Elizabeth Claire's E-News

December 2013 E-News from Elizabeth Claire

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Contents of this December E-NEWS

Woes of writing Easy English NEWS

Change in the cloze exercises and short answer tests

Price increase coming, order now

Contents of Easy English NEWS for December 2013

Woes of writing Easy English NEWS

Sometimes it's just not easy...

I spend a few weeks of the month wondering what will be the top news of use for our readers that will still in the news by the time the December issue reaches you? Syria? NSA spying? LAX shooting?

At first, I had put Obamacare, Part 3 on an inner page, out of deference to those to whom it does not apply...middle school, high school students, undocumented students...people on Medicare or Medicaid...

Violence is out, so no news of the LAX shooter or school shootings.

Economic news? We've done that. Pretty gloomy for a holiday issue.

But with day after day in late October and early November being bombarded with new troubles of the well-intentioned but poorly executed health care act and its website, and the absence of other significant news that our readers need to know about, back onto the front page went Obamacare.

I have tried very hard to put together information about the health care website that would be useful for our readers. This was not easy, as there has been plenty of misinformation out there and great difficulty in getting information about navigating the site.

One piece of misinformation I heard repeatedly in the news was that the penalty for not signing up is $95. That is not accurate. It's 1% of a person's yearly income, with the minimum payment being $95. If a person earns $30,000 a year, the penalty for not having insurance is $300. But that person might want to sign up anyway, as they would get subsidized. But if a person's income is $50,000, their health insurance premiums will not be subsidized, and the penalty would be one percent of that, or $500 the first year and going up to 2.5% in 2016.

I couldn't sign up myself to find the answer to simple questions, as I am covered by Medicare. When I called the navigators to ask How do people report their income...From last year's tax return or from their current weekly salary, or their expected total income this year? How is that verified?"

And how do they pay for it? Does the money come out of their paychecks, or do they pay by credit card? What if they don't have a credit card, or are currently unemployed? How do they get the subsidy?

The representative told me she couldn't answer my questions because I'm "from the media."

I politely explain that I'm trying to explain this to people who aren't computer savvy or whose English may not be top notch. How can they get help in their own language? I asked.

"They can call the language line."

How do they do that?

"They can ask for it on this telephone line after they contact a representative. But the language line is not open now." (I was calling at 10 pm) "You have to call back during the day"

"What are the hours for the language line?"

"During the day."

" Do you mean 9 a.m. to five each time zone?"

"I can't answer that question, call during the day to get that answer."

What languages are available?

The representative put me on hold and came back after a long wait to read a long list of languages. "The language line translates the questions into English," she said.. Then the language line translates into the person's language."

Do you mean the language line is an electronic translator, not a person?

"I can't answer that question. Your friend will have to call."

Well, there isn't just one person. I have 140,000 readers who need this information.

"What state are they in?"

All the states.

"They have to call their own state."

I had a few more questions. She declined to answer, "because you are from the media. A supervisor will call you back between two and five business days."

I have a deadline to go to press to help people understand this.

"What time of day is best for you? 8 to 12 or 12 to 5?"

I could understand that the representatives are just getting started and may be instructed not to speak with the media, in order to make sure only the most accurate information goes out, so only a supervisor should do this. But asking the media to wait five business days for information is going to cut across a lot of deadlines. Like mine, for Easy English NEWS.

I decided to wait a few hours and try again. This time, the wait for a pick up was about 20 minutes. This representative gave me different information: "The language line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week". She gave a different list of languages served. She described a process in which there was a three-way conference with the consumer, the representative and the interpreter...

As for the supervisor calling back with the answers to my list of questions, it's seven days later and it didn't happen. Easy English NEWS went to press, I'm afraid, with incomplete information.

The controversies over the new health care law that affects one sixth of the economy, and will upset one third of Americans are likely to go on. Meanwhile, the "law of unintended results" could see a long waiting line for doctors and treatments.

You might want to help your students understand the background of the compaint that the president misled people when he said, "If you like your health plan, you can keep it. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor." He now explains that what he meant was, "if your insurance company policy was in force before Affordable Health Care Act became law, you can keep it if your insurance company doesn't drop it. And if you get a letter saying your health policy is being discontinued, you can buy a better policy at our website for less money." (Unless you have a middle class income which is higher than four times the poverty level, which he didn't say.) And that health insurance policies are being discontinued, because the Affordable Health Care Act has new regulations about what medical costs companies must cover, and your old policies likely do not have such "good coverage." (as maternity benefits, mental health benefits, drug abuse benefits, dental coverage, and unlimited life long benefits.)

So that's the front page story. I apologize if this doesn't affect your students, just skip it for the middle school students, but I sense that it will be in the news for quite some time, with congressional hearings, delays, calls for firings, doctor shortages, and negative campaign ads galore in the summer of 2014 prior to midterm elections of Congress. So the article will give some of the background for that. It was as accurate as I could get it up until November 8th when I went to press.

Change in the cloze exercises and short answer tests

My attempt to charge $10 for the Supplemental Activities (Cloze Exercises and Short Answer Tests) to keep from having to increase the cost of the newspaper was a bust. Apparently teachers found it as complicated as the health care website to find the Supplementary Activities item in the top row, click on it, add it to the shopping cart, pay by credit card, submit the order, get a confirming email, click on a link back to "my account" and navigate to the items to download.

Teacher confusion reigned, and the office almost came to a standstill just answering the phones for frustrated teachers. The webmaster used the complaints to improve the procedure and the instructions, but it was very hard to make it all clear enough to use. We wound up just emailing the Supplemental Activities to whoever called or emailed us.

