On Common Ground, Unit 3, For the Great Good


Esther Nelson, enhelson0620@yahoo.com

            ESL85F Integrated Skills, High Intermediate, 2 hours/3days/10 weeks

Mt. Hood Community College, Gresham, OR





Provide opportunities for students to speak, read, and write about



On Common Ground Video 3, Turning Point segment; OCG Work Text; OCG Supplemental Workbook (MHCC); articles and charts from online and hardcopy newspapers (included below)


Segment 1 Activities – History and overview of Constitution


Introductory class discussion

A.  Small group brainstorming and discussion (7.2.6)

·         What do you know about the constitution/Bill of Rights?  What?  Where?  When?  Who?  Why?  Importance? (5.2.1, 5.5.2)

·         Chart answers on board (7.4.2)

B.  View video segment – What more did you learn? (7.2.2)

C.  View again with cloze text.  Check vocabulary. (7.4.3)

D.  Small groups read text, p. 34.

·         Write main idea of each paragraph. (7.2.1)

·         Contribute sentences to create one summary paragraph on board. (7.4.2)


Constitution, text pp. 89-98 (5.2.2)

A.  Skim (7.4.1)

B.  Scan for main ideas (7.4.1)

·         Article I, Sec. 1 & 8

·         Article II, Sec. 1 & 2

·         Article III  Sec. 1

·         Amendments

C.  Students/teacher read Amendment 10, p. 35 (7.2.1)

·         What does it say?

·         Who decides when individual rights and government authority conflict?

o       Intro idea of courts (Supreme Court) (5.5.2)



Summary – What do you know about the Constitution?

A.  Class discussion

·         Student volunteers contribute; teacher writes sentences on board  (and copies for later dictation exercise) (7.2.1, 7.4.2)

B. Vocabulary review, supplemental workbook, pp 9-10, as classs

·         Small groups complete exercise pp 16-17, put answers on board, compare and correct (7.4.5)


Segment 2 Activities --Constitution/Bill of Rights a living document*


A.  Portland tram project, supplemental workbook, pp 7-8 – citizens vs. government agency (5.1.5)

·         Teacher reads; students listen and stop teacher for vocabulary, main ideas (5.1.6)

·         Small groups reread to identify the opposing groups and their claims (7.2.2)

·         Distribute The Oregonian op ed on tram project overruns

o       Groups identify reader’s position (main idea) and few supporting details of his argument (7.2.1)

B.  Assisted suicide – individuals vs government and other citizens

·         Large group discussion – What is assisted suicide?  What do you know about it?  Why is it an important issue now?  Summarize on board (7.2.5)

·         Distribute “Key Points to Today’s Hearing on Oregon Assisted Suicide Law” (The Oregonian online); volunteers read aloud (7.2.2, 7.2.5)

·         Distribute “Statistical Breakdown” (The Oregonian online table) to pairs

o       Introduce vocabulary – table, chart, heading, column, row, percent, etc. (1.1.3)

o       Ask pairs to find answers to a few questions until everyone can use table

o       Distribute worksheet “Physician Assisted Suicide – Getting the Facts”

§         Students guess or estimate the answers, then find facts in table (6.9.2, 6.8.1, 6.7.5, 7.4.4)

§         Pairs write answers on board – compare and correct

·         Distribute The Oregonian article (with key information underlined) “Why Am I Not Dead?”

o       Small groups read and complete worksheet (2.5.3)

o       Compare answers in class discussion (7.2.7)

o       Class contributes key information for David Prueitt obituary – teacher produces paragraph on board (7.4.2)

o       Erase paragraph and use as dictation later

·         Discussion on resolution of assisted suicide issue – Who will decide?  What is Supreme Court?  Why is SC in the news now? (two vacancies) (5.5.3)

·         Class “debate” on assisted suicide

o       Divide into two large groups (pro and con) which brainstorm their arguments – take notes (7.4.2)

o       List arguments on board (7.2.5)

o       Each student allowed to state and defend and opinion (point and support) (7.2.7)

o       Secret ballot vote and tally position on assisted suicide

C.  Other contemporary Constitutional issues – class discussion

·         Skim Gorge House issue (OCG workbook, pp 18-20) (7.4.1)

·         Brainstorm (students came up with Wal-Mart siting in Greasham, use of medicinal marijuana, adult entertainment) (7.2.6)


Concluding points by teacher that Constitutional issues are in play every day, that students can understand more of the news than they generally appreciate, and that they can use the news (broadcast and print) to improve English.  Ask for suggestions – how students can use the news to connect with the US and improve English.  Students came up with the following: (7.2.6)

Ask coworkers to explain issues

Listen to small segments of news and summarize in English

Watch news with someone (native speaker ideal) and ask questions


In a computer lab session, students googled “assisted suicide,” “physician assisted suicide,” “death with dignity” and found millions of postings just to get the idea of how big an issue this is.  Also, we played around with refining the search to restrict the number of items. (7.4.4)


*Any states rights or individual freedoms issue could be used similarly.  Whatever is current is easy to work with because it is prominent in the media.


Student comments

Following this unit, I asked students at the beginning or end of each class if they had heard anything interesting or confusing in the news.  They often had contributions.  Occasionally students raised an issue independently – for example, the teacher strike in the Oregon Trails District.  (The student initially asked if such a strike is an example of individual vs government rights.)  A number of students said that they liked working with “real life” material that challenged them and made them feel more “American.”  A couple students were over-challenged.