The Joy and Pain of Being Bilingual

“The bittersweet discovery that language, and the stories it carries, is not a straight path.” N. Sylvester, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Excerpt: The Beauty of Being Bilingual, Natalia Sylvester, The New York Times

“My parents refused to let my sister and me forget how to speak Spanish by pretending they didn’t understand when we spoke English. Spanish was the only language we were allowed to speak in our one-bedroom apartment in Miami in the late 1980s.

We both graduated from English as a second language lessons in record time as kindergartners and first graders, and we longed to play and talk and live in English as if it were a shiny new toy…I’m most thankful that I can speak Spanish because it has allowed me to help others.

There was the young mother who wanted to know whether she could leave a cumbersome diaper bin aside at the register at Goodwill while she shopped. The cashier shook her head dismissively and said she didn’t understand. It wasn’t difficult to read the woman’s gestures — she was struggling to push her baby’s carriage while lugging the large box around the store. Even after I told the cashier what the woman was saying, her irritation was palpable. The air of judgment is one I’ve come to recognize: How dare this woman not speak English…”I don’t understand,’ she kept saying, though the mother’s gestures transcended language.

I choose not to understand is what she really meant…If you go back one generation, you’ll hear stories of people like my in-laws, whose teachers in Florida beat them for speaking in school the language they spoke at home.

Go back yet another generation and you’ll hear of the state-sanctioned racial terror inflicted on residents of Mexican descent in Texas in the late 1800s and early 1900s…Those whose parents tried to shield them from discrimination by not passing it on are often expected to be fluent in a language they never had the chance to forget.

Those of us who managed to hold on to it, despite the pressures to assimilate, know that our imperfect Spanish is a privilege we are often shamed for both inside and outside of our communities. And those of us who speak only Spanish are too often dismissed and worse, targeted — by women pushing shopping carts, by ICE raids, by gunmen with anti-immigrant manifestoes.

Their terror makes victims of us all…How do you translate fear to those you cannot trust? At a Costco Tire Center in Texas this week, a woman asked the man who had just helped me whether he spoke Spanish. He answered no, flatly… I volunteered to interpret. I found myself interpreting her words verbatim, forgetting to switch from the first person to the third…In her face I saw my friends, my mother, my grandmother and me, each of us with different degrees of Spanish and English, all rooted in a desire to feel accepted and understood.”

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:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they 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. Those of us who grew up bilingual understand the complexities of embracing either language.
  2. My parents pretended that they didn’t understand  English.
  3. My mother feigned confusion anytime we slipped into English.
  4. I would let out exasperated sighs.
  5. She interrupted us to correct our grammar in Spanish.
  6. One day you’ll thank me, my mother retorted.
  7. The cashier shook her head dismissively and said she didn’t understand
  8. I found myself interpreting her words verbatim.
  9. The Latina woman was struggling and needed someone to interpret for her.
  10. “I don’t understand,” she kept saying, though the mother’s gestures transcended language.

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,

My parents refused___let my sister and me forget how___speak Spanish.

Spanish was the only language we were allowed ___ speak____our one-bedroom apartment ___Miami ___the late 1980s.

___kindergartners and first graders we longed ___play and talk and live___ English.

We would let out exasperated sighs ___having ___repeat ourselves ___Spanish.

 

Reading ComprehensionFill-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.

Those of us who’ve served as ___in everyday life know it’s a ___privilege.

You find ___in the in-between spaces of ___ but never the right ___to ___ them.

You hear the___of someone being ___in your voice, and the sound of someone being unseen in the ___.

WORD LIST:  silence, language,  express,  heard, sound ,  interpreters,  bittersweet, words, truths,

 

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. Are you bilingual? If yes what languages do you speak?
  2. In your experience, is being bilingual a good thing or not?
  3. the author begins by stating, My parents refused to let my sister and me forget how to speak Spanish by pretending they didn’t understand when we spoke English. Spanish was the only language we were allowed to speak in our one-bedroom apartment in Miami in the late 1980s.”  Why did her parents forbid them to speak English at home? Did your parents do the same or did you grow up speaking both English and your native language?
  4. In her encounter with a cashier, the author states, “The air of judgment is one I’ve come to recognize: How dare this woman not speak English, how dare this other woman speak both English and Spanish.” Have you ever encountered people who were jealous of the fact that you are bilingual?
  5. Do you help others with English translation? Describe a situation when someone was grateful that you were there to help them.
  6. In general, do you feel that people here in the U.S  treat you differently because you’re bilingual?
  7. Should people who come to live in the U.S. learn English? Why?