So to avoid all that, the Cloze Exercises and Short Answer Tests are free, as they were last year. Teachers who ordered them last month and successfully paid for them (congratulations!) will get a refund in the mail.

The Cloze Exercises and Short Answer Tests are in one long document and run about 16-18 pages. You can find them FREE, thus:

At the website,, home page:
  1. Hover your cursor over the Easy English NEWS tab until a drop down menu opens...
  2. Then click on Cloze Exercises and Tests. (It's the fifth item down in the list.)
  3. Then click on the current issue's materials. It will open up in a PDF file.
  4. Print out as many copies as you wish.
  5. Or, save it to your own computer to use later.
Each month, the Cloze Exercises and Short Answer Tests will be posted at least by the first of the month or a few days before, if we can handle that.

Please don't call the office asking where the December tests are when it is still November. We are pedaling as fast as we can. We can't produce the activities until the paper has gone to press, and it takes a minimum of four days to create the questions, lay it all out, do the answers, get it edited, enter corrections, format it to a PDF, send it to the webmaster to post at the website. So while they may be posted by the time you receive your shipment of newspapers, I don't guarantee them any earlier than the first of the month.

Somewhere in there, I have to do laundry.

We'll continue to sell the downloadable packet of reprodicible articles by Dr. Ali, "Your Health in Simple English." (with word help) It's $10.

And $10 for the Treasure Chest of activities.

Many other materials remain free. Look in "Free Materials." See below.

Price increase coming, order now

Single copies of Easy English NEWS will increase in price from $38 to $40 per year (10 issues.) Other prices will be posted on the website in the Spring 2014 order form. Click here to see the future prices to be in effect starting January 1, 2014.

Click here to get to the current order form valid until December 31, 2013.

Any orders we receive before January 10 will be honored at the 2013 prices.

Contents of Easy English NEWS for December 2013

Obamacare: Good News and Bad News Troubles with the website, the new law, and questions about subsidies

Shopping for Groceries, Part 3: Buying meat and dairy products. Understanding terms for cuts of meat, grades of milk.

Events in December covered in Easy English NEWS:
    • Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day
    • Wright Brothers Day
    • Bill of Rights Day
    • Human Rights Day
    • Winter Begins
    • Christmas
    • Who Is Santa Claus?
    • Kwanzaa
    • New Year's Eve
Ask Elizabeth: Measuring, Part 3. A brief history of the metric system and why the U.S. has not yet gone metric.

Ask a Speech Coach: Pronouncing the "double drumbeat" consonants pt, kt, bd, gd.

America the Beautiful: Winter in the U.S. Tips for keeping safe and warm.

Heroes and History: The Bill of Rights (and rights in the news today)

Animal Language comparing the ways people in different languages hear animals sounds. Also, animals in cliches and descriptions.

Plus our regular features:
This Is Your Page (readers' stories),  Funny Stuff, Idioms, the Crossword Puzzle, Let's Talk About It, and Word Help.

Are you new to teaching with Easy English NEWS? FREE Downloads

Click here for the FREE 24-page generic "How To Use Easy English NEWS in Your ESL Classroom" with 9 reproducible graphic organizers.

You can still download the Constitution in Simple English and Hurricane Safety in Simple English, as well as a few other free materials.

Do you miss the articles by Dr. Ali? The Reproducible E-Book packet of 31 articles from past columns of Your Health by Dr. Ali, in Simple English with Word Help can be purchased on line at our website for $10. Click Here.

Likewise, Treasure Chest 1, a potpourri of reproducible games, songs, and useful stuff is also $10. Check them out: Click Here to see description below.

At, add the item to your cart, pay by credit card, and then look for an email with instructions about finding these PDF documents in "My Account" and downloading them and saving them to your own computer to print out as many copies as you need for your students...this year and next and the next.


Treasure Chest #1: Reproducible Activities in downloadable format

A bundle of 47 reproducible activities for teachers of muliple levels of students: Treasure Chest #1. In addition to the wonderful non-verbal acting out game Show Off, the Treasure Chest includes:
  • Presidents of the U.S. and activities
  • a Metric/U.S. conversion chart
  • an extensive list of words that English has borrowed (and kept) from dozens of other languages
  • A reproducible Holiday Song Book (large print, one song to a page, illustrated and with word help on the page) and
  • Lincoln's Gettysburg Address with word help and a translation to simple English, plus teacher's guide.
Just $10 for the collection of all 47 of these reproducibles.
Hundreds of hours of use each year.
Click here
to get more information on Treasure Chest #1.

Elizabeth Claire's books on Kindle are available at, which you can access through my website.


  • ESL Teacher's Activities Kit Part One ($0.99)
  • ESL Teacher's Activities Kit Part Two ($2.99)
  • ESL Teacher's Activities Kit Part Three ($2.99)
  • Kristina, 1904, the Greenhorn Girl ($2.99)
  • Voices of Our New Neighbors Volume One ($0.99) These three volumes are collections of readers' stories from This Is Your Page that appeared in past issues of Easy English NEWS.
  • Voices of our New Neighbors Volume Two ($2.99)
  • Voices of our new Neighbors Volume Three ($2.99)
  • English Language Learners in the Mainstream Class (from Classroom Teacher's ESL Survival Guide) ($3.99)
  • What's So Funny? An International Student's Introduction to American Humor. ($4.99)
  • Phonics for English Language Learners? What the ESL Teacher Needs to Know ($0.99)

Click here to go to the Amazon Kindle Store at my website

Carry on your good work!

© Elizabeth Claire 2013.

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