Category Archives: Psychology

The Value of Sibling Rivalry

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

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Credit- JooHee Yoon, The New York Times

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 60 minutes.


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


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

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

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

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

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

Word Map by Against the Odds

 

Grammar Focus: Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

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

Reading: Identify TheSpeakers

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

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

III Post Reading

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

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

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

 

3-2-1-Writing

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

ANSWER KEY

Researchers Are Finding New Ways to Enter Our Dreams

“Scientists are figuring out how to communicate with people while they’re dreaming. What will be discovered on the other side?” V.  Greenwood, The Boston Globe, July 20, 2021

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Illustration- Gregori Saavedra. The Guardian

Excerpt: A passageway is opening into the world of dreams, By Veronique Greenwood, The Boston Globe, July 20, 2021

“Lucid dreamers can control their surroundings and the narrative of their dreams. Near the corner of the small, dark room, there is a narrow folding bed. Every now and then, a speaker on a nearby table emits an eerie violin riff. A line of red lights near the ceiling flashes, then flashes again, bathing the room in a lurid glow. In the bed someone who is fitted with a series of scalp and face electrodes is sleeping.

Sleep Lab -Boston Medical Center

This surreal tableau is part of scientists’ effort to breach the wall between the waking world and wherever it is we are when we’re dreaming. The researchers who control the speaker and flashing lights in the lab of Ken Paller, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Ill., have been asking questions of people who are dreaming and hoping to get answers.

The Netherlands Institut

The dreamers have talked back in a handful of cases. Or rather, signaled back, swiveling their closed eyes back and forth or making little muscle twitches to answer arithmetic problems asked by an experimenter…It’s not quite on the level of “Inception,” the 2010 movie in which Leonardo DiCaprio enters people’s dreams to steal their secrets, but it could be a way to learn more about the peculiar places we inhabit, built by our brains without our knowledge, when we lie down to sleep.

Poster from film: Inception

Researchers have found that lucid dreamers can move their closed eyes voluntarily while asleep and can signal using a prearranged rapid movement — left-right-left-right — that they’ve become lucid. The sleeper may then perform another prearranged task, like singing a song or practicing a workout in the dream and then signal again when they’ve completed it. This has allowed researchers to ask big questions. Do activities take the same amount of time in a dream as in waking life? (Yes, it appears.)”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 60 minutes.


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


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

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

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

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. Scientists are figuring out how to communicate with people while they’re dreaming.
  2. Lucid dreamers can control their surroundings and the narrative of their dreams.
  3. Every now and then, a speaker on a nearby table emits an eerie violin riff.
  4. In the bed someone is fitted with a series of scalp and face electrodes.
  5. This surreal tableau is an effort to breach the wall between the waking world and when we’re dreaming.
  6. Some dreamers  can signal back by making little muscle twitches.
  7. It’s not quite on the level of “Inception,” the 2010 movie.
  8. Some believe that we enter an alternate life while sleeping.
  9. A phenomenon called lucid dreaming offers the possibility of communication in real time.
  10. Some experimenters spoke these questions, some used Morse code.

 

Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

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

I

  1. Scientists are figuring out how to communicate with people while they’re dreaming.
  2. What will be discover on the other side?
  3. The researchers control the speaker and flashing lights in the lab.

II

  1. The dreamers have talked back on a handful of cases.
  2. Two-way communication with dreamers is possible.
  3. But there is a delay between a dream and when scientists can try to learn about it.

III

  1. Lucid dreaming offers an possibility of communication in real time.
  2. It is possible for some people to train themselves to dream this way.
  3. Researchers have found that lucid dreamers can move their closed eyes voluntarily while asleep.

 

Reading Comprehension

Identify The  Speakers

Directions: Read the following quotes and descriptions  from (and of)  the speakers in the article. Then identify the speakers.

  1. This scientist is part of the group of researchers who control the people  who are dreaming.
  2. “One of the main challenges of doing dream research is that you only have access to the dream experience, the dream report, after the fact.”
  3. This sleep researcher helped bring the subject of Lucid dreamers to the mainstream.
  4. He and his colleagues have found that when lucid dreamers trace a line with their eyes they move with a smoothness they don’t have when awake and imagining the same experience.
  5. “It is not clear why some people perceived the questions and others did not…But staying lucid is like balancing on a knife’s edge…On the one hand, you may get so excited you’ve achieved lucidity that you wake up. On the other, you can fall back into the deep, languid waters of regular dreaming, losing the ability to participate in experiments.
  6. However, the method will always be really difficult and impractical, in the sense that you have to test dozens of participants before getting one instance of really convincing, successful communication.”