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

Category: Education, Social Issues | Tags:

Sesame Street Muppet Sparks Controversy Among Autism Groups

“An autistic ‘Sesame Street’ muppet  is caught in a conflict between the most prominent autism organization in the United States advocating for early intervention, and autistic adults who see the condition as a difference, not a disease needing to be cured.” L. Bever, The Washington Post

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Excerpt: How a ‘Sesame Street’ Muppet became embroiled in a controversy over autism, By Lindsey Bever, Washington Post

“Since 2017, a Muppet named Julia has given children on the spectrum a role model and helped parents and peers understand the condition. The red-haired, green-eyed 4-year-old flaps her hands when she gets excited, cries when loud noises overwhelm her and communicates in her own way and her own time, sometimes using a communication device. Autistic self-advocates, who were consulted in her creation, have applauded how she is not only depicted but also accepted by other human and Muppet characters on the show.

Julia (center) first appeared online and in printed materials…From left, Elmo, Alan Muraoka, Julia, Abby Cadabby and Big Bird.Zach Hyman:Sesame Workshop

Over the summer, Julia became embroiled in a controversy over a partnership with Autism Speaks, an influential and well-funded organization that some autistic adults say has promoted ideas and interventions that have traumatized many people in their community.

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), an organization run by and for autistic people, announced it had cut ties with ‘Sesame Street’ after the children’s program partnered with Autism Speaks to make the Muppet the face of a public service campaign encouraging early screening and diagnosis of autism.

ASAN has accused Autism Speaks of using ‘language of acceptance and understanding to push resources that further stigma and treat autistic people as burdens on our families.’

It contends that resource materials from Autism Speaks encourage parents ‘to view autism as a terrible disease from which their child can ‘get better.’

‘I think part of why people feel so let down right now is that Sesame Street, as a show, is very, very personal to a lot of our members and a lot of people in the autistic community,’  said Julia Bascom, an autistic self-advocate and executive director of ASAN, explaining that many autistic people have relied on the show as a learning tool…Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president of U.S. social impact at Sesame Workshop, said Sesame is ‘saddened’ ASAN has ended its relationship with the children’s program as it has been ‘incredibly supportive of our efforts along the way and of contributing to Julia.’

The controversy touched a nerve for many autistic adults who say they grew up being taught to conform to the world, rather than being encouraged to find their place in it… Some children with autism were trained to behave more like other children — told to make eye contact, mimic common facial expressions and suppress repetitive behaviors called stimming, such as hand-flapping, bouncing and toe-tapping. They say it induced anxiety and made them [autistic children]  believe there was something wrong with them…Now, this rising generation of autistic adults is joining others in the movement to change autism discussions that, they say, have historically been ‘about us, without us.’

More and more, they are influencing policies, leading protests against misleading anti-vaccine messages and the marketing of quack treatments, pushing for fair representation in media coverage, movies and TV shows, such as ‘Sesame Street,’ and helping to reshape language and outdated opinions about what autism really means.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg

(For example, many self-advocates ask to be called ‘autistic people‘ rather than ‘people with autism’ because the latter implies a disability.) More and more autistic people, such as 16-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg, are taking pride in their identities. This month, she called autism her ‘superpower.’

Ari Ne’eman, an autistic adult who co-founded ASAN

‘There are a lot more us who are openly autistic and open about our opinions about the direction of autism research and services,’ said Ari Ne’eman, an autistic adult who co-founded ASAN.

