Hands-on English current events activityfor ESL

September 10, 2005

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Reading activity, with multi-level dictation:

After Katrina, Mexico helps U.S.


Here is a short reading passage about the relief convoy that came to San Antonio from Mexico. It is suitable for beginners (with some help) as well as more advanced students. You can read and discuss this with your students, and do as many of the suggested activities as seem appropriate. We have also provided a "multi-level dictation" further down, which makes a great lesson if you'd like to use it that way.

Suggested activities:

1) Discussion. See the discussion questions following the story; these could make for some very interesting discussions!
2) Map work. Trace a land route from Mexico City to San Antonio. Estimate the distance and travel time.
3) Math. Do some calculations about the meals. For example, 3 meals a day for 7,000 people is how many meals per day? How many meals for 3 weeks? Or, 5 cups of water a day each for 7,000 people is how many gallons? How many gallons for 21 days?
4) Job descriptions. Have the students figure out what kinds of jobs the Mexican soldiers will have to do, i.e., cooking, serving, cleanup, pitching tents, organizing the people, running the water purifiers, etc. It will be interesting to see if the students can organize a plan. One nice way to do this is to have the students work in small groups of 4 or 5, with one student designated as the "General" and the others as expert advisors.
5) Writing. Ask your students to imagine that they are one of the soldiers serving in this relief effort. Have them write a letter home, describing their first day on the job. (If your students are Spanish speakers, it would be most logical to write this 'letter home' in Spanish. In that case, ask the students to also write a summary of the letter in English to share with the rest of the class.)
6) Advanced vocabulary. Even beginning students like to learn about the more sophisticated terminology that they hear on the news. It's appropriate to introduce these once the students understand the story. For example: soldiers=military personnel, storm victims=evacuees, machines to make clean water=mobile water treatment plants, help=disaster relief/aid, army trucks=military vehicles/convoy.


Reading:
Mexico helps U.S.

After Hurricane Katrina, many countries offered help to the United States. On September 8, the Mexican army brought help to victims of the storm. They drove 45 trucks from Mexico to San Antonio, Texas, where many storm victims are staying.

The trucks carried 190 soldiers. Some of these soldiers are doctors, nurses and engineers. They brought some big army kitchens and a lot of food. They brought machines to make clean drinking water. They will give food and water to 7,000 people for 3 weeks.

When the Mexican trucks drove into the U.S., many Americans came to watch. They smiled and waved flags to greet the Mexicans. The last time the Mexican army came to Texas was 159 years ago. In 1846, the U.S. and Mexico were enemies. They fought a war against each other. But today they are allies.

The Mexican army brought food, water and help for the storm victims. They also brought something else--friendship. Thank you, Mexico!


Discussion:
• A news reporter said, "This is a historic day." Why did he say that?
• Do you know about a disaster in your country? If so, what happened? Did you see it? Where did people go after the disaster? Who helped them? What kind of help did they get? How long was it before the people had their homes again?

Multi-level dictation:

How to do it--We prefer having the students read and discuss the text before writing a dictation, so that they are already familiar with the story. There are five levels provided here for the dictation. Level A is the easiest, and Level E (a blank piece of paper!) is the most challenging. Before class, make separate copies of each level. You may have to cut and paste your copy to fit each level onto one sheet. Make sure the text is large enough to write comfortably in the blanks, and if not enlarge the page first before reproducing.
When you come to class, bring some extra copies of each level so that students can repeat the exercise at a more difficult level, if they choose. You can let each student select which level to start with. Once everyone has a paper, give the dictation by reading each sentence aloud at natural speed, pausing between sentences for students to write. You can repeat as often as the students wish.
When the students are finished writing, have them pair up with another student to correct the dictation. Notice that the beginning students have more information and can help advanced students correct their papers! If the students wish to, you can repeat the exercise with the students selecting a more challenging level each time.
Note: (Shameless plug for Hands-on English!) We print a multi-level dictation in each issue of Hands-on English, and this is one of our most popular features! If you'd like more activities like this one, subscribe to our print publication (link at bottom of this page). Thanks!


Level A--Mexico helps U.S.

After Hurricane Katrina, many countries offered _______ to the United States. On September ____ , the Mexican army brought _______ to victims of the storm. They drove ____ trucks from _________ to San Antonio, _________ , where many storm victims are staying.

