Masks vs. Coronavirus

It seems counterintuitive that a small piece of cloth can stop a deadly killer. It is even harder to believe that less than a year ago if you walked into a grocery store with a mask you would have probably caused all kinds of suspicious looks and anxiety. For some masks represent a new way to express individuality, for others a necessary nuisance and for others still a political statement. One thing is for sure, during the coronavirus pandemic, carrying (and wearing) masks are as necessary as taking your keys and wallet.

The misconceptions

Of course, I’m sure you heard some of the arguments against wearing masks. Notably, masks cause you to breathe in your own germs, or you could poison yourself with your own carbon dioxide. And if you have ever asked yourself, “if my pants can’t contain a fart, how can a mask contain the Coronavirus”, then you are not alone.

The discomfort

In addition to the misinformation about masks, there are discomforts. For those who have to wear a mask all day, they can cause acne, rashes, moisture. For others, it may even feel like you are working harder to breathe. And last but not least, they really fog up your glasses.

We do it because we care

The bottom line is, masks do prevent the spread of germs, and if you need to understand how, I invite you to watch this video from PBS’ It’s OK to be Smart. Coronavirus is invisible, insidious, and in many cases comes without any symptoms at all. Yet for others, it can spell doom within a matter of days. So why not get all the facts about mask-wearing and then wear it loud and proud…because you are part of a together-world.

Lesson Handout

For this lesson, I prepared a simple true/false handout that you can get on TPT (Teachers Pay Teachers) for a dollar (a girl’s gotta eat). What I like to do with my students is read through the statements and have them guess the answers before they watch the video. This way you can explain any difficult vocabulary and get their brains ready for this fast-talking video. The handout includes the answer key. If you don’t want to use the handout, that’s ok too. I’ve included a few warm-up and discussion questions you can use.

You can download the full hand-out on TPT for 1$

Warm up

  • What do you think of wearing masks?
  • What do you find unpleasant about it?
  • What kind of mask do you wear (does it have designs)?

The video: PBS It’s OK to be Smart: Masks

Discussion

  • Cut the video up and do a TellBack of the main points
  • What are some of the misconceptions about masks and the Coronavirus?
  • What are some of the weird questions or arguments in the video or that you have heard?
  • Can you explain why masks help fight the spread of viruses?
  • Why are some people against masks?
  • What are some of the advantages and disadvantages?

How are you feeling?

Can you describe what emotions you are experiencing right now? This is the question Tiffany Watt Smith asks her TED audience to sensitize them on how easy or how hard it is to put words on our emotions. This is a fantastic presentation to conjure the vocabulary of emotions and an esl psychology lesson.

Do you think words can really describe how we feel? If you watched the movie Inside Out, or are knowledgeable about the scientific litterature on emotions, you may have heard that emotions have been broken down into 6 basic forms: anger, fear, disgust, happiness, sadness and surprise. The first time I read this, I found it hugely oversimplified. I just couldn’t relate my own personal experience with this.  Yet, these basic emotions seem to be the baseline for emotional researchers.

Smith challenges this simple view of emotional language. She looks across different languages and cultures to show the complexity and diversity of the words used to describe how we are feeling. She even suggests that the very existence of these words may allow us to feel things that people in other cultures don’t. She exposes a compelling and thought provoking-idea that words can shape how we feel. Before you start, be sure to download the Google docs included in this post. It has a preliminary list of emotions vocabulary words.

Warm-up

  • What emotion words do you know?
  • Do you think you are good at talking about how you feel?

The Video: TED The History of Human Emotion Discussion by Tiffany Watt Smith

I would break this presentation down into a series of snippets and begin by doing Tell Backs of each segment.  In fact, if you have more basic students, I would stop at the 6 min mark and center a discussion on the vocabulary of emotions. However, for more advanced learners, I would go through the presentation as it digs much deeper into the topic of the history of emotions and maybe very engaging for higher-level discussions.

 

Questions 

  • What emotions does Smith talk about?
  • Can you give some examples of the emotional language of other cultures?
  • What stuck with you in Smith’s presentation?
  • Do you have words in your native language that describe feelings that don’t exist in English?
  • How are emotions viewed in your culture? Do you talk about them, or not?
  • What, according to you, is emotional intelligence?
  • Use the emotional definer wheel and say which are positive and which are negative

Want to download this lesson?

Get the Google Docs version for free

Do you want to climb a mountain?

