How The New York Times Chooses The Best Photos of 2019

“A painstaking selection process ensures that The Times’s annual visual review highlights the biggest news events and strongest images.” L. Takenaga, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Lesson Plan

Excerpt: From 500,000 Photos to 116: How Our Editors Distill the Year in Pictures, Lara Takenaga, The New York Times

“Umbrella-wielding protesters engulfed in tear gas in Hong Kong. A severely malnourished baby girl sprawled on a floor in Venezuela. The first-ever image of a black hole.

These are some of the pictures in the seemingly boundless photographic universe that Times editors scrolled through to define the year visually.

At The Times, the Year in Pictures is the result of weeks of near round-the-clock culling and editing.

And 2019 marks the most ambitious year yet for the project, led by David Furst, the International photo editor, and Jeffrey Henson Scales, the Op-Ed photo editor.

For the first time since 2008, the project will have its own special section in the paper, on Dec. 15, featuring an introduction by Dean Baquet, The Times’s executive editor. At 36 pages, it has almost twice the print real estate that it did last year, when it ran as part of the Sunday Review.

Beyond expanding the project’s scale, Mr. Furst wanted to ‘bring the photographers out from behind their bylines’ this year. To that end, Dionne Searcey, a political reporter who recently returned to New York after being The Times’s West Africa bureau chief, interviewed about 50 of the photographers.

Their quotes and anecdotes — about covering an Ebola outbreak, being in the center of violent protests, working in arctic temperatures — help explain what goes into their thinking before they press the shutter button… To be as comprehensive as possible, Mr. Furst reached out to every desk in the newsroom and The New York Times Magazine, as well as to photo agencies and wire services, for their best material.

He and Mr. Henson Scales also kept a spreadsheet of hundreds of individual photographers, painstakingly reviewing their published and unpublished work from The Times and other assignments, and came up with a list of the most important news events to include.

Doug Mills, a Times photographer who covers the White House, has shot more than 12,000 pictures since January alone, making the task of narrowing those down to 100 initially, and later to just two, a herculean challenge…All told, the editors went through over 500,000 photos… They pared down the photos and organized them in folders by month. Hundreds of images for each month were narrowed down to dozens and, eventually, to about 10.

The final phase of cutting was grueling. Mr. Furst and Mr. Henson Scales scrutinized photos side by side as they went through each month and then looked at the year as a whole.

Getting just the right mix of images was the most challenging part. The editors considered a number of factors, such as the impact of a photo or its ability to delight, and the variety of images in each month.

A beautiful, poignant picture could edge out a more newsworthy one, and vice versa… The designers avoided jarring juxtapositions, finding ways to balance moments of tragedy and levity.

Portraits, landscapes and aerial shots sit comfortably alongside hard news photos.

One photographer who came up repeatedly in discussions of the digital and print presentations was Lam Yik Fei, a photojournalist who has covered the protests in Hong Kong for The Times.

While most of the featured photographers are seasoned professionals, there are some fresher faces, too.

The month of June includes an image from the Pride Parade in New York by Brittainy Newman, a photography fellow at The Times who shot the event for her first big project.

When she found out she would be among this year’s photographers, ‘I almost cried,’ she said. ‘It’s really a dream come true.”

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: 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. Umbrella-wielding protesters were engulfed in tear gas.
  2. The Times editors scrolled through to define the year visually.
  3. There was round-the-clock culling and editing.
  4. Mr. Furst wanted to bring the photographers out from behind their bylines this year
  5. The writers had many quotes and anecdotes
  6. The final phase of cutting was grueling.
  7. Mr. Furst and Mr. Henson Scales scrutinized photos.
  8. A beautiful, poignant picture could edge out a more newsworthy one, and vice versa.
  9. The designers avoided jarring juxtapositions.
  10. Portraits, landscapes and aerial shots sit comfortably alongside hard news photos.