The trucks carried _______ soldiers. Some of these soldiers are ___________ , nurses and engineers. They brought some big army kitchens and a lot of ________ . They brought machines to make clean drinking ________ . They will give food and water to ___________ people for ____ weeks.

When the Mexican trucks drove into the _______ , many Americans came to watch. They smiled and waved flags to greet the Mexicans. The last time the Mexican army came to Texas was _______ years ago. In ________ , the U.S. and Mexico were enemies. They fought a ______ against each other. But ________ they are allies.

The Mexican army brought food, _______ and help for the storm victims. They also brought something else--friendship. Thank ______ , Mexico!


Level B--Mexico helps U.S.

After Hurricane Katrina, ________ ___________ offered help to the _________ _________ . On ____________ 8, the ___________ ________ brought help to victims of the storm. They ________ 45 trucks ________ ___________ _____ San Antonio, Texas, where _________ storm victims are staying.

______ ___________ carried 190 __________ . Some of these soldiers are ___________ , ___________ ______ engineers. They brought some ______ __________ kitchens and ____ _______ _____ food.  ________ __________ machines to make ________ _____________ water. They _______ _________ food _____ water to 7,000 ________ for 3 _________.

When the Mexican trucks ________ ________ the _____, many Americans _______ _____ __________ . They ________ and waved flags ____ _________ the Mexicans. The last time the Mexican army _______ _____ _________ was 159 _________ _______ . In 1846, ______ U.S. ______ ____________ ________ enemies. They fought ____ ______ against ______ _________ . But _________ _______ ______ allies.

The Mexican _______ ___________ food, water ______ help ______ ________ storm victims. _________ _______ _________ something else--friendship. __________ ______, __________ !


Level C--Mexico helps U.S.

________ Hurricane Katrina, ________ ____________ offered _______ _____ ______ ___________ _________. On September 8, ______ ___________ ________ ________ help to victims ______ ________ ___________. They ________ _____ ___________ _________ Mexico _____ San Antonio, Texas, __________ __________ storm victims _______ _______________.

The __________ _____________ ______ ___________. ________ _____ _________ soldiers ______ ___________, __________ and _____________ . They brought ________ ______ ________ _____________ and _____ ________ ___ _________. They brought ___________ _____ _________ ________ ______________ ________ . They ______ ________ _________ and _________ to 7,000 ___________ ______ ______ ___________.

When ______ _____________ __________ ________ into ______ ________, _________ _______________ _______ to ____________. _________ ___________ and waved _______ _____ _________ ______ Mexicans. The last time _____ _____________ _________ _______ _____ __________ ______ 159 _________ ________ . In 1846, ______ ________ and ___________ ________ __________. They _________ _____ _______ ___________ each other. But ________ they _______ ___________.

______ ____________ ________ ___________ food, _________ ______ __________ for _____ _________ victims. They _______ __________ ___________________ ________--friendship. _________ _______, _______________ !


Level D--Mexico helps U.S.

________ _______________ _____________ , ________ ____________ ________________ _______ _____ ______ ___________ _________. _______ _______________ ____, ______ ___________ ________ ________ _________ ____ ___________ ______ ________ ___________. _________ ________ _____ ___________ _________ ___________ _____ ________ _____________ , _________ , __________ __________ ________ ___________ _______ _______________.

_______ __________ _____________ ______ ___________. ________ _____ _________ ___________ ______ ___________, __________ ______ _____________ . _________ ____________ ________ ______ ________ _____________ _____ _____ ________ ___ _________. __________ ____________ ___________ _____ _________ ________ ______________ ________ . _________ ______ ________ _________ _______ _________ ______ ____________ ___________ ______ ______ ___________.

________ ______ _____________ __________ ________ _______ ______ ________, _________ _______________ _______ _____ ____________. _________ ___________ _______ __________ _______ _____ _________ ______ ___________. ________ _________ _________ _____ _____________ _________ _______ _____ __________ ______ _______ _________ ________ . _______ _________, ______ ________ ________ ___________ ________ __________. _______ _________ _____ _______ ___________ _______ __________. ______ ________ _______ _______ ___________.

______ ____________ ________ ___________ ________, _________ ______ __________ ________ _____ _________ ____________. _________ _______ __________ ___________________ ________--_______________. _________ _______, _______________ !



Level E--Mexico helps U.S.
Use a blank sheet of paper!




Feedback. . .

As always I am interested to hear what you and your students are doing in the classroom, and I welcome comments and teaching suggestions.--Anna Silliman, editor-at-handsonenglish-dot-com


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