Synesthesia: Artists Seeing Sound

September 20th, 2014  |  Published in Medical

“Synesthesia has been something of a hot topic in music news recently, with the likes of Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, Lady Gaga, Dev Hynes and Frank Ocean suddenly keen to talk up their colourful experiences..One man helping to educate the public is British composer Nick Ryan. He has grapheme-colour synesthesia but also sees corresponding colours, shapes and textures to sound and music. Like Pharrell, he sees his synesthesia as a boon – it makes listening to music very enjoyable– and he has long wanted to recreate it for a non-syn audience.” H. Williams-BBC

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key.

Synesthesia makes colour a more multi-sensory affair, linked to sound, texture, taste or shapes. Credit Holly Williams-BBC

Synesthesia makes colour a more multi-sensory affair, linked to sound, texture, taste or shapes. Credit Holly Williams-BBC

Excerpt: How synesthesia inspires artists By Holly Williams

“The experience of colour as we usually understand it is a visual one: objects have colour, artists use colour, and we can recall a colour in our mind’s eye. But for some people, colour is a more multi-sensory affair, linked to sound, texture, taste or shapes. Music has a hue – like the parping of a trumpet that evokes a shower of burnt orange. Numbers, letters and days of the week have their own shade: the number one is white, the letter L is blue and Monday is red.

Pharrell Williams' song Happy is yellow with a hint of mustard and sherbet orange (Pharrell Williams- 24 Hours of Happy). BBC

Pharrell Williams’ song Happy is yellow with a hint of mustard and sherbet orange (Pharrell Williams- 24 Hours of Happy). BBC

This neurological phenomenon is called synesthesia; if you don’t have it, it sounds strange, like the straining of an overactive imagination. But if you’re part of the estimated four per cent of the population who are  synesthetes,  such descriptions are as obvious and natural as the sky being blue and the grass being green.

Synesthesia is best described as a union of the senses; one sensory experience involuntarily, and consistently, prompts another. There are up to 70 different types – from tasting the time to smelling a symphony – although the most common involve colour…

Lady Gaga. Credit- Getty -Mirror UK

Lady Gaga. Credit- Getty -Mirror UK

[Nick Ryan]  Working with Synes, an audio-visual collaboration with digital artists Quayola & Sinigaglia… the work recently premiered at London’s Roundhouse as part of Imogen Heap’s Reverb festival. Highly textured, precisely coloured digital imagery was projected on a large screen, morphing to match his music, which blended electronics with sounds made by the London Contemporary Orchestra. I wanted it to be multi-sensory, because such is the nature of synesthesia he says. It’s a sensation scrapbook, which the audience is immersed in.

Stevie Wonder has sound-color synesthesia and can in fact perceive color. Credit UNC.edu

Stevie Wonder has sound-color synesthesia and can in fact perceive color. Credit UNC.edu

Electronic booms were matched on screen by crashing waves of monochrome static; sustained, growling strings and deep bass were illustrated with slowly warping spidery nets and grids of deep pink and ice-white.

Nick Ryan is an award-winning composer and sound designer.Credit Nickryanmusic

Nick Ryan is an award-winning composer and sound designer.Credit Nickryanmusic

How effective it was for the non-synesthete, I couldn’t say – but it certainly made me realise my own response to music is more synesthetic than I’d previously thought. Some graphic matches felt satisfyingly correct; others, downright wrong. That pale grid shape? Far too light and clean and carefully constructed for the sound – it ought to have been altogether darker, heavier, more organic”

 

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, speaking and listening. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours. 

Materials: Student handouts (from this lesson) access to news article, and video clip.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing. 

I. Pre-Reading Activities

KWL Chart

The K-W-L chart is used to activate students’ background knowledge of a topic in order to enhance their comprehension skills.

Directions: Have students use the KWL chart to list the information they already know about synesthesia. Later in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about the topic.

KWL  chart from Michigan State University.

KWL chart from Michigan State University.

II. While Reading Tasks

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance. 