I am an amateur rock climber…very amateur. It’s not for everyone, I know. But what is interesting about rock climbing is it puts you smack in the middle of a discussion between your “afraid-self” and your “courageous-self”.  Alex Honnold, famed for climbing Yosemite’s El Capitan without ropes, candidly talks about this discussion and how he talked his “afraid-self” into trusting his abilities.

Is fear always something to conquer?

There is a fine line between fear as the voice of a wise consultant and the voice of an insecure mother. In other words, sometimes fear is something you should conquer and sometimes it’s something you should heed.  Sadly, some fantastic athletes have died by choosing wrong.

Alex Honnold the Humble Hero

I am sharing this TED talk more because I am fascinated by Honnold’s composure, discipline and wisdom. What’s more, I think his experience creates an interesting context for a very different type of discussion about fear.

Pre discussion

  • Have you ever done anything that made you afraid?
  • How did you overcome your fear?
  • What are risks worth taking?

The Video: TED with Alex Honnold

  • What are all the elements that Honnold does to prepare for this feat (do a Mind Map)?
  • What did he do to overcome his fears?
  • Why was he not satisfied after he completed his climb?
  • What are the elements that go into “mastery”?
  • Do you master anything?

What have I learned from soap operas?

What have I learned from soap operas? Honestly, nothing. Except, there was one particularly boring summer, I was a teenager, no friends close by, and no motivation to get off the basement sofa. I got sucked into the soap opera vortex. There I learnt that I could spend an entire summer on a 5-foot sofa. I was addicted to the brain-numbing entertainment–the very thing I warn my children against. The whole summer…in the basement…me, the cycling, camping, hiking outdoor enthusiast that I am. Yep, that was one teenage phase that I am not really proud of.

Beyond the frivolous entertainment

But Kate Adams, assistant casting director at the Emmy-winning soap opera “As the World Turns,” puts a different spin on things. Funny, thought-provoking and vulnerable, she relates some of the crazier themes in soaps to her own life. In fact, I felt rather touched by her story (and a little less judgmental of my summer in the basement).

Give us something to talk about

Whether you are or were a soap opera aficionado, Adams’ “life lessons” will give you an interesting angle to reflect and discuss how these lessons could relate to your life. Warning: I don’t think your students will understand the references Adams makes. Still, I’m sure they will get the gist of the lessons and may even have some soap opera/telenovela memories of their own to share. You may even be surprised to find that many of us had a “soap opera” phase in our lives.

I made a handout for the lesson on TPT for $0.99 (teachers pay teachers), but I have also put the main discussion questions in this post.

Warm-up

  • Do you follow some sort of soap opera or series on television?
  • What do you like about it?

The video: Kate Adams 4 Larger than Life Lessons from Soap Operas

Discussion Questions

  • What are the 4 lessons?
  • Which of Kate Adams’ lessons do you think is the most important? Why?
  • What are some of the life lessons you carry with you when times get tough?
  • Do you have any life stories that show how you applied these lessons?

Oh…and this is too fun not to share: soap operas from around the world.

What matters most in life?

What matters most in life? A nice juicy esl discussion question that is maybe not so easy to answer. Or is it?

The main categories

We could start by exploring the large categories: money, family, health, happiness. Or we could get introspective and think of what, specifically, matters to us. Is it our children’s happiness, staying healthy, leading a full life, paying off our mortgage? It is one of those big questions that can deep and introspective or stay superficial and vague.

Feelings…nothing more than feelings

That’s why I like Denis Prager’s, from PragerU, exploration. He grabs this question with a very pragmatic point of view that leaves everyone, the vague and the introspective, with something to think about.

So then what?

In this esl lesson, we go from a general discussion of our values, to then take a twisty turn into social dilemmas which put our values to the test. Whether you use the handout or not, make sure you take a look at the dilemma scenarios at the end of the document.

Warm up

  • Mind Map some of the things you and your students find important
  • In this list: money, family, health and happiness, which matter most to you?

The video: What Matters Most in Life?, by PragerU

Discussion

Use this document to collect some of the main ideas in the video

Google Slides - Wikipedia

Then, explore the Would you Rather scenarios included in the document.

Or if you prefer to just go right to the questions, here they are:

In your opinion are the following statements true or false?

  • Money makes you happy
  • Love makes you happy
  • Good values make you happy

Why does Prager say that what matters most in life is our values?