 

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,

Additional Prepositions

Umbrella-wielding protesters engulfed ___tear gas ___Hong Kong. A severely malnourished baby girl sprawled ___a floor ___Venezuela. The first-ever image___a black hole.

___the first time ___2008, the project will have its own special section ___the paper, ___Dec. 15. One photographer who came

___repeatedly___discussions ___ the digital and print presentations was Lam Yik Fei,a photojournalist who has covered the protests___Hong Kong___The Times.

Getting just the right mix___ images was the most challenging part. The editors considered a number ___factors, such as the impact___ a photo or its ability ___delight, and the variety___ images each month.

 

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. The first group to correctly  identify all of the speakers wins.

“They put you in the photographer’s spot.”

“When you feel like you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, you’re reminded that you missed a dozen different news events or these 20 photographers or these 15 projects in the newsroom.”

“We are always interested in finding images that really represent a particular photographer’s unique way of seeing something.”

“One of the big balances is news value versus craftsmanship and beauty,”said. “We’re always having to juggle those kinds of elements.”

“It’s like a Rubik’s cube.”

III Post Reading

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

  1. Describe the process of choosing the final photos.
  2. According to the article what is the most challenging part of choosing the final photos?
  3. Who found the initial stage of the photo finding process daunting?
  4. Which photographer came up repeatedly in discussions? Why?

 

Questions for Reflection

  1. Would you want to work as a photographer? Why?
  2. What type of photos would interest you? Why?
  3. What new ideas did you learn from reading this article?
  4. To See All of The Photos and Titles: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/world/year-in-pictures.html

 

Photo  Group Activity

Directions: Place students in groups and have them view all of the photos.  Each group chooses 3 or 4 photos and  writes a paragraph explaining what they think the photos mean.

Questions for the Authors

Directions: Place students in groups Have each group list 3  questions they would like to ask any person mentioned in the article. Groups share questions as a class.

ANSWER KEY

New Year’s Celebrations!

“Celebrating the start of the New Year has been practiced for at least four thousand years. The following article reviews the history,  significance, and common traditions of this festive, and meaningful holiday.” History.com

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

The earliest recorded festivities in honor of a new year’s arrival date back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon.

Excerpt: The History of New Year’s Celebration–History.com

“Civilizations around the world have been celebrating the start of each new year for at least four millennia. Today, most New Year’s festivities begin on December 31 (New Year’s Eve), the last day of the Gregorian calendar, and continue into the early hours of January 1 (New Year’s Day).

The earliest recorded festivities in honor of a new year’s arrival date back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon. Throughout antiquity, civilizations around the world developed increasingly sophisticated calendars, typically pinning the first day of the year to an agricultural or astronomical event.

New Year Celebration, Tendillas Square, Spain

Revelers often enjoy meals and snacks thought to bestow good luck for the coming year. In Spain and several other Spanish-speaking countries, people bolt down a dozen grapes-symbolizing their hopes for the months ahead-right before midnight.

In many parts of the world, traditional New Year’s dishes feature legumes, which are thought to resemble coins and herald future financial success; examples include lentils in Italy and black-eyed peas in the United States. Because pigs represent progress and prosperity in some cultures, pork appears on the New Year’s Eve table in Cuba, Austria, Hungary, Portugal and other countries.

New Year Celebration, Vienna, Austria.

In Sweden, it is believed that whoever gets that one peeled almond hidden inside the rice pudding at Christmas will get married within a year. the scoop.

 

In Sweden and Norway, meanwhile, rice pudding with an almond hidden inside is served on New Year’s Eve; it is said that whoever finds the nut can expect 12 months of good fortune.

The London Eye on the River Thames during New Year fireworks and celebrations. The Telegraph.

Other customs that are common worldwide include watching fireworks and singing songs to welcome the new year, including the ever-popular “Auld Lang Syne” in many English-speaking countries. The practice of making resolutions for the new year is thought to have first caught on among the ancient Babylonians, who made promises in order to earn the favor of the gods and start the year off on the right foot. (They would reportedly vow to pay off debts and return borrowed farm equipment.)

