 election won’t look like any we’ve seen before.
  5. It will pose unprecedented challenges to holding a nationwide vote, the most obvious of which is the need to keep people physically separated.
  6. Several states have already postponed their primaries for this reason.
  7. That may be the right call for the time being, but it won’t work for the general election in November.
  8. The general election is followed soon after by the constitutionally mandated  inauguration of the next president on Jan. 20, [2021].
  9. The most practical fix is to make voting by mail a clear and free option  for every eligible voter in the country.
  10. The good news is that we already have evidence that voting by mail works well.

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. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I

  1. 130 million Americans are expected to head to the polls to vote for the next president.
  2. People are rightly  concerned with the immediate impacts of the coronavirus.
  3. It are almost certain that the 2020 election won’t look like any we’ve seen before.

II

  1. Several states has already postponed their primaries.
  2. The most practical fix is to make voting by mail a clear and free choice.
  3. These ballots will have to be ready to go out by Labor Day.

III

  1. The ballots must be postage-paid, so that no one has to pay a penny to vote.
  2. There need to be enough machines and poll workers available.
  3. Online registration must be make available now.

 

Reading ComprehensionFill-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.

For the oldest continuously operating ___in the world, the ___has a ___track record of prioritizing the smooth ___of elections…For all___, no matter their___, the most___thing to remember is that this ___is not going to look like what they are used to, and to be___ if final results aren’t in on ___night.

WORD LIST: election, election,important, patient, politics, operation, poor,democracy,United States, Americans,

 

III. Post Reading Activities

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

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

  1. If you are of voting age and live in the U.S., have you thought about voting during the coronavirus?
  2. In your opinion, is voting now an important matter to the American People? Why or why not?
  3. The authors state that “It is almost certain that the 2020 election won’t look like any we’ve seen before.”  In what way will the 2020 election be different from others?
  4. The article states that “The most practical fix is to make voting by mail a clear and free option for every eligible voter in the country.” Do you agree with this statement? Why?
  5. We already have states such as Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington, in which most or all votes are cast by mail with very positive results; so why do you think that people are still hesitant to vote by mail in other states?
  6. What are some of the precautions that must be taken to switch to nearly all voting by mail before November elections?
  7. Colorado uses specialized drop boxes with camera monitors. Is this a good idea to ensure safe voting?
  8. Why or why not?
  9. In addition to mail in voting, why must physical polling sites be made available to voters?
  10.   After reading this article name at least one piece of new information that you’ve learned. Discuss what you’ve learned with your group members and share as a class.

3-2-1-Writing

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

ANSWER KEY

5 People Who Made Positive World Changes in 2019

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

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

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post  with Answer Key

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

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

Scott O’Neill fights tropical disease.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kimberly McGrath heals trafficked children.

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

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

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

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

Dr. Dixon Chibanda transforms global mental health care.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Rebekah Gee makes medicines affordable.

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

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

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

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

Phil Keisling deepens democracy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


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


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

Pre-reading Exercises

 

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

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

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

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

Source: New Oxford American Dictionary   

Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

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

I

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

The normal public health response to mosquitoes is attack.

The mosquitoes the program releases are infected with Wolbachia bacteria.

II

The friendship bench was invented in 2006.

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

Louisiana is treating more people for hepatitis C.

III

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

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

Turnout for these elections can be in the single digits.

Identify The  Speakers

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

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

 

III. Post Reading Activities

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

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

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

 

3-2-1-Writing

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

ANSWER KEY

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