Lydia X.Z. Brown, an autistic attorney based in the Washington area and founder of the Autistic People of Color Fund,

One leader in the movement, Lydia X.Z. Brown, an autistic attorney based in the Washington area and founder of the Autistic People of Color Fund, grew up at the height of the autism panic…’One of the first things I remember being told was that it would be a bad idea to tell other kids at school because then they just might bully me more,’ Brown said…Self-advocates in this rising generation say that they have found their community online — many using the hashtag #ActuallyAutistic to share such experiences, insights and frustrations, to make friends and to fight for change.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


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


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

Pre-Reading Activities

K-W-L Chart

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

Advanced K-W-L chart.Intervention for Reading

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. Some encourage early screening and diagnosis of autism.
  2. The muppet became embroiled in a controversy over autism issues.
  3. Loud noises overwhelm her.
  4. Autistic self-advocates were consulted in her creation.
  5. Some push resources that further stigma of autistic people.
  6. Many people feel so let down right now because  Sesame Street is personal to a lot of members.
  7. Autistic people have relied on the show as a learning tool.
  8. Some children with autism were trained to mimic common facial expressions.
  9. They were also trained to suppress repetitive behaviors.
  10. Autistic people are pushing for fair representation in media coverage.

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.

John Elder Robison, an/a autistic people/person and neurodiversity scholar/school at the College of William & Mary, say/said it is important for/about autistic people to spoke/speak for the community, including those with/on intense support needs, to/too show the world this/that we have voices.

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.

Many self-advocates ___autism-rights ___Jim Sinclair for ___the movement, with a pointed open to___in 1993 that___the ___surrounding___and the emphasis on a “cure.”

WORD LIST:  culture,  criticized,   parents, letter,  credit,  autism activist,  starting, 

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?

Speaking/Writing Activity 

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.

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: Autism

The Extraordinary Jane Goodall Still Going Strong At 80!

“During her girlhood, Tarzan was her role model. When she realized how chimpanzee habitats were being destroyed, she turned into a crusader. At 85, she’s still preaching: ‘One million species are in danger of extinction…Just think logically. This planet has finite natural resources. And in some places, we’ve used them up faster than Mother Nature can replenish them.  D. Gelles, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Jane Goodall with Motambo, an orphan at the JGI Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center. Courtesy: The Jane Goodall Institute

Excerpt: Jane Goodall Keeps Going, With a Lot of Hope (and a Bit of Whiskey) David Gelles, NYT

“Jane Goodall nursed a glass of neat Irish whiskey. It was the end of a long day of public appearances, and her voice was giving out. That’s what Ms. Goodall does these days. She talks. To anyone who will listen. To children, chief executives and politicians. Her message is always the same: The forests are disappearing. The animals are going quiet. We’re running out of time.

Dr. Jane Goodall. Photo-New York Times

Ms. Goodall, the celebrated primatologist, was in New York as part of her ongoing efforts to raise money for her institute and its affiliates. The nonprofit organization raises money for conservation efforts across Africa, and works with local communities to promote economic self-sufficiency and improve public health. It’s proven to be an effective model for preserving chimpanzee habitats, yet Ms. Goodall is worried it’s not working fast enough.

Her faltering voice was the result of arduous travel and relentless campaigning. Yet her energy didn’t flag. For more than an hour, Ms. Goodall, 85, spoke about her family history, her unconventional career path and how business leaders — and consumers — can make a difference.

The following interview [conducted by David Gelles] was condensed and edited for clarity.

Where’s home for you these days? Mostly hotels and airplanes. But I’ve got a home in England. It’s that house I grew up in. It belonged to my grandmother, she left it to her three daughters and they left it to me and my sister.

What did your parents do for work? My father was an engineer. As soon as World War II was declared, he joined up and went to build Bailey bridges in Burma. My mum looked after us.

What was your first job? My very first job was with my aunt who was a physiotherapist. She had a clinic, and I would go there and take down the notes when the doctors were examining her patients. I learned a lot there about how lucky I was to be born healthy. And I’m so glad I grew up in the war. Children today, they take everything for granted. We had two little squares of chocolate — that was our ration for a week. One egg.

When did you know you wanted to make working with chimpanzees your life’s work? I don’t know that I thought of it quite like that. There was no thought of becoming a scientist, because girls weren’t scientists like that in those days. And actually, there weren’t really any men going out there, living in the wild. So my model was Tarzan.

