“Need permission to be a grump — or just a normal human being who isn’t smiling all the time? Read these books.” J. Newman, The New York Times, July 26, 2022
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: The Power of Negative Thinking, By Judith Newman, The New York Times, July 26, 2022
“Recently a friend posted on Facebook that, after years of struggle against two different kinds of cancer, she was going into hospice care. She is smart, funny and unafraid. Her heartbreaking news generated the expected outpouring of love and support, including a number of messages repeating the popular current You got this.
She got what? I wondered. Is she supposed to feel reassured by that? Congratulations, you’re gonna rock death! “You got this” is the popular rallying cry to any number of painful scenarios, from ‘My flight was delayed’ to ‘I’m getting a divorce’ to, well, this. Sometimes, we don’t got this. Which may be why several new books on happiness are also addressing the negative side of positivity — making the point that, while the pursuit of happiness is a worthy goal, relentless positivity doesn’t really lead us to that goal, and can actually end up damaging us.”
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.
- She had to struggle against two different kinds of cancer for years.
- She was now going into hospice care.
- There was a number of messages repeating the popular current You got this.
- Is she supposed to feel reassured by that?
- While the pursuit of happiness is a worthy goal, relentless positivity doesn’t really lead us to that goal,
- Tal Ben-Shahar is known as the happiness scholar.
- The sun is vital for life on earth, but if you stare directly at it, you can go blind.
- Positivity lingo lacks nuance, compassion and curiosity.
- In other words, if it’s bad to harsh someone’s mellow, it’s sometimes worse to mellow someone’s harsh.
- She also contradicts herself. At one point, in decrying victimhood.
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.
- Recently a friend posted on Facebook details of her struggle against two different kinds of cancer.
- She are smart, funny and unafraid.
- Positivity lingo lacks nuance, compassion and curiosity.
- Several new books on happiness are also addressing the negative side of positivity.
- Relentless positivity can actually end up damaging us.
- In other words, if it’s bad too harsh someone’s mellow, it’s sometimes worse to mellow someone’s harsh.
- Positivity can end up being a Band-Aid on a bullet wound.
- Sometimes all we want is for someone to acknowledge how awful a situation is and just sit with us.
- She also contradict herself.
Reading Comprehension: Identify The Speakers
Directions: Read the following quotes from the speakers in the article. Then identify the speakers.
- “Positivity lingo lacks nuance, compassion and curiosity. It comes in the form of blanket statements that tell someone how to feel and that the feeling they’re currently having is wrong.”
- “He spent years filling that void with food, drugs and alcohol. That pursuit of happiness resulted first in obesity and then, deftly subbing one substance for another, years of drug addiction.”
- “Anything but gratitude is just a tantrum.”
- “Stress and suffering don’t come from reality, they come from the stories we make up about reality.”
- “In other words, if it’s bad to harsh someone’s mellow, it’s sometimes worse to mellow someone’s harsh.”
- ” The sun is vital for life on earth.”
- “When he stopped chasing the pretense of happiness and started spending time in A.A., he began to reclaim his life.”
- Positivity ends up being, “a Band-Aid on a bullet wound.”
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: Answer the following questions.
- Have you ever been in a grumpy mood and wanted to remain in that mood? Why?
- Has anyone ever told you to “smile” and be happy? How did you feel toward that person?
- Do you think that being grumpy, sad or angry is healthy?
- Why or why not?
- Explain the expression, “In other words, if it’s bad to harsh someone’s mellow, it’s sometimes worse to mellow someone’s harsh.”
- List three new ideas that you’ve learned about the topic from the reading, two things that you did not understand in the reading, and one thing you would like to know that the article did not mention. Share your responses with your class.
- With your group, write 3 questions that you would like to ask any person mentioned in the article. Share your questions with the other groups.