 

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

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

  1. Do you dream often? Can you remember your dreams when you wake up?
  2. According to the article have dreamers ever spoken (or signaled) back to the scientists?  How?
  3. What are some of the positive advantages of learning about our dreams?
  4. What type of  experiments did the researchers ask the sleepers to perform?
  5. At the present,  what’s the best way to get information about  what we dream about?
  6. Explain what Lucid Dreaming means.
  7. What are some of the things that  lucid dreamers can do?
  8. What are some questions researchers ask about lucid dreamers?
  9. In the 2010 movie ‘Inception,’ Leonardo DiCaprio enters people’s dreams to steal their secrets. In your opinion, do you believe this could actually happen with further dream research?
  10. Why are researchers cautious about future research in dreaming?
  11. In your opinion, are these experiments useful or harmful? Please provide reasons for your answers.

 

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.

 

Extra Activities

Have each group research different institutions (in the U.S. and other countries)that have dream experimentation labs and write a report about the results. Each group will share their results with the class.

Have each member write about a dream they had and try to interpret the dream.

ANSWER KEY

Category: People, Psychology, Technology | Tags:

How to Comfort People During Covid-19

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

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post  with Answer Key

Credit- Eric Mower and Assosciates

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

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

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

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

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

Steer clear of fixing or reframing negative emotions.

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

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

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

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

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

 

~Democratic Presidential Leader Joe Biden~

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

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


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


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

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

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

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

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

Grammar Focus: Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

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

Reading Comprehension: Identify The  Speakers

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

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

 

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

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

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

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

 

3-2-1-Writing

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

ANSWER KEY

Robots Caring for the Elderly Bring Increasing Questions of Concern

“Robotic companions are being promoted as an antidote to the burden of longer, lonelier human lives. At stake is the future of what it means to be human.” M. Jackson, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Credit- Mojo Wang, The New York Times

Excerpt: Would You Let a Robot Take Care of Your Mother? By Maggie Jackson, The New York Times

“After Constance Gemson moved her mother to an assisted living facility, the 92-year-old became more confused, lonely and inarticulate. Two full-time private aides, kind and attentive as they were, couldn’t possibly meet all their patient’s needs for connection.

Credit- ABC Radio Perth – Gian de Poloni

So on a visit one day, Ms. Gemson brought her mom a new helper: a purring, nuzzling robot cat designed as a companion for older adults. “It’s not a substitute for care,” says Ms. Gemson, whose mother died last June at age 95. “But this was someone my mother could hug and embrace and be accepted by. This became a reliable friend.” When her mom was upset, her family or helpers brought her the cat to stroke and sing to, and she grew calmer. In her last days “what she could give, she gave to the cat,” says Ms. Gemson.

Photo- Next Avenue

An aging population is fueling the rise of the robot caregiver, as the devices moving into the homes and hearts of the aging and sick offer new forms of friendship and aid…Winsome tabletop robots now remind elders to take their medications and a walk, while others in research prototype can fetch a snack or offer consoling words to a dying patient… Yet we should be deeply concerned about the ethics of their use. At stake is the future of what it means to be human, and what it means to care.

Issues of freedom and dignity are most urgently raised by robots that are built to befriend, advise and monitor seniors. This is Artificial Intelligence with wide, blinking eyes and a level of sociability that is both the source of its power to help and its greatest moral hazard

When do a robot assistant’s prompts to a senior to call a friend become coercion of the cognitively frail? Will Grandma’s robot pet inspire more family conversation or allow her kin to turn away from the demanding work of supporting someone who is ill or in pain? ‘Robots, if they are used the right way and work well, can help people preserve their dignity,’ says Matthias Scheutz, a roboticist who directs Tufts University’s Human-Robot Interaction Lab. ‘What I find morally dubious is to push the social aspect of these machines when it’s just a facade, a puppet. It’s deception technology.’

For that is where the ethical dilemmas begin — with our remarkable willingness to banter with a soulless algorithm, to return a steel and plastic wink. It is a well-proven finding in the science of robotics: add a bit of movement, language, and ‘smart’ responses to a bundle of software and wires and humans see an intentionality and sentience that simply isn’t there. Such ‘agency’ is designed to prime people to engage in an eerie seeming reciprocity of care.

Credit- The Star Online

Social robots ideally inspire humans to empathize with them, writes Maartje de Graaf of the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, who studies ethics in human-robot interactions. Even robots not designed to be social can elicit such reactions: some owners of the robot vacuum Roomba grieve when theirs gets ‘sick’ (broken) or count them as family when listing members of their household.