How did you make it happen against such long odds? When I dreamed of Africa, everybody laughed at me at school. How would I do that? We didn’t have money. Africa was far away. It was the Dark Continent in those days, and I was just a girl. But my mom said, ‘f you really want this, you’re going to have to work really hard.’

When you finally got into the field, how did you approach the work? I didn’t have any academic training, and so I didn’t have this reductionist way of thinking. But fortunately I just applied common sense. I knew that to find out about the chimps, I would have to get their trust. And that took months. They ran away. They’re very conservative.

Did working with chimps teach you anything about humans? That we’ve been very arrogant in thinking that we’re so separate. Chimps turned out to be, not only behaviorally so like us, but also biologically like us, sharing 98.6 percent of DNA, similarities in immune system, blood composition, anatomy of the brain. We’re not, after all, separate from the animal kingdom. We’re part of it.

Did becoming an activist come naturally to you? No, I was very shy. It happened because I helped organize this conference in 1986. The purpose was to find out if chimp behavior might differ in different environments, or is it so innately chimp that you find it everywhere. But we also had a session on conservation. And in all of these sites, forests were going, chimp numbers were dropping. It was the beginning of the bush meat trade, of chimpanzees caught and wire snares, losing hand and feet. Poachers shooting mothers to steal babies to sell as pets overseas, or training for circuses…After seeing that secretly filmed footage from a medical research lab, I couldn’t sleep. I went to the conference as a scientist, and I left as an activist.

What have you found to be some effective strategies to promote conservation? When we went to find out about the chimps’ problems in Gombe, Tanzania, we also learned about the suffering of the people — poverty, lack of health care and education…So we set up micro credit, based on the work of Muhammad Yunus…We started restoring fertility to the overused farmland, bringing in better health education and family planning information.

Now they love us, and they have agreed to put up a buffer zone between Gombe and the villages, and now they’re creating corridors for the Gombe isolated chimps to interact with other chimpanzee groups. And if you fly over Gombe today, there are no bare hills anymore.

Jane Goodall always travels with a stuffed animal named Mr. H to remind her of the indomitable human spirit.

What’s your message to business leaders today? How can it make sense if we carry on in the way we are now, with business as usual, to have unlimited economic development on a planet with finite natural resources, and a growing population?

But consumers, at least if they’re not living in poverty, have an enormous role to play, too. If you don’t like the way the business does its business, don’t buy their products.

This is beginning to create change. People should think about the consequences of the little choices they make each day.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

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


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


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


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

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

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

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. Jane Goodall nursed a glass of neat Irish whiskey.
  2. Ms. Goodall is a  celebrated primatologist.
  3. Ms. Goodall was in New York as part of her ongoing efforts to raise money for her institute and its affiliates.
  4. Her institute is effective for preserving chimpanzee habitats.
  5. According to Ms. Goodall, one million species are in danger of extinction.
  6. Her faltering voice was the result of arduous travel and relentless campaigning.
  7. Ms. Goodall 85, spoke about her family history, her unconventional career.
  8. Her nonprofit organization works with local communities to promote economic self-sufficiency and improve public health.
  9. If any of the family doesn’t want to inherit the house, it can’t just be sold.
  10. Jane’s family used to get food parcels from Australia.

 

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. At 85, she’s still preach.
  2. It was the end of a long day of public appearances.
  3. Ms. Goodall talks to anyone who will listen.

II

  1. Her message is always the same: The forests are disappearing.
  2. Ms. Goodall is an celebrated primatologist.
  3. The nonprofit organization raises money for conservation efforts across Africa.

III

  1. One million species are in danger of extinction.
  2. Her faltering voice was the result of arduous travel.
  3. For more than an hour, Ms. Goodall spoke about her family history.

 

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. Jane Goodall is a primate.
  2. Ms. Goodall is  75 years old.
  3. She has a home in England.
  4. Jane’s father was an engineer during War II.
  5. Her mother served in the military.
  6. Jane has two  sisters.
  7. Her very first job was with an aunt who was a physiotherapist.
  8. Her uncle Rex, joined the air force and he was killed.
  9. Jane had a Masters in biology when she first began working with chimps.
  10. Some of the problems for the people  in Gombe, Tanzania, were poverty, lack of health care and education.