  1. The experience of colour as we usually understand it is a visual one.
  2. But for some people, colour is a more multi-sensory affair.
  3. Music has a hue.
  4. This neurological phenomenon is called synesthesia.
  5. One friend has tastes and textures as well as colours for words.
  6. For some, synesthesia can actually be a bonus, aiding their creative endeavors.
  7. Research on synesthesia was disregarded until the late 1980s.
  8. synesthesia is not a rarity
  9. Ryan is far from the only artist to attempt to recreate their synesthesia.
  10. Like Pharrell, he sees his synesthesia as a boon.
Freeology Chart

Freeology Chart

 

Reading Comprehension

Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word or phrase to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

  1. The experience of colour as we usually understand it is a visual/visor one.
  2. This neurological phenomenona/phenomenon is called synesthesia.
  3. Synesthesia is best described as a union/uniform of the senses.
  4. One friend/fiend has tastes and textures as well as colours for words.
  5. Synesthesia has been something of a hot top/topic in music.
  6. One of the main things is most artists/art have it.
  7. One man helping to eradicate/educate the public is British composer Nick Ryan.
  8. He has grapheme-colour synthetic/synesthesia.
  9. Ryan is far from the only artist to attempt to recreate/create their synesthesia.
  10. Synesthesia is a senses/sensation scrapbook which the audience is immersed in.

 Grammar Focus

Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I

  1. A number of famous artists has experienced synesthesia.
  2. Holly Williams explores its history.
  3. The experience of colour is a visual one.

II

  1. Synesthesia is best described as a union of the senses.
  2. One friend have tastes and textures as well as colours for words.
  3. There are up to 70 different types of synesthesia.

III

  1. For some synesthesia can actually is a bonus.
  2. Synesthesia is not a rarity.
  3. One man helping to educate the public is British composer Nick Ryan.

III. Post Reading Tasks

Reading Comprehension Check

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article. 

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion/Writing Exercise

Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.

1. The following  2 statements were taken from the article. Rephrase each one, then discuss the meaning with your group.

“The singer-songwriter [Pharrell Williams ] recently insisted in an interview that synesthesia“is not a rarity. One of the main things I try to educate the public on is, most artists have it.” That might be overstating it, but there is a rich history of it in the arts. Notable synesthetes (or suspected ones, given its relatively recent currency and familiarity as a scientific term) include composers Olivier Messiaen, Franz Liszt and Jean Sibelius, Russian author Vladimir Nabokov.”

“Research on synesthesia is not as extensive as you might expect: it was disregarded as a phenomenon until the advent of MRI scans in the late 1980s, proving that corresponding areas of the brain really do light up in synesthetes – but it’s thought it may be more common in artists.”

IV. Listening Activity 

Video clip: Seeing Sound, Tasting Color: Synesthesia; interview with neuroscientist David Eagleman.

 

Video Link

 While Listening Task

Multiple choice

Directions: Students are to choose the correct response from the ones provided from the video.

1. Anesthesia means

a-some feeling

b-no feeling

c-feeling in general

2. Synesthesia means

a-joined feeling

b- too many feelings

c-no feeling

3. An example of Synesthesia  would be

a-hearing music while hearing tones

b-seeing colors  while distinguishing shades

c-hearing  music while seeing colors

4. Examples of over-learned sequences are

a-letters, numbers, weekdays

b-another language

c-algebra

5. The characteristics of Synesthesia are

a-conscious, planned, external

b- rehearsed, mindful, aware

c-  automatic, unconscious, and internal

6…of the population have some form of Synesthesia.

a- 3 percent

b- 4 percent

c- 6 percent

7. The study of Synesthesia  provides insight into understanding

a-  how  different brains can percieve reality

b- how different brains can percieve colors

c- how different brains can percieve numbers

8. Historically, most people who had Synesthesia

a-knew they had it.

b-have lived their lives not knowing they had it.

c- thought that they had it.

 Post-Listening Tasks

Directions: Place students in groups and have each group create a list of questions they would like to ask David Eagleman or any of the recording artists mentioned in the article.

ANSWER KEY

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Jesus Rocking Young Americans… Via Sydney

September 13th, 2014  |  Published in Religion

“A toned and sunburned 32-year-old Australian with the letters F-A-I-T-H tattooed onto his biceps strode onto the stage of a former burlesque theater here and shouted across a sea of up-stretched hands and uplifted smartphones: Let’s win this city together!… The church, Hillsong, has become a phenomenon…even more remarkable because its target is young Christians in big cities, where faith seems out of fashion but where its services are packing them in…But its critics, and there are many, deride Hillsong as hipster Christianity, suggesting that its theology is thin, its enthusiasm for celebrities (Justin Bieber is among its fans) unbecoming, its politics (opposition to abortion and a murky position on homosexuality) opaque.”-M. Paulson The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Ben Houston, a son of Hillsong founders and pastor in LA. Credit Monica Almeida NYT

Ben Houston, a son of Hillsong founders and pastor in LA. Credit Monica Almeida NYT

Excerpt: Megachurch With a Beat… By Michael Paulson The New York Times

“…The crowd did not need much urging. Young, diverse and devoted to Jesus, the listeners had come to the Belasco Theater from around the city, and from across the country, eager to help an Australian Pentecostal megachurch that is spreading worldwide establish its first outpost on America’s West Coast.