Would you rather

  • Would you rather lose the ability to read or lose the ability to speak?
  • Would you rather be in jail for a year or lose a year off your life?
  • Would you rather have an easy job working for someone else or work for yourself but work incredibly hard?
  • Would you rather always be 10 minutes late or always be 20 minutes early?
  • For more: Would you Rather

Thanks you to all the Facebook teachers who helped me create this lesson.

What kind of music improves your mood?

Ever get in the car and suddenly a tune comes on that just takes you right out of your thoughts and makes you break into song? Or perhaps you drift into fantasy land and pump out an awesome guitare solo…leaving you to feel like a master of skill…powerful. Or perhaps you can remember cueing up a classic breakup song and let yourself cry all your tears after a separation.

Yes music can do all that. In fact some studies have shown that music can have profound effects on your brain chemistry and your overall well being.

In this article by Thrive Global Mayo Osin, looks at how music can impact your mood.

Pre discussion

  • What kind of music do you like?
  • What music puts you in a good mood?
  • What music puts you in a bad mood?

The article: The Science of How Music Affects Your Productivity

  • Do a Mind Map of all the elements and words associated to music, mental health and productivity.
  • What kind of music enhances productivity? What music reduces productivity? Why?
  • What are the differences between introverted and extraverted people with regards to music and memory?
  • What types of music should you listen to?

 

What is your comfort food?

What is your comfort food? I dare you to NOT think of the answer. Too late? I bet your favourite dish is already in your mind. Maybe you are even seeing a memory or a person attached to this dish. Is it something your mother made when you were sick? Something you eat at Christmas? Is it sweet or salty?

Healthy…probably not

Chances are your comfort food is not too healthy. Right? Generally speaking, comfort foods are hardy, starchy and fatty. All great words that describe food. And that is exactly what you will find in this Insider Food video featuring 20 different people from 20 different cultures describing their comfort food.

But it makes me happy

Food makes people happy, conjures memories, and heals us when we are sick or sad and is often the heart of most celebrations. It is also a super fun thing to talk about. It ties in food, feelings, events and people, thus a nice integrated vocabulary exercise. The perfect Whole Language exercise.

While you listen

This video is chalk-a-block full of vocabulary, so I made a Google docs handout to help collect the essential ideas. Or you can try this cool interactive worksheet. Of course, if you are working with more advanced students, you might want to ditch the handout and just let the students note what they can. Rember you can turn the CC on and slow down the video.

Interactive worksheet

Pre Discussion

  • Just to get the food words flowing, do a Mind Map
  • What is your comfort food?
  • Why?

The Video: 20 Comfort Foods From around the world

Discussion

  • Which story did you find the most interesting?
  • Which dish have you tried?
  • Which dish would you like to try?
  • What do most of the dishes have in common?
  • What were some of the reasons the dishes were considered comforting?

Who is an entrepreneur?

Who is an entrepreneur? As you may have noticed from its odd pronunciation, the word comes from the French–it means someone who takes something on by him or herself. In French, entreprendre means to endeavour. So perhaps its meaning could be clarified if we re-coined the term as an endeavouror.

Sounds more bold and courageous, no? It certainly takes a bit of bravado to be an entrepreneur. But what else does it take? A fantastic idea, a super talent, money, time? All of those things?

If you have business students who are endeavouring (ha) to develop their business vocabulary, this Crash Course on entrepreneurship is a great place to start. The presenter goes through all the basics: what it is, who is likely to identify as such, what are the advantages, what are the disadvantages. All this with a cheeky style that kept me entertained for the full 10 min. The narrator is a fast talker, so I would suggest turning the CC on and slowing the video down. Also, please feel free to use this note-taking handout.

Click to get handout

Warm-up

  • Do a word association Mind Map with the word ‘entrepreneur’
  • Have you ever tried to start a business or a side-gig?

The Video: Who Even In An Entrepreneur by Crash Course

Discussion Questions

  • Do another word association Mind Map and compare it with the first.
  • What are some examples of entrepreneurship? In other words, what examples of ideas, products and business does the presenter give to help illustrate what an entrepreneur is?
  • Who is not an entrepreneur?
  • What does the presenter say about failure?
  • What is the “gig-economy”?
  • Steady employment can be fulfilling because…
  • Entrepreneurship can be fulfilling because…
  • What are some of your thoughts on entrepreneurship? Do you see yourself in this description? Why or why not?