Chinese New Year, Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong. Photo-NBC News

New Year Celebration New York City’s Times Square. Photo- C. Morris.

In the United States, the most iconic New Year’s tradition is the dropping of a giant ball in New York City‘s Times Square at the stroke of midnight…Over time, the ball itself has ballooned from a 400-pound iron-and-wood orb to a brightly patterned sphere 12 feet in diameter and weighing in at nearly 12,000 pounds.”

WISHING EVERYONE A SAFE AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate -Advanced

Language Skills: reading, writing, speaking,  vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: approximately 2 hours.

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

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article about New Year’s celebrations with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Task

Prediction: Analyze headings and photos.

Directions: Read the title of the post, and article.  Analyze the photo(s) to see if  you can predict what  information the article will discuss.  Then based on this information,  make a list of ideas,  words and phrases that might be in the article.

The K-W-L Chart

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

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

II. While Reading Activities

 

Vocabulary: 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. Civilizations around the world have been celebrating the start of each new year for at least four millennia.
  2. Today, most New Year’s festivities begin on December 31st.
  3. New Year’s Eve is the last day of the Gregorian calendar.
  4. Common traditions include attending parties, and eating special New Year’s foods.
  5. Other traditions include making resolutions for the new year and watching fireworks displays.
  6. The earliest recorded festivities date back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon.
  7. Throughout antiquity, civilizations around the world developed increasingly sophisticated calendars.
  8. The calendars would pin the first day of the year to an agricultural or astronomical event.
  9. In Egypt the year began with the annual flooding of the Nile, which coincided with the rising of the star Sirius.
  10. The first day of the Chinese new year, meanwhile, occurred with the second new moon after the winter solstice.

Vocabulary Organizer by Against the Odds

 

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. Civilizations around the world have been celebrating the start of each new year for at least five millennia.
  2. Common traditions include attending parties, eating special New Year’s foods, making resolutions for the new year and watching fireworks displays
  3. The earliest recorded festivities in honor of a new year’s arrival date back some 4,000 years to ancient Rome.
  4. The first day of the Chinese new year, meanwhile, occurred with the second new moon after the winter solstice.
  5. In medieval Europe, Christian leaders temporarily replaced January 1 as the first of the year with days carrying more religious significance, such as December 25 (the anniversary of Jesus’ birth).
  6. In many countries, New Year’s celebrations begin on the evening of December 3 and continue into the early hours of January 1.
  7. Revelers often eat specific foods that are believed to bring good crops for the coming year.
  8. Grapes in Spain, round fruits in the Philippines, suckling pig in Austria, soba noodles in Japan are all considered good-luck food.
  9. Other customs that are common in the U.S. include making resolutions.
  10. In the United States, the most iconic New Year’s tradition is the dropping of a giant ball in New York City‘s Times Square at the stroke of midnight.

III Grammar Focus

Identifying Parts of Speech: Nouns

Directions: Identify the nouns in the following paragraph, then use the words to write a short paragraph about \ New Year celebrations in the United States.

Civilizations around the world have been celebrating the start of each new year for at least four millennia. Today, most New Year’s festivities begin on December 31 (New Year’s Eve), the last day of the Gregorian calendar, and continue into the early hours of January 1 (New Year’s Day). Common traditions include attending parties, eating special New Year’s foods, making resolutions for the new year and watching fireworks displays.

III. Post Reading Tasks

Reading Comprehension Check

WH-How Questions format

Directions: 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?

K-W-L Chart

Directions:  Have students  fill in the last column of the KWL chart if they used one in the pre-reading segment of this lesson.