Founded 30 years ago, Hillsong has churches in Amsterdam; Barcelona, Spain; Berlin; Cape Town; Copenhagen; Kiev, Ukraine; London; New York; Paris; and Stockholm, as well as multiple campuses in Australia and, now, an embryonic congregation in Los Angeles. The Hillsong empire might appear to be a musical powerhouse first and a church second.

A midweek gathering at Hillsong Church, at the Belasco Theatre in LA. Credit Monica Almeida NYT

A midweek gathering at Hillsong Church, at the Belasco Theatre in LA. Credit Monica Almeida NYT

It is, after all, a multimillion-dollar enterprise, drawing large crowds to arena concert performances… They are without a doubt the most influential producers of worship music in Christendom, said Fred Markert, a Colorado-based leader of Youth With a Mission, a Christian organization…But its critics, and there are many, deride Hillsong as hipster Christianity, suggesting that its theology is thin… It’s a prosperity movement for the millennials, in which the polyester and middle-class associations of Oral Roberts have given way to ripped jeans and sophisticated rock music, said R. Albert Mohler Jr., the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary…In the United States, Hillsong is nondenominational; in Australia, it is associated with the Australian Christian Churches, which is an affiliate of the Assemblies of God.” 

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours. 

Materials: Student handouts (from this lesson) access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through discussions, debating, and writing. 

I. Pre-Reading Activities

Brainstorming

Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about the topic.  Next, have students look at the picture(s) in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article. As a class  list these ideas on the board. Students can use the Brainstorming chart from Kootation.comGreat Brainstorming chart from Kootation.com

II. While Reading Tasks

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart  from Education Oasis for assistance.

  1. The crowd did not need much urging.
  2. The crowd was young, diverse and devoted to Jesus.
  3. The church, Hillsong, has become a phenomenon.
  4. Hillsong is powered by a lucrative, recording label.
  5. Its songs, with a folk rock sound pervade the Christian charts.
  6. They are the most influential producers of worship music in Christendom.
  7. It’s a prosperity movement for the millennials.
  8. These are tough, hard, dry towns for contemporary churches.
  9. Hillsong has critics who monitor speakers at its conferences.
  10. In the United States, Hillsong is nondenominational.

 

Word Chart By Education Oasis

Reading Comprehension

True /False/NA-Statements

Directions: Review the following statements from the reading.  If  a statement is true they mark it T.  If the statement is  not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they  mark  it F and provide the correct answer.

  1. Founded 30 years ago, Hillsong has churches every where except Papua New Guinea.
  2. The Hillsong empire  appears to be a church first and a musical powerhouse second. 
  3. Ben Houston is the pastor of Hillsong Los Angeles.
  4. Hillsong is an example of a growing phenomenon in global Christianity.
  5. Hillsong never has critics who monitor speakers at its conferences
  6. In New York, the church started at Irving Plaza and then relocated to the Grand Ballroom at the Manhattan Center.
  7. The Houstons are very rich.
  8. Some worshipers share images and thoughts on social media during services.
  9. By some estimates, 100,000 people in the pews each weekend, 10 million followers on social media.
  10. Hillsong  has sold 2 million albums.

 Grammar Focus

Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I

  1. The church, Hillsong, have become a phenomenon.
  2. Founded 30 years ago, Hillsong has churches everywhere.
  3. The Hillsong empire might appear to be a musical powerhouse first and a church second.

II

  1. The songs have  a folk rock sound and simple, accessible lyrics.
  2. They are the most influential producers of worship music.
  3. The songs has transformed the Christian songbook.

III

  1. For young Christians in cities it have become a magnet.
  2. Many of the worshipers say they are drawn by the music.
  3. These are tough, hard, dry towns for contemporary churches.

III. Post Reading Tasks

Reading Comprehension Check

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article. 

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion/Writing Exercise

Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.

1. The following  3 statements were taken from the article. Rephrase each one, then discuss the meanings with the members of your group. 

“The church, Hillsong, has become a phenomenon, capitalizing on, and in some cases shaping, trends not only in evangelicalism but also in Christian youth culture. Its success would be rare enough at a time when religion is struggling in a secularizing Europe and North America. But Hillsong is even more remarkable because its target is young Christians in big cities, where faith seems out of fashion but where its services are packing them in.”

