This Year Young Voters Will Be Heard!

“Chris Underhill, freshly graduated from high school, was savoring a new milestone: He had registered to vote for the first time. Filling out the form offered by a political activist not much older than him took about three minutes. But its significance was not lost on Mr. Underhill, 18, who grew up in this city on the edge of Amish country, 75 miles west of Philadelphia.” D. Levin,The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

18 volunteers with Sunrise Movement, an activist association concerned about the environment, lived together registering voters and holding rallies. Credit Hilary Swift for The New York Times

Excerpt: They’re Young and They Want Change…They’re Ready to Vote for the First Time. By Dan Levin, The New York Times

“An aspiring actor who helped organize a local march following this year’s deadly mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., Mr. Underhill said his everyday worries mirror those that fuel the anxieties of his generation, such as how to pay for college and losing access to health care…’This country’s just gone off the walls since Trump got elected,’ he said, echoing the impressions of thousands of new Pennsylvania voters his age.  ‘But now I have the power to vote and make it better, starting with Lancaster and then going bigger.’

Chris Underhill, 18, registered to vote for the first time. Credit Hilary Swift for The New York Times

Weary of a political system that many young Americans see as rigged against their generation, and fired up to elect candidates who they believe support the issues they care about, a surge of young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 have registered to vote this year, according to data from 39 states compiled by Targetsmart, a Democratic polling firm.

Volunteers with Sunrise Movement registered voters at an event in Lancaster, Pa., this month.Credit Hilary Swift for The New York Times

Pennsylvania is leading the groundswell, with registered voters 34 and younger now outnumbering those 65 and older, according to the latest statistics from the Pennsylvania State Department issued Aug 13. States like Arizona, New York, Florida and Virginia have also seen sharp increases…The surge of youth registrations, said Jarret Smith, Pennsylvania’s youth director for NextGen America, can be attributed to a network of grass-roots organizations and passionate activists who have spent the spring and summer knocking on doors, confronting candidates and building relationships with residents — not just in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, but across the towns, smaller cities and college campuses where they said voters have long been ignored.

From left, Deshawn Nesbitt, Jonathan Seth and Justin Buthdy walked home after registering to vote in Lancaster. Credit Hilary Swift for The New York Times

‘The number one thing we hear is how angry young people are at Washington,’ said Mr. Smith, 27, whose liberal group is focused on registering and mobilizing voters in 11 states. ‘We’ve found that the top issues are affordable health care, gun control and climate change, and they don’t feel they’re being represented.’ The organization has traditionally targeted four-year college campuses, but it recently has expanded to community colleges and other areas with large youth populations, like the cities of Erie, Allentown and Reading, which is more than 63 percent Hispanic…In Lancaster County, a solidly Republican area, a group called Lancaster Stands Up is trying to shift the political makeup. They have found a target in the congressional incumbent, Lloyd K. Smucker, a Republican who voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act and has not held a town-hall meeting since he took office in January 2017. ‘The Koch Bros own Lloyd $$$,’ declares a poster on a wall of the group’s headquarters in Lancaster, where 30 percent of the residents live below the poverty line.

Founded shortly after the 2016 election, Lancaster Stands Up has grown to more than 800 members, many of whom have volunteered to register voters and canvas for Mr. Smucker’s Democratic rival, Jess King, a nonprofit leader and Mennonite. ..Lancaster Stands Up has made a concerted push to register voters in the city’s poorer neighborhoods, where many of the residents are black, Hispanic and immigrants.”

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ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Word Inference

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.

  1. Chris Underhill was savoring a new milestone.
  2. Filling out the form offered by a political activist not much older than him took about three minutes.
  3. Many young Americans are weary of a political system that is rigged against their generation.
  4. There has been a surge of young adults who have registered to vote this year.
  5. NextGen America strategizes with an array of groups in Pennsylvania.
  6. Climate change  is a huge issue for NextGen America organization.
  7. One member remembers a drought that left her family without running water for weeks.
  8. The young activists prepared to sneak into the Philadelphia mayor’s office in early August with a petition demanding that he reject fossil fuel money.
  9. But building a movement takes patience.
  10. Jonathan Seth, 19, a charity worker whose parents immigrated from Cambodia registered to vote at the early August block party.

Word Map Education Oasis


Reading Comprehension


Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

“NextGen America ___with an ___of groups in___, including local chapters of the Sunrise Movement, an ___association composed of ___people concerned about the environment. In addition to ___to stop___and registering voters, the group said, Sunrise activists have convinced more than 800 political ___nationwide to sign a ___to reject funding from the fossil fuel industry.”

WORD LIST: campaigning,  candidates,  pledge,  array, Pennsylvania, strategizes, climate change, activist,  young,


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.

“Not all of the youthful/youth energy is going/coming from the left. Eager to capital/capitalize on conservatives’ support for  Trump — the first Republican presidential candidate/con to win the state in nearly three decades/decks — the 35 chapters of the Pennsylvania Young Republicans have reach/reached about 250,000 voters this year through/threw voter registration drives, knock/knocking on doors and phone-banking, said Rick Loughery, the group’s chairman.”

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

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 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.

  1. If you are not from the U.S.describe the political system in your country.
  2. If you are an American citizen do you like the political system in this country? Why or why not?
  3. Did you (or will you) register to vote this year?
  4. Do you think that it’s important for young people to vote? Explain your answer.
  5. In your opinion, what should the minimum voting age be?
  6. After reading the article, do you think that young people’s campaigns (e.g., Sunrise Movement, NextGen America and Lancaster Stands Up ) are good ideas? Explain why or why not.

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.


Category: Political Issues