“Researchers found that people who perform a random act of kindness tend to underestimate how much the recipient will appreciate it. And they believe that miscalculation could hold many of us back from doing nice things for others more often.” C. Pearson, The New York Times, Sept. 2, 2022
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: The Unexpected Power of Random Acts of Kindness Catherine Pearson, The New York Times, Sept. 2, 2022
“In late August, Erin Alexander, 57, sat in the parking lot of a Target store in Fairfield, Calif., and wept.
Her sister-in-law had recently died, and Ms. Alexander was having a hard day.
A barista working at the Starbucks inside the Target was too. The espresso machine had broken down and she was clearly stressed. Ms. Alexander — who’d stopped crying and gone inside for some caffeine — smiled, ordered an iced green tea, and told her to hang in there. After picking up her order, she noticed a message on the cup: ‘Erin,’ the barista had scrawled next to a heart, ‘your soul is golden.’
‘I’m not sure I even necessarily know what ‘your soul is golden’ means,’ said Ms. Alexander, who laughed and cried while recalling the incident.
But the warmth of that small and unexpected gesture, from a stranger who had no inkling of what she was going through, moved her deeply… The notion that kindness can boost well-being is hardly new. Studies have shown that prosocial behavior — basically, voluntarily helping others — can help lower people’s daily stress levels, and that simple acts of connection, like texting a friend, mean more than many of us realize.”
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.
- A barista working at the Starbucks was also having a hard day.
- he espresso machine had broken down and she was clearly stressed.
- Ms. Alexander smiled, ordered an iced green tea, and told her to hang in there.
- The warmth of that small and unexpected gesture, from a stranger moved her deeply.
- Researchers found that people who perform a random act of kindness tend to underestimate how much the recipient will appreciate it.
- We just don’t think the positive impact of our behaviors is as positive as it is.
- With a study like this, I hope it will inspire more people to actually commit random acts of kindness,” she said.
- Underestimating the power of small gestures is a mistake.
- The participants were given a hot chocolate from the snack kiosk.
- In that experiment the people doing the kind thing consistently underestimated how much it was actually appreciated.
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.
Researchers recruited 84 participants/participant on two/too cold weekend/weekends at the/a ice skating rink on/at Maggie Daley Park in Chicago. They were/was given an/a hot chocolate from the snack kiosk and/an were told they can/could keep it or give it two/to a stranger as an/a deliberate act of kindness. The 75 participants who gave/give away their/there hot chocolate was/were asked/ask to guess how “big” the act of kindness would feel to the recipient on a scale from 0 (very small) to 10 (very large), and to predict how the recipient would rate they’re/their mood (ranging from much more negative then/than normal to much more positive than normal) upon receiving the drink.
Reading Comprehension: Identify The Speakers
Directions: Read the following quotes from the speakers in the article. Then identify the speakers.
- “I’m not sure I even necessarily know what ‘your soul is golden’ means.”
- “We have this negativity bias when it comes to social connection. We just don’t think the positive impact of our behaviors is as positive as it is.”
- “The people doing the kind thing consistently underestimated how much it was actually appreciated.”
- “I have found that kindness can be a really hard sell.”
- “People have bought groceries and baby formula for others in Hallie’s honor. They’ve donated school supplies and given hydrangeas to strangers.” “No small act goes unnoticed.”
- “She did it so I wouldn’t find them all immediately, and it did take me a while. But it was meant to bring a smile to my day when I returned.”
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.
- Have you ever been kind to someone that you did not know? If so describe what happened.
- Has a stranger ever been kind to you? If so describe what happened.
- 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.
- List three questions that you would like to ask anyone mentioned in this article. Share your questions with the class.