Discussion/Writing Exercise

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

  1. The article states, “ Civilizations around the world have been celebrating the start of each new year for at least four millennia. Today, most New Year’s festivities begin on December 31 (New Year’s Eve), the last day of the Gregorian calendar, and continue into the early hours of January 1 (New Year’s Day).  Common traditions include attending parties, eating special New Year’s foods, making resolutions for the new year and watching fireworks displays.”
  2. Provide a description of when and how the New Year is celebrated in your country. If you live in the U.S. then discuss how you celebrate the New Year.
  3. Discuss the types of foods you like to eat on New Year’s Day and the significance of the food.
  4. A big New Year  tradition in the U.S. is making resolutions. Discuss a few of your own resolutions and why you are making them.
  5. What new ideas have you learned from this article? Discuss them with group members and the class.

ANSWER KEY

NOTE: Happy New Year Banner Courtesy Vector Logo.

 

Category: History, Holidays, Social Issues | Tags:

The Gift of The Magi, By O. Henry

“The magi, as you know, were wise men – wonderfully wise men – who brought gifts to the new-born King in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones…. And here I have related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the Magi.” O. Henry.

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post  with Answer Key


O. Henry: Portrait by W. M. Vanderweyde, 1909- Credit-Wikipedia

William Sydney Porter (September 11, 1862 – June 5, 1910), better known by his pen name O. Henry, was an American short story writer.

O. Henry’s stories frequently have surprise endings. In his day he was called the American answer to Guy de Maupassant. While both authors wrote plot twist endings, O. Henry’s stories were considerably more playful, and are also known for their witty narration.

Most of O. Henry’s stories are set in his own time, the early 20th century. Many take place in New York City and deal for the most part with ordinary people: policemen, waitresses, etc…He had an obvious affection for the city, which he called ‘Bagdad-on-the-Subway’ and many of his stories are set there—while others are set in small towns or in other cities.

One of his most favorite stories is The Gift of the Magi . It is about a young couple, Jim and Della, who are short of money but desperately want to buy each other Christmas gifts. The essential premise of this story has been copied, re-worked, parodied, and otherwise re-told countless times in the century since it was written.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM ESL-VOICES!

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: This is a short version for this lesson plan. For the extended version visit HERE

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: Copy of story The Gift Of The Magi,  biography of O. Henry, 

Objective: Students will  read and discuss the short story The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry. Students will achieve a better understanding of the story.

I. Pre-Reading Exercises

 Stimulating Background Knowledge

Directions:  Ask students to read the title of the short story. Then, have them  examine the photo carefully. Based on these sources,  ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article.

II. While Reading Tasks

Vocabulary:  Word Inference

Directions: Place students in groups and have them infer the meanings of the words in bold font taken from the story.

  1. This is a  story about the meaning of true love and unselfishness.
  2. Della sat  down on the shabby little couch and howled.
  3. They lived in a furnished flat at $8 per week.
  4. In the vestibule below was a letter-box. 
  5. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated.
  6. Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass
  7. There were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride.
  8. Once she faltered for a minute.
  9. She was ransacking the stores for Jim’s present.
  10. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

 

Questions for Comprehension

Directions: After students have read the short story, have them answer the following questions from the story.

  1. During what holiday does the story take place?
  2. Identify the characters in the story.
  3. What are the two valuable possessions  belonging to Della and Jim?
  4. How much money did Della have at first to buy Jim’s gift?
  5. What did Della do to get additional money for his gift?
  6. What gift did Della buy for Jim?
  7. How did Jim get additional money to buy Della’s gift?
  8. What gift did Jim buy for Della?
  9. Did things work out the way Jim and Della planned? Explain why or why not.

 

III. Post-Reading Exercises

Questions for Reflection

Directions:  In groups have students discuss the following questions.

The Gift of the Magi is a story about a young married couple who are very poor. This story tells of  how they handle the challenge of  secretly buying Christmas gifts for each other with very little money to spend. The questions below ask you to think about gifts and their value.  Discuss your ideas with your class members.

