“The kids showed up in our driveway on a Tuesday afternoon. The boy wore a backpack full of diapers for his sister; she wore neon-pink tennis shoes and wouldn’t let go of his hand. Their case worker gave me some paperwork and was gone before I had time to process the thought: Now I’m a foster mom… I’ve tried not to read the headlines about migrant children being separated from their parents. Their panic was palpable. Mine probably was, too.” J. Cummins, The New York Times
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
“The little one didn’t sleep so much as lose consciousness in moments when her small body demanded a break from her otherwise ceaseless crying. This happened with no discernible pattern. My two biological daughters, then 7 and 3, watched with concern as her cries turned to whimpers and then sloped into the ragged breath of sleep. She could nod off anywhere except in her crib: at swimming lessons, at the dinner table, sprawled on the kitchen floor…We may have been experienced parents, but we were inexperienced at parenting a traumatized child. I didn’t know how to change the diaper of a baby who was afraid of me. I didn’t know how to comfort a child who became frantic when I tried to touch her.
During the months that followed, the crying diminished and the children began to trust us. We tried to provide a safe, stable home for them. We gave them clothes, toys, grandparents. We laughed at their jokes and cried with them when visiting their parents was difficult. We loved them.
And yet we were, inherently, part of their trauma. Their parents were, for the moment, unable to provide a safe home for them. But even when it’s necessary, removing children from their parents causes acute distress. I witnessed that suffering. It lived in my home.
My older daughter began having nightmares that ‘the people’ would take her away from us and give her to another family. She was inconsolable. ‘If it could happen to them,’ she asked with the clear-eyed logic of a 7-year-old, “why can’t it happen to us?’
I told my kids this kind of separation happens only to children whose parents don’t do the right thing. But now it’s happening to people who are behaving exactly as good parents should. To parents who endure inconceivable hardship to get their children to this country, precisely in order to protect them. They come from places of violence and poverty and they travel, in some cases, thousands of miles carrying their children on their backs, all in the hopes of providing those children with a chance at safety. Their perseverance is the very model of parental sacrifice… Republicans are ostensibly the party of Christian family values.
Their leader is making a mockery of those values at our borders, separating even asylum-seekers from their children, and then using those children to force migrants into voluntary departure…Now I understand that it’s not always merit-based, who gets to keep their kids and who doesn’t. It can be arbitrary — a matter of unlucky geography — even in 2018, even in the United States of America. My daughter was right to be afraid.”
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 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 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
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.
- The little one didn’t sleep so much as lose consciousness.
- Attempting to remove her sneakers provoked hysteria.
- We were inexperienced at parenting a traumatized child.
- We were inherently part of their trauma.
- My older daughter began having nightmares.
- The little girl was inconsolable.
- It is too easy to imagine a little girl shrieking in her new foster mother’s kitchen.
- Their perseverance is the very model of parental sacrifice.
- Republicans are ostensibly the party of Christian family values.
- Where is our righteous Christian outrage?
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.
- The kids showed up in our driveway on a Friday afternoon.
- My two biological daughters, then 7 and 3, watched with concern as her cries turned to whimpers.
- Our neighbors came over to meet the new children.
- We may have been experienced parents, and we were experienced at parenting a traumatized child.
- I didn’t know how to comfort a child who became frantic when I tried to touch her.
- My younger daughter began having nightmares.
- The social worker visited often.
- I tried telling her that it happens only to parents who don’t, or can’t, take care of their children.
- During the months that followed, the crying diminished and the children began to trust us.
- My husband is not an immigrant.
Grammar:Using Adjectives to describe pictures
Directions: Have students choose a picture from the article and write a descriptive paragraph using adjectives.
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 for Comprehension /Writing
Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following statements from the article. 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.
- “I told my kids this kind of separation happens only to children whose parents don’t do the right thing. But now it’s happening to people who are behaving exactly as good parents should.”
- “In immigration court, migrants are being told that the best way to see their kids again is to plead guilty, to return to whatever they’re running from. And yet even if they do just that, some parents still don’t get their children back.”
- “Would you prefer to keep your children in a dangerous place or risk losing them in a place you can only hope will be safer?”
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.