“For young Christians in cities where Hillsong has churches, it has become a magnet, combining the production values of a rock concert, the energy of a nightclub and the community of a megachurch. Many of the worshipers say they are drawn by the music but have stayed because of the opportunity to be with other young Christians, and because they believe that the churches can help transform cities, both through prayer and through direct social services.”

“One of Brian Houston’s sons, Joel, is Hillsong’s creative director, performs with Hillsong United and serves as a pastor at Hillsong New York. Another son, Ben, is the pastor of Hillsong Los Angeles. Ben has the Faith” tattoo on one arm, as well as tattoos of the characters +=♥ (Jesus Is Love) and the names of his three daughters, surrounded by images of flowers and butterflies, as well as that of a lion, “to remind me I’m a man.”

2. The article lists several criticisms of the Hillsong church, what are they?

3. In your opinion is the description of this church useful for young people? Provide reasons for your answers.

4. Would you join the Hillsong church if you had an opportunity? Discuss why or why not.

ANSWER KEY

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E-Sports Gamers: The New Athletes?

September 6th, 2014  |  Published in Business

“Game tournaments sell out giant arenas… Madison Avenue’s highest fliers, like Coca-Cola and American Express, have lined up as sponsors. Prize money has soared to the millions of dollars, and top players earn six- or seven-figure incomes and attract big and passionate followings, luring a generation of younger players to seek fame and fortune as gamers…the State Department began granting visas to professional gamers, under the same program used by traditional athletes. This fall, Robert Morris University in Chicago will dole out over $500,000 in athletic scholarships to gamers, the first of their kind in the United States, and Ivy League universities have intercollegiate gaming.”- Nick Wingfield, The NYT

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

A video game tournament in Seattle in July. Pro gaming, called e-sports, is becoming a lucrative worldwide spectator sport.Credit:Stuart Isett for The New York Times

A video game tournament in Seattle in July. Pro gaming, called e-sports, is becoming a lucrative worldwide spectator sport.Credit:Stuart Isett for The New York Times

Excerpt: In E-Sports,Video Gamers Draw Real Crowds and Big Money  By N. Wingfield-NYT

“A bewitching creature — half woman, half deer — battles a shaman and a sentient tree. Lightning bolts strike. Weapons explode. Nasty spells are cast. The video game Dota 2, like so many across the Internet, transports teams of players from their bedrooms to a verdant virtual world where they smite each other through keyboard and mouse clicks. Except on this sunny day in July, every attack and counterattack by a five-person team set off an eruption of cheers — from the more than 11,000 spectators crammed into this city’s basketball arena. The contestants were gunning for a big piece of the $11 million in total prize money, the most ever at a games tournament.

Top players earn six- or seven-figure incomes.  Photo credit- MindSports International

Top players earn six- or seven-figure incomes. Photo credit- MindSports International

And the game’s developer, the Valve Corporation, moved another step closer to securing gaming’s legitimacy as a major-league spectator sport. Having already upended the entertainment world — global revenue for games is $20 billion higher than the music industry’s and is chasing that of the movie business — the games industry has turned its ambitions toward the lucrative world of professional video game competition, widely known as e-sports…At the Seattle event, cheering fans, many dressed in costumes to look like game characters, hoisted national flags to show support for their favorite teams. Commentators, known as casters, offered play-by-play.

Photo credit- Zimbio

Photo credit- Zimbio

Confetti rocketed into the crowd when the winners were crowned…The most fanatical gamers can spend an almost limitless amount of money on virtual goods in free-to-play games, buying special powers or tools, for example. But the vast majority of players never spend a penny in them, and the games have developed huge followings as a result. League of Legends has 67 million monthly players, about the combined population of California and Texas.” Read more.September 11, 01 memorial

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, speaking and listening. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours. 

Materials: Student handouts (from this lesson) access to news article, and video clip.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing. 

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 PredictionsAnalyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article.  

Pre-reading Organizer By Scholastic.

Pre-reading Organizer By Scholastic.

 

 

II. While Reading Tasks

Vocabulary: Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart by Freeology for assistance. 

  1. A bewitching creature — half woman, half deer — battles a shaman.
  2. The video game Dota 2, transports teams of players to a verdant virtual world.
  3. Top players earn six- or seven-figure incomes luring a generation of younger players to seek fame and fortune as gamers.
  4. The State Department began granting visas to professional gamers.
  5. A championship tournament streamed around the world attracting 8.5 million simultaneous online viewers.
  6.  Game publishers host events seeing irresistible opportunities to promote their games.
  7. Graham, an e-sports commentator and former professional gamer who now works for Twitch.
  8. The roots of e-sports trace to the 1990s with the advent of fighting and shooter games.
  9. Deeper public interest in competitive gaming materialized in the early 2000s.
  10. The most fanatical gamers can spend an almost limitless amount of money on virtual goods.
Word Map Education Oasis.

