“In recent weeks, a growing number of students across the country have set foot in their schools, some for the first time since last March. Here’s what they said it was like to return.” E. Durston, D. Levin and J. Kim, The New York Times, March 13, 2021
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: ‘I Was So Nervous’: Back to Class After a Year Online By Ellen Almer Durston, Dan Levin and Juliana Kim, The New York Times, March 13, 2021
“Maisie Robinson was so excited for her first day of kindergarten that she woke up at 2:30 a.m. to make her family breakfast. ‘Unfortunately, the cereal was kind of soggy by the time we got up,’ said her mother, Lindsey Post Robinson.
But that hardly dulled Maisie’s enthusiasm. She skipped to school last week in her purple coat, part of a wave of Chicago elementary school students who met their teachers and classmates in person for the first time.
A year into the coronavirus pandemic, many American students have been in their classrooms since last fall — frequently off and on, as outbreaks have forced quarantines and closures. But in several large cities, students have started returning to school buildings only in the last few weeks.
The lower grades were the first to go back in much of the country, bolstered by research showing that young children are the least likely to spread the virus or to suffer severe consequences from Covid-19…But gradually, a growing number of older students have been sliding back into their desks too…’It was like a whole new beginning,’ said Jzayla Sussmann, 18, a student at a charter high school in New Orleans. ‘I was so nervous, I didn’t sleep the night before.’
Many returning students — and their family members — shared that same anxiety and excitement as they waited for the alarm buzzer to announce their first day back…The students in Nathan Beaser’s school are not allowed to socialize with one another at lunch, so for entertainment, the cafeteria staff puts on a television show. On Thursday, it was ‘Clifford the Big Red Dog.’
Nathan said he was not sure about returning to school when his parents signed him up for in-person classes. ‘I was a little scared because I didn’t want to get the virus,’ he said. ‘But I feel a lot better because of all the safety precautions. Like, just in case, we have tissues and hand sanitizer everywhere. And they take my temperature before I walk in and after lunch.’
Nathan’s parents are both physicians at the University of Chicago. ‘I know the precautions that have been taken, and I know it’s safe,’ said his mother, Anna Beaser. ‘I feel comfortable with the plan they have in place.’
On his first day back to school, HiKing Joseph was looking for the gym when he came upon some staff members and asked for directions… HiKing had attended school in person for one day last fall before deciding he would rather stay online…Since asking for directions on his first day back, HiKing has slowly begun to learn his way around the building. ‘It can be overwhelming at times,’ he said.
He especially enjoys his art classes. While learning remotely, he completed assignments alone and submitted a photo of the project. But at school, he said, he gets to see how his classmates are progressing around him.”
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 60 minutes.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer
Directions: Examine the title of the post and of the actual article. Next examine any photos. Write a paragraph describing what you think this article will discuss. A pre-reading organizer may be used.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Try to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. You use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- Maisie Robinson was excited for her first day of kindergarten.
- Maisie’s enthusiasm was obvious.
- Outbreaks have forced quarantines and closures in many schools.
- Bolstered by research showing that young kids were least likely to spread the virus the lower grades were the first to open.
- Most of the city’s families, at all grade levels, continue to choose remote learning.
- In New Orleans, after a weeks long purgatory of remote learning, High school students were able to return to class.
- Parents are confident schools are constantly cleaning, wiping down toys and tables.
- Being deprived of social interaction has been difficult for many kids.
- Aaron Levinson has cerebral palsy.
- The possibility of her school closing again dampened her enthusiasm.
Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage
Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical error. Identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.
- HiKing has slowly begun to learn his way around the building.
- He especially enjoy his art classes.
- He gets to see how his classmates are progressing around him.
- Maisie’s enthusiasm for school was not dulled.
- The lower grades was the first to go back.
- Elementary and special-needs students led the way in Chicago.
- New York City is the nation’s largest public school system.
- Many of them New York students spent a few weeks in classrooms last fall.
- Many students feel being in school is much better than learning from home on a computer.
Reading Comprehension: Identify The Speakers
Directions: Read the following quotes from speakers in the article. Then identify the speakers.
- “It was like a whole new beginning…I was so nervous, I didn’t sleep the night before.”
- “I know so many people have been worried about these little ones wearing masks all day, but they have been fantastic.”
- “Being deprived of social interaction has been difficult for an outgoing child like Maisie.”
- “I was a little scared because I didn’t want to get the virus… But I feel a lot better because of all the safety precautions.”
- “It’s sort of surreal…You’ll realize you’re in class with only a few people, and everyone is wearing masks.”
III. Post Reading Activities
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: Have students discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, students share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.
- Why were lower grades the first to start school?
- According to the article, which two groups of students began school in Chicago?
- How do most of Chicago’s families feel about sending their kids back to school?
- According to the article when do New York City high schools plan to reopen?
- Why did five-year-old Sadie Santiago bring a long rope to school on her first day back?
- What items did Maisie Robinson pack for her second day of school?
- Describe how Maisie Robinson’s classroom was arranged.
- In your opinion is this a safe arrangement for children in school? Explain why or why not.
- In South Loop Elementary School, how do the cafeteria staff entertain the students during lunchtime? What are some of the safety precautions the school takes?
- The article states, “Aaron Levinson, who has cerebral palsy, already considers himself a shy kid.” Why was Aaron so surprised and happy to return to school?
- Do you think it’s time for all schools in the U.S. to reopen? Why or why not?
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.