Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Boston Marathon Bombing - ESL Reading Lesson

Staying home to take care of my two youngest children, I didn't hear about the Boston Marathon bombing until much after the fact. It's a terrible tragedy, and one can only imagine what kind of person would want to harm so many innocent people, including children. The picture of little Martin Richard smiling so brightly brought tears to my eyes; my heart goes out to the parents of this little boy. I have a nine-year old daughter myself, and I would not want to imagine my life without her.

Using News Events
A marathon is a rich topic for any teacher, including ESL teachers. Like it or not, the bombing makes the Boston Marathon a topic of further interest for students. I do want to discuss the event with my students, but not in a way that will inflame or depress them. Rather, I want to teach them something about marathons and give them an opportunity to talk about what's happened. 

Teaching Sensitive Topics to ESL Students
At the same time, as an ESL teacher, I need to keep in mind that many foreign students are sensitive to comments related to such tragedies. Some find themselves targets of offensive comments and may feel defensive. This may also be a good time to briefly discuss how such students feel. I hope this ESL lesson on the Boston Marathon teaches students about the day in a positive and constructive manner. 

For anyone who also teaches younger students, I tried to design this lesson so that it can be used for sixth and seventh graders who want to learn more about the Boston Marathon and the tragic bombing. 

I hope you and your students benefit from this lesson, and come away with something at the end of it.  

The Boston Marathon Bombing

Boston Marathon Runner John Funk Competing in Race in Blue Shirt and Black Shorts

Have you ever run in a race? The Boston Marathon is one of the world's most famous races. It has been in the news many times, for example, when Kenyan runner Geoffrey Mutai set a world running record in 2011. This year, the Boston Marathon has been in the news more than ever.

The Boston Marathon is an annual marathon. It takes place every year in the Boston area. It is always held on the 3rd Monday in April. The Boston Marathon was first started in 1897 by the Boston Athletic Association. This same organization still runs the event. To complete the race, one must run a distance of 26 miles and 385 yards.  

The Boston Marathon has grown each year, so that it is now one of Boston's biggest events. Starting with only 18 people in 1897, the event now brings more than half a million fans each year to the race. More than twenty thousand people also run in the marathon each year.

Anyone who qualifies can run in the Boston Marathon. In fact, runners from all over the world come to Boston each year to compete. A runner must be over the age of 18 and have completed a marathon before. Many different kinds of people compete in this race. For example, people who use wheelchairs or have other disabilities participate and can also win prizes.

It is not easy to run a marathon. Yet the Boston Marathon is one of the hardest. There are many hills to run through. Also, Boston can be cold and rainy in April. Runners must complete the 26-mile race, no matter the terrain and weather.

The Boston Marathon has always been a joyous event celebrating health, fitness, and sportsmanship. Families come to support runners. People of all ages enjoy being a part of this famous race, and celebrating with the winners. The winners are awarded large prizes. The first man and woman to complete the race receive $100,000. There are also prizes for 2nd and 3rd place, and for winners with disabilities.

This year, the Boston Marathon started out as a happy event as usual. However, it tragically turned into a terrible event. Towards the end of the race, this year, two bombs exploded near a crowd of spectators. The bombs were placed in pressure cookers hidden in backpacks. Two Americans and a Chinese man died in the explosions. Among those killed was an eight-year old boy named Martin Richard. More than 150 people were also injured. Several people who were hurt had to have arms or legs amputated. People are not sure how or why this happened. Everyone is looking for answers as to who could have committed such a terrible crime.

Americans are believed to be unusually optimistic and good at "bouncing back". They will always remember this tragedy. Yet, one can expect Bostonians and Americans to remain committed to maintaining the tradition of this famous marathon. And who knows? It may be that next year will bring more runners than ever before.


1. What is a marathon?
2. Why is the Boston Marathon so popular?
3. For how many years has the Boston Marathon been held?
4. How was this year's marathon different from marathons in past years?
5. What is meant by "bouncing back"?
6. After what happened this year in Boston, would you run next year if you could? Why or why not?
7. How will the Boston Marathon be different next year than this year, in negative and positive ways?
8. Draw a line under every simple past verb and a double line under every present perfect verb.

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