Word Map Education Oasis.

 

Reading Comprehension

Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word or phrase to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

  1. Weapons explore/explode.  Nasty spells are cast.
  2. The contestants were gunning/gaining for a big piece of the $11 million in total prize money.
  3. The signs of success/succeed already mirror the achievements of major sports.
  4. Game tournaments cell/sell out giant arenas, and some attract at-home audiences.
  5. Last year, the State Department began grunting/granting visas to professional gamers.
  6. Confetti rocketed into the crowd/crow when the winners were crowned.
  7. More than 70 million people/purple worldwide watch e-sports over the Internet or on TVs.
  8. This year, the League of Legends championship is expected to attack/attract 40,000 attendees.
  9. Fans roared whenever a tomb/team achieved a triple kill.
  10. The soundproof booths did not stand a chance against the roars/rows  from the crowd.

 Grammar Focus

Using Adjectives  to describe pictures    

Directions: Have students choose a picture from this lesson and write a descriptive paragraph using adjectives. 

For a review of Adjectives visit ESL Voices Grammar

III. Post Reading Tasks

Reading Comprehension Check

Directions: Students could use this  Topic/Concept/Theme organizer from Write Design to assist them with  discussing  or writing about  the main topic or theme of the article.Advanced Spider map By writedesignonline

 

Discussion/Writing Exercise

Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.

1. The following  statements were taken from the article. Rephrase each one, then discuss the meaning with the members of your group. 

“Game competitions have been around for decades, but what was happening at that arena in July would have been unthinkable, even laughable, only a few years ago. As broadband Internet access and free-to-play games have spread, gaming competitions have multiplied in size and frequency around the world, going beyond early strongholds like South Korea.”

“Even with the number of participants mushrooming, the Internet has forged a tighter link between fans and players than almost any other sport. Twitch, a website started in 2011, lets players stream video of their playing sessions over the Internet from PCs and consoles. More than 55 million people visited Twitch in July to watch and interact with one another. The site has also become a lucrative source of revenue for gamers, who can make money through a mix of advertisements, subscription fees and donations from viewers.”

“Gaming isn’t the kind of platform it was when we were kids…It’s a major mass media platform that now has multiple forms of consumption. The draw for marketers is the audience: mostly employed men, 18 to 35 years old, a group that has become harder to reach with conventional TV advertisements.  More marketing money leads to better production values, which in theory will lead to increased interest in gaming…And the more people who become interested in gaming, the more money there will be to spend on the games.”

2. In your opinion, will e-Sports ever become a major-league spectator sport like football in the United States? Provide reasons for your answers.

3. Are you a fan of (or do you play) video games? Why or why not?

3-2-1-Writing

Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about e-Sports from the reading,  two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class. 

IV. Listening Activity   

Video Clip:  In E-Sports, Video Gamers

 

Video Link

 

 While Listening Activities

True /False/NA-Statements

Directions: Review the statements with students before the watching the video.  As students listen to the video if  a statement is true they mark it T.  If the statement is  not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they  mark  it F and provide the correct answer. 

  1. CLG returns  from 5-week boot camp in Korea.
  2. It was a  super slow week in e-sports.
  3. The biggest news in e-sports this week has nothing to do with the tournament.
  4. On Monday Twitch announced it was being bought by Google for nine hundred seventy million dollars.
  5. The deal means that Amazon snatched the video game streaming service from under the nose of YouTube.
  6. The sale means that the future of e-Sports is strong.
  7.  The team TF2 always had a hard time finding sponsors.
  8. The TF2 fans donated twenty dollars.
  9. There is a new team from Spain now competing.
  10. We have to wait another year to see if North America can retain its title.

Post-Listening Activities

Questions for Discussion

Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions.

  1. What new ideas have you learned from this video?
  2.  With your group members, make up questions that you would like to ask the speakers or the gamers.

 ANSWER KEY: e-Sports

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Boot Camp for Bloggers: Get Tough!

August 30th, 2014  |  Published in Social Issues

“Posts run the gamut from barbs to sadistic antics by trolls who intentionally strive to distress or provoke… If you’re going to be a blogger, if you’re going to tweet stuff, you better develop a tough skin.” -Professor John Suler- Psychology at Rider University.