Are you a “multipotentialite”? Wait? What

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Personally, I wanted to be a teacher, a veterinarian, a filmmaker, a programmer, a social worker and then a teacher again. The prospect of choosing one single thing was super hard for me. But choose I did, and I never felt entirely happy doing what I was doing.

Is it possible that we don’t have one true calling? That we have more than one talent? One gift? That is the question that Emilie Wapnick asks her TED audience. She is a self-proclaimed “multipotentialite” which is to say, she has many potential careers and gifts.

I must say I got a little emotional watching this talk. I too am someone who has been constantly looking for my one true thing. Wapnick’s premise of the multipotentialite is a very freeing concept that really got my students thinking and talking (and using lots of job and skills related vocabulary).

Today I am a teacher who programs games, uses film and the web to build materials. Many of my students have alternative learning profiles like dyslexia and executive processing issues. I am considered an informal dog whisperer and on the weekends, I go horseback riding with my two daughters. So, somehow my multi-potentials came to fruition. How about you? When you compare what you wanted to do to and what you chose, did you find room for everything or did you concentrate on a few of your interests?

Pre discussion

  • What did you want to be when you were growing up?
  • If it changed, why did it change?
  • Have you changed your areas of interest as you grew older?
  • Why is it ok for children to have many career paths, but adults must choose one?

The Video: Ted why some of us don’t have one true calling by Emilie Wapnick

Post Video Discussion

You can use this handout to help the students focus their attention on certain areas of the talk. Remember, you can slow the video down and add subtitles if it helps. First, do a Tell Back.

  • Do you see yourself in Emilie’s concept of mulitipotentialite?
  • What is the problem of the “narrowly focused life”?
  • What are some of the problems Emilie encountered (4:00)?
  • What are the multipotentialite’s “superpowers” (6:30)?
  • What are the advantages of exploring all our interests?
  • How are those skills relevant in today’s job market?

Have a good discussion!

Would you rather text than talk?

Would you rather text or email than talk?

It’s just so easy. I don’t have to interrupt anyone, I can write while I’m in the moment, I don’t have to hold anything in my memory, I don’t even have to wait my turn to talk. When the thought appears, I can just shoot a message off and my counterpart can react when it is convenient for them. In some case, with my more talkative friends (and family members) a digital message is the only way I can get a word in edgewise.

Plus, I can re-read, check my tone or make sure I didn’t word anything in an insensitive way. I can edit. Digital communication allows me to put forth my best self. Great stuff…right?

Sherry Turkle is not so sure. Her TED talk Connected but Alone? takes a good hard look at what digital communication may be doing to us. We have all heard that technology may be making us more isolated, so beyond this statement, just how it is doing that? Turkle gets right under the hood of our communication habits and puts forth some thought provoking concepts that definitely gave me pause.

This lesson is definitely for more advanced students. I did this with a mixed class of high level and lower level students and the lower level were a bit lost. However, I still recommend using first language material as much as you can to get their ears and minds used to native speaking. Once they get over focusing on what they don’t understand and focus on what they do, they will increase their ability to get into the English speaking community.

Pre discussion

  • Let’s hypothesize…Why do you think Turkle thinks texting and emailing is making us more isolated?
  • Make a pros and cons list for digital communication
  • What is the difference between isolation and solitude?
  • What is the difference between friendship and companionship?
You can change the play back speed
And add subtitles

The Video: TED Sherry Turkle: Connected but Alone?

There is a ton of stuff to talk about here. And rather than try to Tell Back everything Turkle says (although you are free to do that), I would jump right into the discussion with some of the following key ideas:

  • “We want to customize our lives and control where we put our attention”
  • “We are getting used to being alone…together”
  • “We are compromising companionship for friendship”
  • “We have an illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship”
  • “We can’t get enough of each other, at a distance, in amounts we can control”
  • “We use technology to manage our relationships in ways we can comfortably control”
  • Technology is satisfying 3 basic fantasies:
    • We can put our attention where we want it to be
    • We will always be hear
    • We will never be alone
  • “Being alone feels like a problem that needs to be solved”
  • “I share therefore I am”
  • “Connection is creating isolation”
  • “We need to cultivate the capacity for solitude”
  • “We need to build a self-aware relationship with technology”

And I could go on and on pulling quotes from this video. Turkle is articulate, astute and a fantastic social analyst.

I am ready to admit that I am getting caught in the fray of convenience, but short of stopping (which is not going to happen) Turkle has helped me see where I might be more self-aware.

I hope you enjoy talking about this as much as me and my students.

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