 

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. Jane states, “I’m so glad I grew up in the war.” Explain why she made this statement.
  2. How did Jane’s uncle die?  What effect did this have on Jane’s mother? Why?
  3. According to the article someone told Jane the following, “If you really want this, you’re going to have to work really hard. Take advantage of every opportunity, and don’t give up.” Who said this and why?
  4. According to Dr. Goodall, what did her work with chimps teach her about humans?
  5. Why did Jane’s mother send her to live with a German family? Do you think that Jane learned a lesson  from this experience? What?
  6. Would you like to be a primatologist? Please explain why or why not? 
  7. Describe how your country is (or is not) helping to conserve wild life and forests.
  8. List 3  questions that you would like to ask Dr. Goodall. Share the questions 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

“Pre-K Teachers Are Making House Calls and Helping Kids Succeed.”

“In more than 700 communities across the country, teachers are supporting students of all ages — and their parents — outside the classroom. Even for the youngest children, the benefits can be profound.” C. Caron & K. Zoepf, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Yumna al-Kashto, 4, receiving gifts during an introductory visit with her pre-K teachers at her home in Baltimore ahead of the school year. NYT

Excerpt: ByChristina Caron and Katherine Zoepf- The New York Times

“Yumna al-Kashto is only 4, but she’s already had to adapt to lots of changes in her life. She was born in Antakya, Turkey, after intense fighting forced her parents and four older siblings to flee their home in Idlib, the Syrian opposition stronghold.

In December 2015, when Yumna was only 4 months old, her family resettled in Baltimore. And in July, on the day before her fourth birthday, her mother gave birth to her newest sibling.

On the day the baby came home, Zoe Hardy and Latanya Scott, Yumna’s assigned pre-K teachers at Moravia Park Elementary School, were there, too. Their goal? To develop a rapport with Yumna and her family before the school year officially began.

‘This is for you,’ Ms. Hardy told Yumna with a smile, placing a large box decorated with pictures of teddy bears onto the table. The box, provided by a local nonprofit, contained children’s books, pajamas and other items aimed at supporting a back-to-school evening routine.

‘We like to get to know the family, let the family get to know us,’ Ms. Hardy told Yumna’s parents. ‘That way we can all make sure Yumna is safe and she’s getting what she needs.’

The Moravia Judy Center, which runs early childhood programs at Moravia Park Elementary School, started its home visiting program for pre-K and kindergarten students in 2016, sending pairs of teachers into students’ homes in an effort to build mutually supportive relationships with their families, most of whom are poor enough to qualify for public assistance…

The overall concept of home visits isn’t new — they are a requirement of Head Start, a free pre-K program for disadvantaged children, and are also common at Montessori schools and various community programs. But the Parent-Teacher nonprofit’s model takes a unique approach.

With its method, teachers and school staff travel in pairs to visit a family at least once — either at home or in a neutral public setting like a park — usually ahead of the school year. The teachers arrive prepared to listen: They do not take notes, fill out paperwork or lecture. Instead, they want to know about the family’s hopes and dreams for their child, and connect with their soon-to-be student in a nonschool setting.

The visits, which typically last about 30 minutes, are not mandatory for the teachers or the parents. The teachers, who are paid for their visits, are encouraged to meet all their incoming students or a cross-section of their class: Targeting certain families is discouraged because it can lead to stigma.

Studies have found that these types of home visits can have numerous benefits for students, including improvements in attendance and reading assessments. Families who participate also tend to become more involved in their children’s education.

‘If a family feels secure when their children come into prekindergarten or kindergarten,’ Ms. Matthews said, these conversations can help shape positive attitudes toward school for years to come…While the home visit model appears to be a straightforward way to build engagement, reduce absenteeism and improve certain academic measures, the simplicity of the program means it can sometimes be overlooked by decision-makers, said Ms. Vanhoy, whose organization trains Dallas I.S.D. teachers to perform home visits.

Some school district leaders and policymakers assume ‘that can’t be the answer because that’s too simple,’Ms. Vanhoy said. ‘So you go after the more complicated research, or new curriculum, or new this or new that.’