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Credit- Kristian Hammerstad- NYT

Credit- Kristian Hammerstad- NYT

Excerpt: Dealing With Digital Cruelty By Stephanie Rosenbloom, The New York Times

Anyone who has ever been online has witnessed, or been virtually walloped by, a mean comment. If you’re going to be a blogger, if you’re going to tweet stuff, you better develop a tough skin… John Suler, a professor of psychology at Rider University who specializes in what he refers to as cyberpsychology. Some 69 percent of adult social media users said they have seen people being mean and cruel to others on social network sites, according to a 2011 report from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project.

Last week, Zelda Williams, the daughter of Robin Williams, said she was going off Twitter, possibly for good, after brutal tweets by trolls about her father’s death. Yet comments do not even have to be that malevolent to be hurtful. The author Anne Rice signed a petition a few months ago asking Amazon.com to ban anonymous reviews after experiencing “personal insults and harassing posts,” as she put it on the site of the petition, Change.org. Whether you’re a celebrity author or a mom with a décor blog, you’re fair game. Anyone with a Twitter account and a mean streak can try to parachute into your psyche.

In the virtual world, anonymity and invisibility help us feel uninhibited. Some people are inspired to behave with greater kindness; others unleash their dark side. Trolls, who some researchers think could be mentally unbalanced, say the kinds of things that do not warrant deep introspection; their singular goal is to elicit pain. But then there are those people whose comments, while nasty, present an opportunity to learn something about ourselves.

Easier said than done. Social scientists say we tend to fixate on the negative. However, there are ways to game psychological realities. Doing so requires understanding that you are ultimately in charge. “Nobody makes you feel anything,” said Professor Suler, adding that you are responsible for how you interpret and react to negative comments. The key is managing what psychologists refer to as involuntary attention.” Read more.

Update September 2, 2014 L.A. Times: After being harasses by cyber bullies Zelda Williams, daughter of comedienne and actor Robin Williams returned to Twitter with the following message: “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.” ~Harvey Fierstein~

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours. 

Materials: Student handouts (from this lesson) and access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing. 

I. Pre-Reading Activities

KWL Chart

Directions: Have students use the KWL chart to list the information they already know about cyber bullying.  Later in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about the topic. Chart by Michigan State.

KWL  chart from Michigan State University.

KWL chart from Michigan State University.

II. While Reading Tasks

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart by Education Oasis for assistance.

  1. Anyone who has ever been online has been virtually walloped by a mean comment.
  2. Posts can run the gamut from barbs to sadistic antics.
  3. Zelda Williams said she was going off Twitter after brutal tweets by trolls.
  4. Comments do not even have to be that malevolent to be hurtful.
  5. Trolls could be mentally unbalanced and say things that do not warrant deep introspection.
  6. Social scientists say people  tend to fixate on the negative.
  7.  Our minds will glom on to negative feedback.
  8. Some people  have an unconscious worry that they’re not good enough.
  9. Harsh comments can also be made to feel less potent by directly disputing to yourself what was said.
  10. Even when a person is alone humor can be effective.
Word Map Education Oasis.

Word Map Education Oasis.

 

Reading Comprehension

Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word or phrase to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

  1. If you’re going to be a blogger you better develop a though/tough skin.
  2. Posts run the gamut from barbs to sadistic antics/attic. 
  3. Comments/communes  do not even have to be that malevolent.
  4. The author Anne Rice sang/signed a petition a few months ago.
  5. Our attention naturally gravitates/grieves  to loud noises and motion.
  6. These are things that sticky/stick in our brain.
  7. Let your critics be your gurus/guess.
  8. It is not common/uncommon for some digital luminaries to want to be liked.
  9. Some people think of their online life/lie as a kind of game.
  10. Be mindful/mindless of when you choose to glance at your blog.

 Grammar Focus

Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I

  1. If you’re going to be a blogger develop a tough skin.
  2. Some people is mean and cruel to others on social network sites.
  3. Posts run the gamut from barbs to sadistic antics.

II

  1. In the virtual world anonymity helps us feel uninhibited.
  2. Some people are inspired to behave with greater kindness.
  3. Social scientists say we tend of fixate on the negative.

III

  1. Ask yourself why you’re ruminating on a comment.
  2. It not always possible to learn something from a nasty comment.
  3. Research shows that it takes more time for positive experiences to become lodged in our long-term memory.

III. Post Reading Tasks

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article. 

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion/Writing Exercise

Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.

1. The following 3 statements were taken from the article. Rephrase each one, then discuss the meaning with the members of your group. 

