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Lesson 5: It's Confidential

ESL Teacher Lesson 


words to know

Skills and Objectives

  • bullet Practice conversational English
  • bullet Read and write English dialogue
  • bullet Understand the laws surrounding the census process

Materials: Your Side of the Story Student Worksheet 5

    Getting Started

  1. Your students now know how and why the U.S. government conducts a decennial census. But they may have concerns about the privacy of their information.

  2. Conduct a classroom discussion that openly addresses these concerns. Encourage individual students to explain to the rest of the class any questions they might have. They may think that their populations might not be counted or they may be unsure about how their information might be used.

  3. Tell students that U.S. Census Bureau workers take an oath of confidentiality. This means that workers promise not to share information about any person or household with any agency inside or outside the government. The oath is renewed every year. Breaking it is a crime.

  4. Explain to students that an oath is a serious promise, usually in a legal sense. Ask them for examples of an oath. They may offer the following examples: An oath taken before serving on a jury or testifying in a trial; an oath taken by a politician before entering office; or the ethical oath taken by doctors before practicing medicine.

  5. Using the Student Worksheet

  6. Your Side of the Story Student Worksheet 5 presents the concerns of a hypothetical neighbor. Make copies of the worksheet. Depending on skill levels, you may want to assign pairs of students to complete the worksheet together.

  7. Tell students that one side of the dialogue is being voiced by a neighbor. Based on their knowledge of the confidentiality laws surrounding the U.S. Census, have them write sentences that provide their own side of the conversation.

  8. Wrap-up

  9. Have student pairs read their conversations aloud, with one partner reading the dialogue of the neighbor and the other partner reading the other side. Have them practice until the conversation seems fluid and natural. Challenge them to present their conversations to the rest of the class.

Extension Activity

Challenge students to explore the Web site for the U.S. Census Bureau. By visiting they can learn more about the census and its history. Encourage them to add any new information they find to their K-W-L charts, which they began in Lesson 1.

Answers to the Student Worksheet

The following are sample lines of dialogue that students might use for their side of the conversation:

1. I have read that the census has only 10 questions. It should take only about 10 minutes to fill out.

2. The form asks you to list the people in your household. It also asks for their name, sex, race, and date of birth.

3. The government can use the information to help our community. The count also helps decide how many representatives we have in the state capital and in Congress.

4. The U.S. Census Bureau is the only agency that sees your information. It keeps it private.

5. It is against the law for the U.S. Census Bureau to share your information with other agencies.

6. Your information is sealed for 72 years.

7. I’m happy to share what I know about the census! Go to to find out more information about the census.

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