1. In your opinion what makes a gift  valuable?

2. Describe the most valuable gift you have ever received.

3. What was the most valuable gift you have given someone?

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

Category: Holidays | Tags: ,

The Wonder of Global Christmas Festivities

“It’s that time of the year when people world-wide celebrate Christmas. The following article highlights six countries and their uniques versions of celebrating Christmas.” J. Margolies, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post  with Answer Key

Excerpt: Six Christmas Traditions From Around the World, By Jane Margolies, The New York Times

Christmas trees, Santa Claus and gingerbread lattes are all well and good. But with the homogenizing creep of Yuletide customs, travelers might well worry they’ll go to the trouble of getting somewhere new over the holidays only to find it’s just like everywhere else. Not the six places here. Each has its own way of celebrating Christmas, and with the festivities unfolding in plazas, parks and other public places, travelers are free to join right in.”

Castleton, England

Directions near Castleton in the Peak District in Derbyshire, England, where Christmas singing resounds in local caves. Credit- Jamie Duff

This pretty English village in Derbyshire’s Peak District is known for its walking paths and, high on a hill, the picturesque ruins of a Norman castle. It’s also home to four spectacular caverns bristling with stalagmites and stalactites. On weekends leading up to Christmas two of the caves offer caroling sing-alongs.

Jerusalem

The Basilica of the Nativity, on the place where Christ was born, in Bethlehem.Credit- Nasser Shiyoukhi

In most parts of Israel, where Christians make up about 2 percent of the population, it’s business as usual on Dec. 24 and 25. But in this city where Jesus lived and died, Christmas is joyously celebrated in the Christian quarter of the Old City. Churches decorated with trees conduct nonstop services in many languages (see cicts.org for listings of services), with Jews and Muslims often sitting in.Marching bands and bagpipers led by Arabian horses weave through the narrow streets to Manger Square, the plaza outside the Basilica of the Nativity, which stands on the grotto where Jesus was born.

Oaxaca, Mexico

Sculptures made of radishes are shown at Noche de Rábanos (Night of the Radishes) in Oaxaca, Mexico. Credit:Judith Haden: DaniaDelimont.com

Posadas — door-to-door processions that re-enact Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter — and a parade with candlelit paper lanterns fill the streets of this city in southwestern Mexico… But the most awe-inspiring custom is the century-old competition known as the Noche de Rábanos (Night of the Radishes) on the evening of Dec. 23. In the zócalo, the city’s central square, under a canopy of lights, farmers display elaborate sculptures — nativity scenes, robed kings, musicians — all carved out of the giant radishes grown locally.

Quebec City

Père and Mère Noël stroll the streets of Quebec City. Credit- Christinne Muschi for The New York Times

You would think temperatures in the teens and wind whipping off the St. Lawrence River would drive everyone indoors. But the 403-year-old capital of Quebec province revels in the outdoors at Christmastime, when stone buildings sparkle with lights. Fortify yourself with maple sugar pie from the Ferme Line & Steve Morency stand at Le Marché de Noel in the farmers’ market in the Old Port area.

Rome

Christmas lights decorate the Piazza di Spagna in Rome. Credit Alseeandro Bianchi:Reuters

Although the larger-than-life nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square is under wraps until Dec. 24, when this year’s still-top-secret version will be unveiled just in time for the Pope’s midnight Mass, you can feast your eyes on the remarkably detailed 18th-century Neapolitan carved-wood crib… Piazza del Popolo, to see crib elements made of everything from coral to chocolate. Or just duck into any church or cathedral you happen by.

Taos, N.M.

Farolitos, paper bags with votive candles inside, illuminate Taos, N.M. Credit- Walter Bibikov:DaniaDelimont.com

Bonfires blaze nightly in the plazas, bringing a block-party vibe to this New Mexico town. Farolitos (brown paper bags lighted with votive candles) line streets, snaking past galleries and art studios… When the Spanish came here in the 17th century, they brought their culture, and today celebrations blend Catholic and Native American traditions.”

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, to find out what they already know about Christmas celebrations in different countries.  Next, have students look at the pictures in the article to generate ideas or words about the topic.  Discuss as a class and list these ideas on the board.