“In the virtual world, anonymity and invisibility help us feel uninhibited. Some people are inspired to behave with greater kindness; others unleash their dark side. Trolls, who some researchers think could be mentally unbalanced, say the kinds of things that do not warrant deep introspection; their singular goal is to elicit pain. But then there are those people whose comments, while nasty, present an opportunity to learn something about ourselves.”

Social scientists say we tend to fixate on the negative. However, there are ways to game psychological realities. Doing so requires understanding that you are ultimately in charge. Nobody makes you feel anything… you are responsible for how you interpret and react to negative comments. The key is managing what psychologists refer to as involuntary attention.”

“For instance, maybe you have an unconscious worry that you’re somehow not good enough. Professor Suler said it was not uncommon for some digital luminaries (bloggers, social media power-users) to harbor such worries because one motivation, be it conscious or unconscious, is that they want to be liked. They want to be popular…adding that it’s a goal easily pursued on the Internet. It’s all about likes and pluses and favorites. Yet if someone says something cruel, he continued, it activates that unconscious worry.”

2. Do you feel people can be manipulated by the comments they receive on their social media? Provide reasons for your answer.

3. Are your feelings manipulated by the comments you read on your social media page? 

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity. 

ANSWER KEY: digital cruelty

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Should We Fear Real ‘Killer Robots’?

August 23rd, 2014  |  Published in Technology

“Americans oppose the use of autonomous military robots that can kill absent a direct command from a human operator, according to a new University of Massachusetts-Amherst poll. Autonomous weapons or, as their critics call them, “killer robots,” are becoming less science fiction and more military reality. Though the United States military, by far the world’s most robotically advanced, has placed a moratorium on the development of autonomous robots, the technology is easily within reach.  Concern about these weapons has grown as the technology has become more feasible, most famously producing both an organized campaign to ban so-called killer robots and a UN report echoing the campaign’s concerns.”  By Zack Beauchamp-Thinkprogress.org

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

SWORDS, a previous generation of weaponized robots, had its combat duties curtailed when it made movements without being given a command. (Photo- QinetiQ)

SWORDS, a previous generation of weaponized robots, had its combat duties curtailed when it made movements without being given a command. (Photo- QinetiQ)

Excerpt: So What Exactly Is a ‘Killer Robot’? By Rose Eveleth, The Atlantic

“For as long as we’ve been able to make robots, we’ve been worried about them killing us.

In 1942, Isaac Asimov published a short story called Runaround that both coined the term “robotics “and introduced the idea of robots killing humans. Last week, one company set out to assure people that it, too, was worried about this potential threat. Clearpath Robotics announced that it would take a stand against killer robots. “To the people against killer robots: we support you,” the company’s press release reads.

Yes, the organized campaign against killer robots has gained momentum as the technology and militarization of robotics has advanced, and the smartest thing the movement has done is pick its name. “Killer robots” still isn’t a well-defined term, but it’s clearly a winning one.
Autonomous robotic systems have indeed come a long way since Asimov. Far enough that, in 2012, Human Rights Watch issued a report making the case against lethal autonomous weapons systems—weapons that can make lethal decisions without human involvement. Except they didn’t call them  “lethal autonomous weapons systems.” The title of the report was “Losing Humanity: The Case Against Killer Robots.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, speaking and listening. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handouts (from this lesson) access to news article, and video clip.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

Brainstorming

Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about the topic. Next, have students look at the picture(s) in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article. Review as a class and list these ideas on the board.  Students can use the UIE brainstorming chart (sample) Brainstorming chart by UIE copy

 

II. While Reading Tasks

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart by Freeology for assistance. 

  1. In 1942, Isaac Asimov coined the term “robotics”.
  2. Last week, one company set out to assure people that it, too, was worried about this potential threat. 
  3. The organized campaign against killer robots has gained momentum.
  4. The technology and militarization of robotics has advanced.
  5. Autonomous robotic systems have indeed come a long way.
  6. Some robots have weapons and can make lethal decisions without human involvement.
  7. Some believe it’s shameless campaigning and advocacy.
  8. There’s reluctance to pin down a single definition.
  9. Different organizations have distinct goals about what discussion of killer robots might yield.
  10. For now, this nebulous mass of robotic entities that could kill or harm humans has a name without a solid definition.
Vocabulary Chart by  Freeology.

Vocabulary Chart by Freeology.

Reading Comprehension

True /False/NA-Statements

Directions: Review the following statements from the reading. If a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is  not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they mark it F and provide the correct answer.