Many in the field see the tensions and dilemmas in robot care, yet believe the benefits can outweigh the risks. The technology is ‘intended to help older adults carry out their daily lives,’ says Richard Pak, a Clemson University scientist who studies the intersection of human psychology and technology design, including robots…

We know little about robot care’s long-term impact or possible indirect effects. And that is why it is crucial at this early juncture to heed both the field’s success stories and the public’s apprehensions.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


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


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

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

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

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. The 92-year-old became more confused, lonely and inarticulate.
  2. The pet robots are not a substitute for care.
  3. The robot became a reliable friend.
  4. Care robots are increasly seen as an antidote to the burden of longer, lonelier human lives.
  5. Winsome tabletop robots now remind elders to take their medications and a walk.
  6. Others in research prototype can fetch a snack or offer consoling words to a dying patient.
  7. Since their 2016 debut, sales of robots to assist older adultsare expected to rise 25 percent annually through 2022.
  8. Yet we should be deeply concerned about the ethics of their use.
  9. This is Artificial Intelligence with wide, blinking eyes and a level of sociability that is both the source of its power to help and its greatest moral hazard. 
  10. Some worry robot care would carry a stigma the potential of being seen as not worth human company.

 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. Constance Gemson moved her mother to a assisted living facility.
  2. Two full-time private aides were also hired.
  3. Ms. Gemson brought her mom a new helper: a purring, nuzzling robot cat.

II

  1. A aging population is fueling the rise of the robot caregiver.
  2. Thousands of robotic cats and dogs designed as companions for older people have been sold in the U.S. since 2016.
  3. Yet we should be deeply concerned about the ethics of their use.

III

  1. Robots, if they are used the right way and work well, can help people preserve their dignity.
  2. Social robots ideally inspire humans to empathize  with them.
  3. The robot is designed to stress that it’s not an doctor or nurse but part of someone’s care team.

 

Reading Comprehension

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.

  1. “Robots, if they are used the right way and work well, can help people preserve their dignity. “What I find morally dubious is to push the social aspect of these machines when it’s just a facade, a puppet. It’s deception technology.”
  2. “Even robots not designed to be social can elicit such reactions: some owners of the robot vacuum Roomba grieve when theirs gets “sick” (broken) or count them as family when listing members of their household.”
  3. “The technology is intended to help older adults carry out their daily lives.   If the cost is sort of tricking people in a sense, I think, without knowing what the future holds, that might be a worthy trade-off. Still he wonders, “Is this the right thing to do?”
  4. “The robot is one thing, but you still need interaction that’s not programmed.”
  5. It’s not a substitute for care,”

 

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.

  1. Who or What is the article about?
  2. Where does the action/event take place?
  3. When does the action/event take place?
  4. Why did the action/event occur?
  5. How did the action/event occur?

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

  1. Do you interact with any robots in your home (e.g., the  Roomba vacuum), school,  job, public facilities (e.g., restrooms, recreation areas ) or institutions such as banks, museums or libraries? If yes, describe them and how you interact with them.
  2. Have you ever interacted with an actual  robot pet? what was your experience like?
  3. Is there a senior member in your family who has a robotic companion? If yes, how do they interact with the pet?
  4. Do you think robotic pets are a good idea for seniors? Why or why not?
  5. According to the article what are the benefits of seniors having robot companions?
  6. The article raises two issues of concern with the robots programmed to befriend and advise seniors. What are the issues and why do they cause concern?
  7. There are new “soft-law” guidelines that professionals state the robots need to have. What are they?
  8. In your opinion, are there certain tasks we should not allow robots to do because they would be considered unethical?
  9. List something  new that you have learned from this article. List something that you did not understand in this article. List something that you would like to add to this article. Share your responses with the class.

ANSWER KEY

Offering Advice That People Will Appreciate

“A friend recently approached me in distress saying she wasn’t sure if she should dump her boyfriend or not…she asked what I think she should do. It gave me pause. Of course, I thought she should get rid of the guy, but I didn’t want to put our relationship at risk in case she stayed with him after I shared my opinion.” A. Goldfarb, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Excerpt: How to Give People Advice They’ll Be Delighted to Take, By Anna Goldfarb, The New York Times

“As anyone who has offered guidance knows, giving spectacular advice doesn’t necessarily mean people will take it. Advice is a gift, albeit one bundled with inherent power dynamics. That “I know your situation best and here’s what you should do” attitude is what can make advice-giving so fraught.

‘Expertise is a tricky thing,’ said Leigh Tost, an associate professor of management and organization at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. ‘To take advice from someone is to agree to be influenced by them.’ Sometimes when people don’t take advice, they’re rejecting the idea of being controlled by the advice-giver more than anything.

Nevertheless, it’s understandable to want to help when we see people struggling or in pain. It feels good to give direction. In fact, giving advice increases one’s sense of personal power, according to a study published last year in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

photo- La vita e bella

Researchers identified three factors that determine whether input will be taken to heart.  People will go along with advice if it was costly to attain and the task is difficult (think: lawyers interpreting a contract).

Advice is also more likely to be taken if the person offering counsel is more experienced and expresses extreme confidence in the quality of the advice (doctors recommending a treatment, for example). Emotion plays a role, too: Decision makers are more likely to disregard advice if they feel certain about what they’re going to do (staying with a dud boyfriend no matter what) or they’re angry (sending an ill-advised text while fuming).