Colorful Brainstorming chart from Live It Magazine.

II While Reading Tasks

Word Inference

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

  1. This pretty English village in Derbyshire’s Peak District is known for the picturesque ruins of a Norman castle.
  2. At Peak Cavern’s evening songfests participants sit inside the cave — which has great acoustics — to belt out “We Three Kings” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
  3. From Jerusalem, many people make the pilgrimage six miles south to Bethlehem.
  4. The plaza outside the Basilica of the Nativity, which stands on the grotto where Jesus was born.
  5. Posadas are door-to-door processions that re-enact Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter.
  6. Tthe most awe-inspiring custom is the century-old competition known as the Noche de Rábanos.
  7. The 403-year-old capital of Quebec province revels in the outdoors at Christmastime.
  8. Just visit into any church or cathedral you happen by.
  9. In Italy there are burlap-and-straw depictions of the Italian witch called La Befana.
  10. Bonfires blaze nightly in the plazas, bringing a block-party vibe to this New Mexico town.

Reading Comprehension

True / False

Directions:  The following statements were taken from the article.  If  a statement is true, write (T) if  a statement is false  write (F). 

  1. Each country mentioned in the article has similar ways of celebrating Christmas.
  2. The English village in Derbyshire’s Peak District is known for its walking paths.
  3. On weekends leading up to Christmas in Derbyshire’s Peak  people can sing in the caves.
  4. From Bethlehem  many people make the pilgrimage six miles south to Jerusalem, to celebrate.
  5. In Oaxaca, Mexico, the most awe-inspiring custom is the century-old competition known as El  Día de los Muertos on the evening of Dec. 23.
  6. Creations such as Nativity scenes, robed kings, musicians, are all carved out of the giant radishes grown locally.
  7. In Quebec City the 403-year-old capital of Quebec province revels in the outdoors at Christmastime.
  8. In Rome the larger-than-life nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square is kept under wraps until Dec. 24.
  9. La Befana, is an Italian santa  said to fly around on a broomstick.
  10. In Taos, N.M. celebrations blend Catholic and Native American traditions.

Grammar Focus

Using Adjectives  to describe pictures    

Directions: Have students choose a picture from this lesson and write a descriptive paragraph using adjectives.

For a review of Adjectives visit ESL Voices Grammar

III Post Reading Tasks

Reading Comprehension Check

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/Writing Questions

Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. After, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can choose to write an essay on one of the discussion topics.

  1. Describe how Christmas is celebrated in your country.
  2. Which celebration described in this article is your favorite? Explain why.
  3. Can you see any similarities between the six celebrations?
  4. What new information have you learned from this article? Share it with your group and then as a class.

 

Group Project

Directions: Have students go to this site Santa’s Net  which has a large collection of traditions  from different countries.  Have each group choose a country that celebrates Christmas differently from the ones mentioned here, and describe that  country’s celebration.

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

How Christmas Came to the Santa Maria Flats By Elia W. Peattie

“Peattie’s Christmas story will be appreciated by both children and adults. The Lease includes restrictive rules: no running, jumping, and nothing else that might satisfy children’s natural liberties. But it also includes a ‘clause’ about no peddlers or agents entering the building. Is Santa allowed to make deliveries to the children or not?”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

There were twenty-six flat children, and none of them had ever been flat children until that year. Previously they had all been home children. and as such had, of course, had beautiful Christmases, in which their relations with Santa Claus had been of the most intimate and personal nature.

Now, owing to their residence in the Santa Maria flats, and the Lease, all was changed… Though, to be sure—as every one of the flat children knew—they were in the greatest kind of luck to be allowed to live at all, and especially were they fortunate past the lot of children to be permitted to live in a flat… The twenty-six children of the Santa Maria flats belonged to twenty families.

