December 2013 E-News from Elizabeth Claire
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Contents of this December E-NEWS
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
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 p.m.in each time zone?"
"I can't answer that question, call during the day to get that
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
"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
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
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
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
testsMy 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
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, elizabethclaire.com, home page:
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.
- Hover your cursor over the Easy English NEWS tab until
a drop down menu opens...
- Then click on Cloze Exercises and Tests. (It's the fifth item
down in the list.)
- Then click on the current issue's materials. It will open up in a
- Print out as many copies as you wish.
- Or, save it to your own computer to use later.
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)
And $10 for the Treasure Chest of activities.
Many other materials remain free. Look in "Free Materials."
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
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:
Measuring, Part 3. A brief history of the metric system and
why the U.S. has not yet gone metric.
- Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day
- Wright Brothers Day
- Bill of Rights Day
- Human Rights Day
- Winter Begins
- Who Is Santa Claus?
- New Year's Eve
a Speech Coach: Pronouncing the "double drumbeat"
consonants pt, kt, bd, gd.
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.
regular features: This Is Your Page (readers' stories),
Funny Stuff, Idioms, the Crossword Puzzle, Let's Talk About It, and Word
Are you new to teaching with Easy English
NEWS? FREE Downloads
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 elizabethclaire.com, 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 formatA 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:
Just $10 for the collection
of all 47 of these reproducibles.
- Presidents of the U.S. and activities
- a Metric/U.S. conversion chart
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.
Hundreds of hours of use each year.
here to get more information on Treasure
Claire's books on Kindle are available at Amazon.com, 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
- Voices of our New Neighbors Volume Two ($2.99)
- Voices of our new Neighbors Volume Three
- 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)