Teachers are usually paid for each visit, but the amount they receive and the way those payments are funded varies considerably…Without Title I funding, schools sometimes must rely on a patchwork of grants, state funding or other types of federal funding to pay for the visits…Sometimes parents are wary of home visits, especially if they’ve had negative experiences with schools in the past…It’s effective to introduce home visits during early childhood, she added, as a child’s formal education begins…At the Kashto home in Baltimore, Yumna, who had hidden her face in her 8-year-old sister’s arm upon her teachers’ arrival, became less reserved as the visit progressed.”

Related Articles:

What to Know About Montessori Preschools: They’re popular, but how do they differ from conventional nursery schools? By M. Wenner Moyer, NYT

“The first time I walked into a Montessori preschool classroom six years ago, I thought to myself, what is this sorcery? The materials were beautiful but unfamiliar; the room seemed eerily calm considering it held so many 3-year-olds; and the terms the teachers used were new and confusing to me. They’re not lessons or activities, they’re “work”; and what, pray tell, was that pink tower thing everyone kept talking about?” M. Wenner Moyer

How to Tackle Tough [Preschool]Drop-Offs: Expert tips on how to disentangle from your little clingers swiftly and kindly. By J. Grose, New York Times

“We will send our younger gal off to school for the first time in a few weeks, and I’m bracing myself for another common issue during school transitions — rough drop-offs. I remember leaving her older sister at preschool for the first time and feeling smugly confident about the fact that she didn’t cry when we left…Turns out, she didn’t cry because she thought preschool was a one-time thing.”J. Grose

 

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 Exercise

 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. Yumna al-Kashto has four older siblings.
  2. She’s already had to adapt to lots of changes in her life.
  3. The teachers wanted o develop a rapport with Yumna and her family.
  4. The school box was provided by a local nonprofit.
  5. Schools want to build mutually supportive relationships with the families.
  6. The visits are modeled after a method that was devised more than two decades ago.
  7. The Parent-Teacher nonprofit’s model takes a unique approach.
  8. The visits  are not mandatory for the teachers or the parents.
  9. Targeting certain families is discouraged because it can lead to stigma.
  10. The program can be implemented for students through grade 12.

 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. We like to get to know the family.
  2. The box contain children’s books.
  3. We can all make sure children are safe.

II

  1. Many  schools have early childhood programs.
  2. The idea is to build trust between teachers and students.
  3. Most of the families are poor enough to qualify for public assistance.

III

  1. Studies have found that these home visits have numerous benefits for students.
  2. Teachers are usually pay for each visit.
  3. Some parents are wary of home visits, especially if they’ve had negative experiences.

 

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.

Most of the home___across the ___are funded by Title I, a federal ___program for the country’s ___schools, she said. Without Title I funding, schools sometimes must rely on a ___of grants, state ___or other types of federal funding to pay for the visits.

WORD LIST: funding, patchwork, poorest,  antipoverty, visits,  nation,

III Post Reading

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. Are there pre-schools in your country?
  2. Have you ever taught pre-school? If yes, for how long?
  3. Did you ever visit any of your students at their homes? Why? Describe the visits.
  4. Where  did the overall concept of home visits actually begin?
  5. According to the article what are the  benefits of home visits by pre-school teachers?
  6. What are some of the problems the program faces?
  7. In your own words explain why this is (or is not) a good program. Especially from the view of new children in the U.S. for the first time.

Additional Activity: Identify Speakers from the Article

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.

“We like to get to know the family, let the family get to know us…”

“…home visits have built trust among the school’s large population of refugee families…”

“… 72 percent reported that attendance had increased either somewhat or greatly as a result of the home visits…”

“Typically that is one of the first questions that we get: How do we pay for this?” 

“Too often the communication that happens face-to-face, on the phone, in a visit is to talk about something that’s wrong. Your child’s not making progress, or your child has a behavior problem…”

 

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

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

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

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post  with Answer Key

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


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


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

I. Pre-Reading Activities

KWL Chart

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

KWL Chart from Creately,com

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

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

Grammar Focus: Word -Recognition

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

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

 

Reading Comprehension Fill-ins

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

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

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

III Post Reading

WH-How Questions

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

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

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

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

3-2-1-Writing

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

ANSWER KEY