  1. For as long as we’ve been able to make robots, we’ve never been worried about them killing us.
  2. In 1942, Isaac Asimov coined the term robotics.
  3. The company Clearpath Robotics announced that it would take a stand against killer robots.
  4. The technology and militarization of robotics has not advanced.
  5. More companies are installing robots in the workforce.
  6. In 2012, Human Rights Watch issued a report making the case against lethal autonomous weapons.
  7. Robot are being used as companions for the elderly.
  8. Mary Wareham is the creator of workforce robots.
  9. Everybody defines “killer robot” the same way.
  10. There’s reluctance to pin down a single definition.

 Grammar Focus

Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I

  1. One company was also worry about this potential threat. 
  2. “Killer robots” still isn’t a well-defined term.
  3. Autonomous robotic systems have come a long way.

II

  1. We put killer robots in the title of us report to get attention.
  2. It’s shameless campaigning and advocacy.
  3.  Killer robots seemed to be a good way to begin the dialogue.

III

  1. Naming weapons and missions like this isn’t new. 
  2. For some  a killer robot is an robot that can make a decision to use lethal force without human intervention.
  3. There’s reluctance to pin down a single definition.

 

III. Post Reading Tasks

Reading Comprehension Check

Graphic Organizers: Finding the main idea

Directions:  Have students use this graphic organizer from Enchanted Learning  to assist them with  discussing  or writing about  the main points from the article. WH-organizer from Enchanted Learning

Discussion/Writing Exercise

Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.

    1. How would you put the following two statements from the article  into your own words? 

“Mary Wareham, coordinator of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, admits it was a bit much. We put killer robots in the title of our report to be provocative and get attention… It’s shameless campaigning and advocacy, but we’re trying to be really focused on what the real life problems are, and killer robots seemed to be a good way to begin the dialogue.” 

“Naming weapons and missions like this isn’t new. The LGM-118A Peacekeeper was a missile that could carry up to 3,000 kilotons of warheads. Israel Aerospace Industries makes a missile named Gabriel, named for the angel. A 2006 Israeli mission to bomb South Lebanon was named Mivtza Sachar Holem, Operation Just Reward. When the United States invaded Iraq they called the program Operation Iraqi Freedom. Researcher Charles Kauffman argues that as our weapons get more and more powerful, our names for them get more and more demure, to soften the idea of the damage they could do. But if you’re in the market of making a weapon seem evil, killer robot is effective.”

    2. From this article do you think we should fear military robots?      

   3.What are the most significant ideas in this article?

IV. Listening Activity   

Video clip:  As Robotics Advances, Worries of Killer Robots Rise 

Jody williams is the head of a campaign to ban  autonomous robots. The following video  clip explains why this is important to the coalition.

Pre-listening Activity

Listening for new Vocabulary

Directions: Here is a list of words from the video. Have students find the meanings before they listen to the video.  After, as students listen, they are to  check off the words as they hear them. 

 coalition,  drones, autonomously, efficient , Phalanx,  turret, conscious, glitches

 

Video Link 

While Listening Activity

 Sentence  Fill-ins

Directions: Students listen for the correct word or phrase to complete the sentences taken from the video. They are to choose from the options presented.

  1. The UK wants to ban/burn killer robots.
  2. The campaign to stop killer robots is a reap/real world wide organization.
  3. It sounds kind of dumb/numb  when you first hear the name.
  4. The campaign is a global coal/coalition started by 22 organizations
  5. The idea is to ban drones/thrones and other robots  which can autonomously  decide to kill an enemy and act on that decision without a human giving the go ahead.
  6. Governments are going  to find/fine fully automated systems more and more attractive.
  7. They seem cheaper, they seem more efficient there would supposedly be less/least chance of fatal mistakes being made.
  8. Right now the closest/closet thing we have to an autonomous weapon is probably the Phalanx system which is this turret on U.S. and British naval ships.
  9. The only thing they can’t do autonomously is fire until a human/humane operator gives them the go ahead.  
  10. The  coalition is  worry/worried about what happens when a human conscious is removed from the equation  and just how fatal glitches in a system like that can be.

Post-Listening Activities

Questions for Discussion

Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions.

1. After listening to this video has your personal idea of killer robots changed in any way?   If yes, describe in what way.  If no, describe your original opinion.

2. Did  you agree with everything the speaker said?  Discuss which comments  you agreed with and which ones you tended not to agree with.   Explain why.

3.  With your group members, make a list of situations where “autonomous” robots might be dangerous and areas where they might be useful to humans.  

ANSWER KEY: Killer robots

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