Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence-Template

Jessica Sousa

Printable Version: Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence

Before You Read


  • For two minutes, write down a list of things you think are beautiful. Be prepared to share your list with the class. If you have any of the same words or ideas, you must cross those off. The student with the most words left is the winner. 
  • What does the word appreciate mean? What is something you appreciate? Describe it and why you appreciate it for five minutes in a free write. Then share with a partner. 


  • Look at the title. The author uses the phrase “Pearls Before Breakfast.” Why do you think he uses this phrase? What do you think it means? What do you think the article will be about?


Write the definition for the words in the blank space. Use a dictionary if needed. 

  1. passerby (n.) _________________________________________________
  2. performance (n.) ______________________________________________
  3. hang around (phrasal v.) ________________________________________
  4. mundane (adj.) ________________________________________________
  5. rush (v.) _____________________________________________________
  6. urban (adj.) ___________________________________________________
  7. valuable (adj.) ________________________________________________


Read the following text from The Washington Post Magazine:

Pearls Before Breakfast: Can one of the nation’s great musicians cut through the fog of a D.C. rush hour? Let’s find out.

“HE EMERGED FROM THE METRO AT THE L’ENFANT PLAZA STATION AND POSITIONED HIMSELF AGAINST A WALL BESIDE A TRASH BASKET. By most measures, he was nondescript: a young white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money. Then, he turned it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play.

It was 7:51 a.m. on Friday, January 12. It was the middle of the morning rush hour. In the next 43 minutes, the violinist performed six classical pieces. 1,097 people passed by. Almost all of them were on the way to work. This meant, for almost all of them, a government job.

Each passerby had a quick choice to make. This choice is familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the big city: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your desire but annoyed by the unwanted demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he’s really bad? What if he’s really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn’t you? What’s the moral mathematics of the moment?

On that Friday in January, those private questions would be answered in an unusually public way. No one knew it, but the violinist standing against a bare wall outside the Metro was one of the finest classical musicians in the world. He was playing some of the most elegant music ever written. And he had one of the most valuable violins ever made. His performance was planned by The Washington Post as an experiment in context, perception and priorities. It was also a planned assessment of public taste: In a mundane setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty be noticed?

So, what do you think happened?

Three minutes went by before something happened. Sixty-three people had already passed. Then, finally, there was a breakthrough. A middle-age man altered his walk for a split second. He turned his head to notice that there seemed to be some guy playing music. Yes, the man kept walking, but it was something.

A half-minute later, Bell got his first donation. A woman threw in a buck and scooted off. It was not until six minutes into the performance that someone actually stood against a wall and listened.

Things never got much better. In the three-quarters of an hour that Joshua Bell played, seven people stopped what they were doing to hang around and take in the performance, at least for a minute. Twenty-seven gave money.  Most of them were on the run. He made a total of $32 and change. That leaves 1,070 people who hurried by. They were distracted. Many people were only three feet away, but few turned to look.”

Word Count: 527

Time: _______
WPM: _______

Text adapted from: 

After You Read


Answer the questions:

  1. The main purpose of this magazine article is to_______.
    1. explain how work can be very distracting
    2. describe how busy people travel in public places
    3. show how classical music can change lives
    4. notice how people react to a performance

     2.Many people did not stop to listen because they____.

    1. were too busy
    2. did not like the music
    3. could not pay him
    4. felt very tired

     3. The article suggests that most people in the metro were ______.

    1. traveling to their jobs
    2. going to see their families
    3. touring Washington D.C.
    4. visiting famous places

      4. Why did Joshua Bell perform in the station? 

    1. The people paid him more money.
    2. The tourists asked him to stop there.
    3. The train company hired him to work.
    4. The magazine gave him an experiment.

       5.According to the passage, which of the following is NOT true about Joshua Bell?

    1. He was a famous violin musician.
    2. He performed a few classical pieces.
    3. He received many donations in one hour.
    4. He was wearing normal clothes. 


Watch the following video and pay attention to what the people do: 'Stop and Hear the Music' Experiment

Here is a video of Joshua Bell performing in concert. According to the magazine article, people usually pay $100 to attend his concerts: Joshua Bell - Tchaikovsky - Violin Concerto in D major, Op 35

Discuss with a partner or group about the following questions:

  1. Why do you think Joshua Bell decided to wear normal clothes in the station? 
  2. Why do you think most people passed by the performance without stopping?
  3. Have there ever been times in your life where you didn’t stop to appreciate something beautiful or excellent? Why? For example, maybe you did not look up to see the sunset yesterday.
  4. The experiment uses the hashtag #stopandhearthemusic. How can we “stop and hear the music” more in our lives?


  • Discussion:
    • Why do you think Joshua Bell put money into his violin case before he began playing? What other techniques might people or companies use to convince others to buy their products, or pay them money for their services?
  • With a group, plan an experiment you could do in your school or neighborhood similar to the one Joshua Bell and the Washington Post created and prepare to present your plan to the class. 


  • Writing Activity:
    • In your opinion, what is the difference between gratitude and appreciation? Write a compare/contrast paragraph with details and examples to support your opinion. 
  • Discussion: 
    • Some people gave money to Joshua Bell. A few other people stopped to listen. One woman told him he was fantastic. Are there different ways to show appreciation in your own culture? 

*Teacher's Note:

Comprehension Questions: Answers

  1. d
  2. a
  3. a
  4. d
  5. c


This article is useful for:

  •  scanning practice with numbers
  •  guessing the meaning of idiomatic phrases from context


This article is useful for:

  • past tense verbs
  • irregular verbs
  • phrasal verbs 
  • descriptive adjectives 

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