All of these twenty families were peculiar, as you might learn any day by interviewing the families concerning one another. But they bore with each other’s peculiarities quite cheerfully and spoke in the hall when they met. Sometimes this tolerance would even extend to conversation about the janitor, a thin creature who did the work of five men. The ladies complained that he never smiled…’if only the janitor would smile. But he looks like a cemetery.’

Santa Maria Flats

Only Kara Johnson never said anything on the subject because she knew why Carlsen didn’t smile, and was sorry for it, and would have made it all right—if it hadn’t been for Lars Larsen.

Dear, dear, but this is a digression from the subject of the Lease. It was in the Lease not to run—not to jump—not to yell. It was in the Lease not to sing in the halls, not to call from story to story, not to slide down the banisters…It was in the Lease, too, that no peddler or agent, or suspicious stranger was to enter the Santa Maria, neither by the front door nor the back…It was this that worried the children.For how could such a dear, disorderly, democratic rascal as the children’s saint ever hope to gain a pass to that exclusive entrance and get up to the rooms of the flat children?

“You can see for yourself,” said Ernest, who lived on the first floor, to Roderick who lived on the fourth, ‘that if Santa Claus can’t get up the front stairs, and can’t get up the back stairs, that all he can do is to come down the chimney. And he can’t come down the chimney—at least, he can’t get out of the fireplace.’

Roderick could see for himself. There was an inch-wide opening down which the Friend of the Children could squeeze himself, and, as everybody knows, he needs a good deal of room now, for he has grown portly with age, and his pack every year becomes bigger, owing to the ever-increasing number of girls and boys he has to supply…Nevertheless, hope springs eternal, and the boys each and individually asked their fathers—tremendously wise and good men—if they thought there was any hope that Santa Claus would get into the Santa Maria flats, and each of the fathers looked up from his paper and said he’d be blessed if he did! Nobody could laugh because a boy was found crying!

The girls cried too—for the awful news was whistled up tubes and whistled down tubes, till all the twenty-six flat children knew about it. The next day it was talked over in the brick court, where the children used to go to shout and race. But on this day there was neither shouting nor racing. There was, instead, a shaking of heads, a surreptitious dropping of tears, a guessing and protesting and lamenting.

All the flat mothers congratulated themselves on the fact that their children were becoming so quiet and orderly… It was decided, after a solemn talk, that every child should go to its own fireplace and investigate. In the event of any fireplace being found with an opening big enough to admit Santa Claus, a note could be left directing him along the halls to the other apartments.

A spirit of universal brotherhood had taken possession of the Santa Maria flatters. Misery bound them together. But the investigation proved to be disheartening. The cruel asbestos grates were everywhere. Hope lay strangled! … No one suspected the truth, though the children were often heard to say that it was evident that there was to be no Christmas for them! The day before Christmas was gray and dismal. There was no wind—indeed, there was a sort of tightness in the air, as if the supply of freshness had given out… There appeared to be no stir—no mystery. No whisperings went on in the corners—or at least, so it seemed to the sad babies of the Santa Maria…

Even the janitor noticed it. He spoke about it to Kara at the head of the back stairs, and she held her hand so as to let him see the new silver ring on her fourth finger, and he let go of the rope on the elevator on which he was standing and dropped to the bottom of the shaft, so that Kara sent up a wild hallo of alarm.

But the janitor emerged as melancholy and unruffled as ever, only looking at his watch to see if it had been stopped by the concussion… It seemed to the flat children that they had been asleep but a few moments when there came a terrible burst of wind that shook even that great house to its foundations. Actually, as they sat up in bed and called to their parents or their nurses, their voices seemed smothered with roar.

Sounds of falling glass, of breaking shutters, of crashing chimneys greeted their ears—not that they knew what all these sounds meant. They only knew that it seemed as if the end of the world had come.  After a terrible time the wind settled down into a steady howl like a hungry wolf, and the children went to sleep, worn out with fright and conscious that the bedclothes could not keep out the cold.

Dawn came. The children awoke, shivering. They sat up in bed and looked about them—yes, they did, the whole twenty-six of them in their different apartments and their different homes. And what do you suppose they saw—what do you suppose the twenty-six flat children saw as they looked about them?

Why, stockings, stuffed full, and trees hung full, and boxes packed full! Yes, they did! It was Christmas morning, and the bells were ringing, and all the little flat children were laughing, for Santa Claus had come!

He had really come! In the wind and wild weather, while the tongues of the wind licked hungrily at the roof, while the wind howled like a hungry wolf, he had crept in somehow and laughing, no doubt, and chuckling, without question, he had filled the stockings and the trees and the boxes!

Dear me, dear me, but it was a happy time! It makes me out of breath to think what a happy time it was, and how surprised the flat children were, and how they wondered how it could ever have happened.

But they found out, of course! It happened in the simplest way! Every skylight in the place was blown off and away, and that was how the wind howled so, and how the bedclothes would not keep the children warm, and how Santa Claus got in…And of course all the parents thought and said that Santa Claus must have jumped down the skylights.

By noon there were other skylights put in, and not a sign left of the way he made his entrance—not that the way mattered a bit, no, not a bit…In closing it is only proper to mention that Kara Johnson crocheted a white silk four-in-hand necktie for Carl Carlsen, the janitor—and the janitor smiled!

Read full Story here

Author Elia W. Peattie (January 15, 1862 – July 12, 1935) was an American author, journalist and critic. Wikipedia

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

Directions:  Have students examine the photos, then create a list of  words and  ideas that group members think might be related to this article. Next, answer the following questions:

  1. Look at the picture what would you call this building?
  2. Have you ever lived in flat?  An apartment? A house?
  3. Which did you like better?
  4. If you are from another country what are the names of buildings where people live?
  5. Have you ever wished for a gift  but thought that you would  not receive ti?
  6. In the U.S. small children believe in Santa Clause. Do children in your country believe in Santa?

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 were twenty-six flats in the building.
  2. The Lease was a strange  one.
  3. The Lease was a strange forbiddance, a ukase issued by a tyrant
  4. The children were lucky to be permitted to live in a flat.
  5. All of these twenty families were peculiar.
  6. The ladies would often gossip in the vestibule.
  7. “If only the janitor would smile.
  8. This is a digression from the subject of the Lease.
  9. But the janitor emerged as melancholy.
  10. They said that Santa Claus must have jumped down the skylights.

 

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. There was twenty-six flat children.
  2. They had the greatest kind of luck.
  3. There were many flats in the great city.

II

  1. Cecil were evicted, along with his parents.
  2. He looks like a cemetery.
  3. People wanted a cheerful janitor.

 

III

  1. It was over the Lease not to run and not to jump.
  2. The boys and the girls cried at learning the news.
  3. All the flat mothers congratulated themselves.

 

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.

‘You can see for yourself!’ said Ernest ___.Roderick could___for himself. There was an inch-wide opening down which the Friend of the Children could ___himself, and, as___ knows, he needs a good deal of room now, for he has grown___with age, and his___every year becomes bigger, owing to the ever-increasing ___of girls and boys he has to supply.

WORD LIST: number, portly,  squeeze, pack, tragically, see,  everybody,

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. Why were the children called ‘Flat’ children?
  2. What was it about the janitor the families didn’t like?
  3. The story states, Only Kara Johnson never said anything on the subject because she knew why Carlsen didn’t smile, and was sorry for it, and would have made it all right—if it hadn’t been for Lars Larsen.” Can you guess what happened with Kara, Lars and Carlsen?
  4. Why did the children think there would be no Christmas that year at the Flats?
  5. Who is the “Friend of the Children” ?
  6. What was the plan the children thought of?
  7. How did the children’s  plan turn out?
  8. In the end, how did Santa get into the flats?
  9. Why do you think the  janitor finally  smiled at the end of the story?
  10. After reading this story name at least one new thing  that you’ve learned. Discuss what you’ve learned with your group members and share as a 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