“New York City’s public schools began remote learning. But for the more than 100,000 students who are homeless, virtual education may be out of reach…Thousands of students living in shelters and doubled up in overcrowded apartments have not received web-enabled devices for online learning.”N.Stewart, The New York Times
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: She’s an Honors Student. And Homeless. Will the Virtual Classroom Reach Her?ByNikita Stewart, The New York Times
“…Allia Phillips was excited about picking up an iPad from her school in Harlem last week. She did not want to miss any classes and hoped to land on the fourth-grade honor roll again.
On Monday, the first day that New York City public schools began remote learning, the 10-year-old placed her iPad on a tray she set up over her pillow on a twin bed in a studio that she shares with her mother and grandmother inside a homeless shelter on the Upper West Side. And then, Allia saw nothing.
‘Iwent downstairs to find out that they don’t have any internet,” said Kasha Phillips-Lewis, Allia’s mother. ‘You’re screwing up my daughter’s education. You want to screw me up? Fine. But not my daughter’s education.’
Shuttering the vast system, which includes 1,800 schools, was a serious challenge for the city, and the large-scale, indefinite school closures are uncharted territory, altering the lives and routines of 75,000 teachers, over one million children, and well over 1 million parents… Recreating a classroom on the internet is a logistical challenge that comes with a learning curve for students, teachers and parents.
And it is already leaving poor and vulnerable students behind — especially the estimated 114,000 children who live in shelters and unstable housing.
On the first day of remote learning, while some parents in the city were posting cute photos of their children waving to their classmates and teachers as lessons were streamed live, Allia and thousands of other children living in New York City shelters and in overcrowded apartments did not have devices with built-in internet. There are about 450 shelters for families and single adults in the main shelter system, and most of them do not have Wi-Fi available for residents, according to the city Department of Social Services…Christine Quinn [is the] executive director of the nonprofit Win, the largest provider of shelter for families in the city.
‘They said Monday. To me, that means never. If they come this late, it might as well be never,” she said. ‘What has happened is a disaster. If we weren’t in a pandemic, this would be funny, like Keystone cops, but this is a pandemic so it’s not funny.’
On Monday, Allia made do, using her mother’s smartphone to log into Google classroom. She moved to a stool, balanced the phone on her knees and looked down… Around the city, other students were resorting to the same alternative. Sisters Kamiyah Williams, 6, and Chastity Battle, 5, did their class work on their mother’s phone while sitting in a living room in Brownsville, Brooklyn…Both girls are good students, said Tierra Williams, their mother, adding that she did not want them to fail because they did not have tablets...Estrella Montanez, the director of the Nelson Avenue Family Residence in the Bronx, said she quickly saw a problem last week when she and her staff knocked on families’ doors to ask if they had devices.
The door-to-door polling showed that only 15 out of 79 families had a computer or tablet. There were 177 school-aged children living in the shelter and they attended more than 100 schools. ‘When we look at the idea of distance learning, it’s very complicated. Each school seems to be doing something very, very different,’ she said.
For 10 years, Toiyia, a mother who lives in a Win shelter in Brooklyn with her two sons, has worked for Access-A-Ride, a public transportation service for people with disabilities.
Toiyia, who did not want her last name used to protect her privacy, already had devices for both of her sons: Tahir, 8, and Khalil, 18, who is disappointed that his school probably will not have a graduation ceremony… On the Upper West Side, Allia had no big brother and no iPad, but she pressed on completing her assignments on her mother’s phone.”
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming
Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about the topic. Next, have students look at the pictures in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article. Regroup as a class and list these ideas on the board. Students can use a brainstorming chart for assistance.
II. While Reading Activities
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.
- Allia lives in a shelter.
- Allia knows that the coronavirus is a very contagious virus.
- Many people go to the hospital but many of them have to be isolated.
- Allia’s mom was contacted by the school to pick up Allia’s iPad device.
- Allia’s mom says she has a cellphone and they use the hot spot.
- The first day that New York City public schools began remote learning, the 10-year-old had a blank screen.
- Shuttering the vast system, which includes 1,800 schools, was a serious challenge for the city.
- Recreating a classroom on the internet is a challenge.
- Some centers have been underutilized.
- Allia’s mother and grandmother tried to give her some space to concentrate.
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.
- Mr. Carranza had announce earlier that the city would distribute an estimated 300,000 devices.
- But he acknowledged that children were still waiting for the equipment they need to learn.
- The vague timeline has concerned parents and advocates for children.
- On Monday, Allia made do, using her mother’s smartphone to log into Google classroom.
- Around the city, other student were resorting to the same alternative.
- Sisters Kamiyah Williams, 6, and Chastity Battle, 5, did their class work on their mother’s phone.
- Kamiyah’s favorite story is talk about animals.
- Both girls are good students.
- Only 15 out of 79 families had a computer or tablet.
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.
- Allia lives in New York, New.
- She’s 10 years old.
- She and her mom live in a homeless shelter.
- She knows that the coronavirus is a very contagious virus.
- Allia’s iPad does not have internet.
- Many children are going to get left behind because they don’t have their devices or they didn’t have the access to the internet.
- There are about 450 shelters for families and single adults in the main shelter system.
- Another woman Toiyia lives with her two sons Tahir, 8 and Khalil, 18.
- Khalil, has been accepted to six state colleges so far.
- Allia had no big brother and no iPad, but she pressed on completing her assignments on her mother’s phone.
- Sisters Kamiyah Williams, 6, and Chastity Battle, 5, live in a small two-bedroom apartment with their mother, two younger siblings and three other people.
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: 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.
- Do you or someone you know live in a shelter? If so describe the experience.
- The article states, “Recreating a classroom on the internet is a logistical challenge that will comes with a learning curve for students, teachers and parents. And it is already leaving poor and vulnerable students behind — especially the estimated 114,000 children who live in shelters and unstable housing.” In your opinion, how has the coronavirus exposed the educational divide between the rich and the poor?
- With your group try to come up with solutions to this problem. Share them with the class.
- What have you learned from reading this article?
Directions: In 5 minutes to write down three new ideas you’ve learned about the topic from the reading, two things that you did not understand in the reading, and one thing you would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.