So, where does this leave caring friends and concerned co-workers — those people in our lives who aren’t necessarily experts, but want to help?  You can chime in, but it’s crucial to approach the matter with sensitivity and center the person who is looking for assistance.

‘It may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how often people can overlook the need to consider what the decision maker wants and why,’ Dr. Tost said. Here are other things to keep in mind to make sure the advice you give to others will land so you, and the person you’re advising, can feel good about the exchange.

Evaluate the situation. Make sure you’re actually being asked to give counsel. It’s easy to confuse being audience to a venting session with being asked to weigh in. Sometimes people just want to feel heard.

Be clear on the advice-seeker’s goals. When people approach Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like an Artist, for advice, he drills down and identifies the exact problem:’What do you want to know specifically that I can help you with?’ This way, he won’t overwhelm the person with irrelevant information.

Consider your qualifications. People often go to those close to them for advice, even if family members and friends aren’t always in the best position to effectively assist, Dr. Tost said. Ask yourself: ‘Do I have the expertise, experience or knowledge needed to provide helpful advice in this situation?’ If you do, fantastic! Advise away. If you don’t, rather than give potentially unhelpful advice, identify someone who is in a better position to help.‘The key is to put your loved one’s needs and interests front and center,’ Dr. Tost said.

Collaborate on a solution. Be friendly. Words have power. Words can heal…It’s essential to start the advice-giving conversation with a reassuring tone…Certified life coach and leadership trainer Dee C. Marshall makes sure to praise the advice-seeker before she offers a single suggestion. She’ll say something like, ‘I really applaud you for knowing to do X and knowing to do Y.’ Complementing someone’s judgment not only makes the person feel good about his or herself, but it helps keep the equilibrium intact.

Share experience. People tend to resist when advice is preachy, Ms. Marshall said. Saying, ‘I’ve been there and here’s what I did,’ makes people more receptive.

Identify takeaways (and give an out). It’s not realistic for people to act on every piece of advice you give… After discussing a problem and suggesting how to handle it, Ms. Marshall asks her clients what tidbit resonated with them the most. Then she gives them permission to disregard any suggestions she made that weren’t a good fit.

Agree on next steps. Lastly, ask what kind of continued support is needed (if any) and what efforts should be avoided… Meeting the advice-seeker at this level further establishes the person’s autonomy.”

 

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

Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming

Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about the topic.  Next, have students look at the pictures in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article.  Regroup as a class and list these ideas on the board. Students can use a brainstorming chart for assistance.

Brainstorming chart by UIE

 

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. My friend  approached me in distress.
  2. Advice is a gift, albeit one bundled with inherent power dynamics.
  3. You can chime in, but it’s crucial to approach the matter with sensitivity.
  4. It’s surprising how often people can overlook the speaker.
  5. Make sure you’re actually being asked to give counsel.
  6. Be sure you’ve grasped the heart of the issue.
  7. Make sure that your suggestions  are not redundant.
  8. Consider your qualifications first.
  9. Make certain that you have the expertise, needed to provide helpful advice.
  10. It’s essential to start the advice-giving conversation with a reassuring tone.

ELLteaching 2.0 vocabulary chart

 

Grammar Focus: Identifying Prepositions

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

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

  1. I didn’t want ___put our relationship___ risk ___case she changed her mind.
  2. It’s understandable ___want ___help when we see people struggling or___pain.
  3. Giving advice increases one’s sense ___personal power.
  4. Here are other things ___keep___ mind ___make sure the advice you give ___others will help.

 

Reading Comprehension

Identify TheSpeakers

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. “Expertise is a tricky thing…“To take advice from someone is to agree to be influenced by them.Sometimes when people don’t take advice, they’re rejecting the idea of being controlled by the advice-giver more than anything.”
  2. “It’s almost like people will say to you, ‘I want a strategy,’ and what they really mean is, ‘I want someone to understand.”
  3. “Would you be willing to hear some of my ideas, or is now not a good time?” This balances the playing field. Be prepared for the person to decline your offer to give input.
  4. “What do you want to know specifically that I can help you with?” This way, he won’t overwhelm the person with irrelevant information.

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

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

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: 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. Do friends  or family members often come to you for advice? What is your usual reaction? Do they find your answers useful?
  2. Do you ask your friends or family members for advice? Do you find their suggestions useful?
  3. According to the article what are the three factors that determine whether people will take advice?
  4. The article list several good indicators which show people find your advice helpful. What are they?
  5. Life coach Dee C. Marshall states that complementing someone’s judgment before offering advice is important. Why is this important?
  6. After reading this article, do you feel that you’ve learned something about the right way to offer advice to family members and friends? Discuss with your group what new information you’ve learned and share with the class.

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. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY