Category Archives: Psychology

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

Rethinking The U.S. Prison System Through Art Programs

“Thirty Colorado inmates staged One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest…The cast was strip-searched before boarding the bus to their show. The leading man was shackled so tightly that he performed with abrasions on his wrists. And the moment the men finished their bows and the house lights came up, they had to slip out of costume and back into green prison uniforms.”  J.  Healy, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Inmates of Sterling Correctional Facility rehearsing One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Trent Davis Bailey for The New York Times

Excerpt: How a Prison Play Goes on Tour By Jack Healy, The New York Times

“So goes life on the road for a production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, put on by 30 medium-security inmates of the Sterling Correctional Facility, out on Colorado’s remote eastern plains. While prison plays have been around for decades, the challenge of this show was audaciously new: It went on tour.

Over a week in September, the cast and crew took the play to a men’s prison in the tiny town of Limon, Colo., and to a women’s prison in Denver, a 130-mile bus ride from Sterling. Many in the audience had never read the Ken Kesey novel nor seen the Oscar-winning film adaptation starring Jack Nicholson, which tells the story of men inside a 1960s-era Oregon mental ward. For the prison staff, the logistics of transporting a complicated set and 30 prisoners were daunting.

Many in the audience at the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility had not read the Ken Kesey novel or seen the Oscar-winning film adaptation. Credit Tren D. Bailey for The New York Times

For the cast and crew, the six-month journey into the play, through rehearsals and character studies and improv games, and then out beyond the prison walls, was transformative and surreal. It was the first time in years some had been outside Sterling’s 20-foot walls and razor fences.

The show, produced by the University of Denver’s Prison Arts Initiative, is part of a recent expansion of arts programs inside prisons and jails that dovetails with the movement to rethink a corrections system that now holds 2.2 million people in the United States.

Michael J. Clifton, left and Felicion Alexander Charles in character as Aides Williams and Warren. Photo- Trent D. Bailey

Wendy Jason, the managing director of the Justice Arts Coalition, has counted nearly 350 arts programs behind bars nationwide, double the number that existed eight years ago…’People are looking for new ways to engage the system and to transform it from the inside out,’ Ms. Jason said. ‘Is it possible? That’s one of the questions that keeps me up at night.’

Advocates for prison arts — who now include many current and former inmates — say that learning to paint or performing a monologue can imbue humanity and purpose into the bleakness of life behind bars.

Some studies have suggested that prison arts may reduce disciplinary actions inside prison, though it is unclear whether they and other rehabilitation programs reduce recidivism… As the Sterling men’s prison bus, lined with wire cages, plugged across the plains on the way to shows…some men stared at new condos, new highways, new hospitals, new suburbs that had transformed the cityscape of Denver since they had been locked up. ‘You see the cities and the lights,’ said Terry Mosley Jr., 39, who has been incarcerated since he was 18 for killing an 18-year-old in a fight outside a grocery store. ‘You don’t get to see those horizon lines. It’s just walls around you.’

Brett Phillips in character as Randle McMurphy, the role Jack Nicholson made famous in the film version of Cuckoo’s Nest. Photo- Trent D. Bailey

As the men put together the set, each screw and bolt used to build it — the common room of a mental institution — had to be cataloged and tracked…’To build something like this in prison — you have no idea of what it means,’ said Vern Moter, 51, who is serving 24 years for fraud and was part of the stage crew…Before the show in Denver, while the men paced the stage to get into character and checked out the acoustics, their run-throughs were interrupted by corrections officers doing their regular head count of prisoners…For Dean Williams, the executive director of the Department of Corrections, bringing artists and audience members into prison was part of a strategy to make life inside prison as similar as possible to life outside.

It is called normalization, an idea inspired by Scandinavian countries where inmates cook their own food, interact with people from the outside and have a less adversarial relationship with corrections officers.

Douglas L. Micco as Chief Bromden. Credit Trent D. Bailey for The New York Times

There’s a few of us leading these systems who realize that something’s wrong,’ Mr. Williams said. ‘We’ve made prison a place of starkness, idleness, a place without purpose. Then we’re confused where people get out and they don’t make it. I think that is on us.’

As the cast and crew prepared for Cuckoo’s Nest, a few said that corrections officers asked the men why anyone convicted of violent crimes should have a spotlight and applause…Several of the inmates said the play allowed them to feel human again.

‘This whole thing is some weird dream,’ said Christopher Shetskie, who is serving a life sentence without parole for murdering two women in 1995 and 1996, according to newspaper accounts at the time. He played a doctor in the play.

Amy Mund, [Shetskie killed her sister] did not believe he should have the privilege of performing with the troupe.

‘He brutally murdered two young vibrant ladies in the prime of their lives,’ Ms. Mund said in an email. ‘I question why he is allowed to participate in plays and travel outside the confines of the prison. As a victim of a violent crime, that does not sound like justice to me.’

Mr. Shetskie said he knew he could not undo his crimes.”

 

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.  Can you describe some of the expressions on the faces of the people?

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 Sterling Correctional Facility is located out on Colorado’s remote eastern plains.
  2. The challenge of this show was audaciously new.
  3. For the first time a prison show went on tour.
  4. For the prison staff transporting 30 prisoners was daunting.
  5. For the cast and crew there were rehearsals, character studies and improv games.
  6. Going beyond the prison walls was transformative and surreal  for the prisoners.
  7. Advocates for prison arts include many current and former inmates.
  8. Advocates say that learning to paint or performing a monologue can imbue humanity and purpose into life behind bars.
  9. Some studies have suggested that prison arts may encourage rehabilitation.
  10. Some inmates have been incarcerated since they were 18.

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.

As the Sterling men’s/mens prison bus, line/lined with wire cages/cage, plugged across the/an plains on the way to shows, some man/men got carsick from the unfamiliar speed/sped of the road. They stared at/on new condos, new highways, knew/new hospitals, new suburbs that had transformed the cityscape of Denver since they had been locked/lock up.

Reading Comprehension

True /False/NA-Statements

Directions: Review the following statements from the reading.  If  a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is  not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they  mark  it F and provide the correct answer. 

  1. The cast was never strip-searched before boarding the bus to their show.
  2. The leading man performed with abrasions on his wrists.
  3. After the show prisoners changed into their street clothes.
  4. The play performed by the prisoners was West Side Story.
  5. The film version of the play starred Jack Nicholson.
  6. It tells the story of  how gang members live in New York City.
  7. The name of the prison is the Sterling Correctional Facility.
  8. The prison is located in Utah.
  9. Wendy Jason is the managing director of the Justice Arts Coalition.
  10. California spends $8 million each year on creative-writing workshops.

 

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use theWH-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. Has someone you know served time in prison? What was their experience?
  2. In your opinion, should anyone convicted of violent crimes have the opportunity to participate in artistic programs while incarcerated?
  3. Is the purpose of prisons to punish people for the crimes they’ve committed or to rehabilitate them?
  4. According to Dean Williams, the executive director of Colorado’s Department of Corrections his goal is to “normalize the prisons by making  life inside prison as similar as possible to life outside.” Do you agree with his idea?
  5. The article provides reasons why some officials and families of victims opposed the play production. One such person, Amy Mund, whose sister was killed by one of the performers in the play stated He brutally murdered two young vibrant ladies in the prime of their lives. I question why he is allowed to participate in plays and travel outside the confines of the prison. As a victim of a violent crime, that does not sound like justice to me.” Do you agree or disagree with her?  Please provide reasons for your answers.
  6. For students from different countries, describe the prison systems in your country. Are prisoners allowed to participate in art programs?

Main Idea / Debate

Directions: Divide students into  two teams for this debate. Both teams can use information from the article and sources from the Web   to support their arguments.

Team A will list five reasons that support arguments for  a theater or arts program in prison.

Team B will list  five reasons that support arguments against a theater or arts program in prison.

Each team will have time to state their points of view,  and the teacher decides which team made their points.  

For organization, have students use this great Pros and Cons Scale organizer  from Freeology

Pros and Cons Chart

 

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

“Dynamic Duos: Why Science Loves Twins”

“One of the broadest studies of twins in the United States suggests that our genes tend to influence the diseases that afflict us more than where we live, according to research published Monday in the journal Nature Genetics.” M. Nedelman, CNN

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Astronaut twins Mark (l) and twin Scott Kelly (r)-were subjects of experiments. NASA

Excerpt: Why science loves twins, M.Nedelman, CNN

“Using insurance claims data, researchers identified more than 56,000 pairs of twins and estimated the heritability of 560 diseases, finding that nearly a third of the variation in these conditions could be attributed to genetics, on average. Where people grew up was less contributory on the whole…’The relationship between genetics and environment in disease is incredibly nuanced,’ said study author Chirag Patel, assistant professor of biomedical informatics at Harvard Medical School.

Scott Kelly (left) spent a year in space while his identical twin Mark (right) stayed on Earth as a control subject. Photo- NASA

Of the diseases the researchers looked at, 40% had a significant genetic component, and about 25% had an environmental one — though the strength of that relationship could be different for any given disease. For example, morbid obesity was found to be strongly influenced by genetics and the environment, Patel said.

‘You get people who are very deterministic, who say ‘it’s genes’ or ‘it’s environment.’ This shows it’s a mixture,’ said Jeffrey M. Craig, associate professor at the Deakin University School of Medicine and deputy director of Twins Research Australia. Craig was not involved in the new study.

Twin Plus Festival-Melbourne.weekendnotes.comjpeg.

As twin registries merge and incorporate big data, as in the new study, experts like Craig look forward to new stages of twins enriching science. ‘That’s one of the ways twin research is growing,’ he said.

About 33 in every 1,000 human births in the United States are twins, a rate that has climbed in recent decades as more women marry later and take fertility drugs or employ in vitro fertilization, factors that are known to increase the likelihood of multiple births. Identical twins are an even more exclusive club: roughly four in every 1,000 births. They are formed when a single fertilized egg splits in two, creating two embryos with the same DNA.

McClure Twins.

In more recent years, however, twins have revealed a genetic component to a number of outcomes such as epilepsy, religiosity, autism and mental health, according to experts. NASA even conducted its own twin study on how astronaut Scott Kelly’s gene expression changed after a year on the International Space Station, relative to that of his identical twin, Mark, who remained on Earth. Twins have also suggested that something outside the genetic code can explain why one identical twin might develop Type 1 diabetes or Parkinson’s disease and the other doesn’t.

Annual gathering in Twinsburg, Ohio. mirror.co.uk

One festival for twins has also become one big Petri dish for scientists: Twins Days, an annual event that brings thousands of twins to northeastern Ohio.

Year after year, a cluster of research tents invites twins to contribute to a potpourri of science. In past years, Procter & Gamble, the maker of Olay, has studied twins to better understand the aging process and its effect on skin.

The Los Angeles Police Department has looked at slight differences between twins’ fingerprints to improve its identification tools. Biometric researchers have photographed and recorded twins speaking in order to create better facial and voice recognition systems. The FBI has funded similar research there, as well.

Traditionally, researchers have studied identical twins versus fraternal controls. These sibling pairs share the same upbringing and environment, but identical twins share all their DNA and fraternal twins onlyabout half…There’s even research by twins, for twins — looking at their ‘special bond’ in order to best counsel them in therapy, Craig said.

Ayumichi twins.

But even though twin research long predates the discovery of the double helix, advancements in genetics have not replaced twins, who continue to unravel our most elusive traits.”

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 Activity: 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. The relationship between genetics and environment in disease is incredibly nuanced.
  2. Research found that nearly a third of certain conditions could be attributed to genetics.
  3. Obesity was found to be strongly influenced by genetics and the environment.
  4. More women marry later and take fertility drugs.
  5. Some women employ in vitro fertilization
  6. Identical twins are  a very exclusive class.
  7. Twins have also suggested that there is something outside the genetic code to explain various diseases.
  8. Biometric researchers have photographed and recorded twins speaking.
  9. One festival for twins has also become one big Petri dish for scientists.
  10. Traditionally, researchers have studied identical twins versus fraternal twins.

Word Map by Against the Oddstiff

 

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.

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

Environment was less contributory ___the whole.

One ___the broadest studies___twins___ the United States takes place ___Ohio.

Roughly 33 ___every 1,000 human births___ the United States are twins.

Decades ago, there was very little acknowledgment___genetic influences ___children’s mental health.

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.

Our ___is whether some ___are ___and, if so, to what? Our ___is whether this is a ___determined trait. We like to ___genetically___twins to___that are no more ___than ordinary siblings.

WORD LIST:  similar,   twins,  compare, identical, taste-blind, question, genetically, people, interest,

Discussion 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, There’s also value in looking at children of twins and at twins raised apart…which could shed light on whether certain behaviors or disorders are likely to be passed down through parents’ genes versus their home environments.”  Provide examples that supports this statement.
  2. Are you a twin? If so describe how you and your twin behave differently (or the same) as other siblings.
  3. Would you like to be a twin? Explain why or why not.

 

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