British Crime, Punishment, and Algorithms

July 19th, 2014  |  Published in Technology

During the 1700s British society and its criminal justice system did not distinguish between violent and nonviolent crimes. A thief or a murderer would both receive the  death penalty, usually hanging. 60 years later  grounds for capital punishment shifted.Today the death penalty is no longer carried out in Britain. Scientists using computer analysis explore  why this change occurred and how society’s attitudes toward violence has evolved over the 20th century. 

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Years ago a  thief and a murderer received the same punishment. Credit: NYT.

Years ago a thief and a murderer received the same punishment. Credit: NYT.

Excerpt: Computing Crime and Punishment By S. Blakeslee The New York Times

“In 1765, John Ward was hanged for stealing a watch and a hat. Two years later Elizabeth Brownrigg  was sent to the gallows for torturing a young orphan for weeks, including tying her to a hook, stripping her naked and horsewhipping her until “the blood gushed in torrents from her wounds” and she died.

In those days, British society and its criminal justice system, did not distinguish between violent and nonviolent crimes. Pickpockets and murderers equally deserved the death penalty.

BBC film.

BBC film.

Not so just 60 years later. A murderer might be executed or exiled to Australia, but a pickpocket would probably only pay a fine. Grounds for capital punishment shifted. Violent and nonviolent crimes fell into separate realms.

How did this change happen? Leave it to generations of British bureaucrats to help provide answers. From 1674 through 1913, court reporters wrote detailed accounts of virtually every trial held at the Central Criminal Court, known as the Old Bailey, where all major criminal cases for Greater London were heard.

Scientists have now carried out a computational analysis of those words showing how the British justice system created new practices for controlling violence.  This study demonstrates “an important new way to do historical research,” said Brett Bobley, director of digital humanities at the National Endowment for the Humanities. Historians may study collections of individual items — books, old letters or newspapers— but they can’t read an entire library; computers, he said, can do just that.

 Steven Pinker, the Harvard linguist and author of  “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined,” said the new study offered a valuable quantitative analysis of a major development: Europe’s civilizing process, in which violence was increasingly deemed unworthy of respectable citizens. Formerly, cultures of honor had valued violence as an appropriate response to insults and offenses.” 

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

Analyzing 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

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 for assistance. 

  1. British society did not distinguish between violent and nonviolent crimes.
  2. A murderer might be executed or exiled to Australia.
  3. Leave it to generations of British bureaucrats to help provide answers.
  4. The corpus includes 121 million words describing 197,000 trials.
  5. Two years later Elizabeth Brownrigg  was sent to the gallows for murder.
  6. This study demonstrates an important new way to do historical research.
  7. Steven Pinker is a  Harvard and author.
  8. The volume of data coming out the system incomprehensible.
  9. For every word we have a number that equates with a meaning.
  10. One key finding is the gradual criminalization of violence.

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. Elizabeth Browning was sent to the gallows for torturing a young orphan.
  2. John Ward was hanged  for stealing a watch and a hat.
  3. British society and its criminal justice system, did not distinguish between violent and nonviolent crimes in those days.
  4. 2 years later grounds for capital punishment shifted.
  5. From 1674 through 1913, court reporters wrote detailed accounts of virtually every trial held at the Central Criminal Court.
  6. The series Sherlock was based on these findings.
  7. The Central Criminal Court was known as the Old Bailey.
  8. The study is a collaboration between two computer scientists, and a historian.
  9. Steven Pinker is a Harvard linguist and author.
  10. Pinker was also involved in this study.

 Grammar Focus

Using Adjectives  to describe pictures    

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

III. Post Reading Tasks

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. Put the following 3 statements from the article in your own words.

  • “In those days, British society and its criminal justice system, did not distinguish between violent and nonviolent crimes. Pickpockets and murderers equally deserved the death penalty. Not so just 60 years later. A murderer might be executed or exiled to Australia, but a pickpocket would probably only pay a fine. Grounds for capital punishment shifted. Violent and nonviolent crimes fell into separate realms.”
  • “Steven Pinker, the Harvard linguist and author… said the new study offered avaluable quantitative analysis of a major development: Europe’s civilizing process, in which violence was increasingly deemed unworthy of respectable citizens. Formerly, cultures of honor had valued violence as an appropriate response to insults and offenses.”
  • “To find patterns, the scientists looked at when and how often certain words occurred. Say you walk into a trial in 1750 and pick out one word,…How much can you learn about what the trial is about? If you hear the word ‘kick,’ you might associate it with violence, but you could not be certain. But by 1850, if you hear the word ‘kick,’ you would know a lot about what the bureaucracy was going to do…With the passage of time, each word carries more information based on accumulating trial data. And this is what we can quantify.”

2. In your opinion, should the death penalty exist in any country? Provide reasons for your answer.

3. Why do you think some countries still have a death penalty?

4. Describe the justice system in your country. For example are there different punishments for each crime committed?

IV. Listening Activity   

Video Clip:  [British] Capital Punishment Over the Years. Discovery/History/Crime (documentary) Published on Feb 18, 2014

Pre-listening

Listening for New Vocabulary or New Terms

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

deterrent, retribution, moral, premeditated.

While Listening Activities

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. Today there are over 50 countries around the whirl/world which continue to use the death penalty.
  2. Individuals who brake the law can face a firing squad/square in China, lethal injection in the USA, and the hangman’s noose in Singapore.
  3. It is only a decadence/decade since capital punishment was finally removed from British law.
  4. For centuries Britain carried out state execute/executions and capital punishment was defended as a detergent/ deterrent against crime, retribution against those who broke society’s rules.
  5. For over 200 years a moral battle raged/rage about whether the State has the right to execute.
  6. A powerful liberal elitist/elite emerged determined to abolish the death penalty.
  7. The death penalty is inhuman/human and degrading when you see how it is carried out and the procedures that are necessary .
  8. But the vast majority of public onion/opinion has continued to demand the ultimate punishment.
  9. There are certain sorts/sores of murder that are premeditated, violent, and shocking.
  10. This debate has shaped/shaved our ideas about how a civilized society should punish its citizens in the 21st century.

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 the death penalty changed in any way?   If yes, describe in what way. If no, describe your original opinion.
2. Did you agree with the comments made by the speakers? Discuss which comments you agreed with and which ones you tended not to agree with. Provide reasons for your answers.
3. With your group members, make up questions that you would like to ask the speakers.

ANSWER KEY

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The [Zoo] Animal Whisperer

July 12th, 2014  |  Published in Zoo animals

We are aware that humans are a major cause of animal unhappiness. Even when there is an absence of neglect or abuse being captive can cause pain and trauma to animals. There are many humans devoted to making animals well, such as Dr. Vint Virga, also fondly known as the Animal Whisperer.

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Dr. Vint Virga (lft) with patient Molly, Barbary sheep. who has extreme anxiety after tail amputation. Credit Robin Schwartz for The New York Times

Dr. Vint Virga (lft) with patient Molly, Barbary sheep. who has extreme anxiety after tail amputation. Credit Robin Schwartz for The New York Times

Excerpt: Zoo Animals and Their Discontents By A. Halberstadt New York Times

Dr. Vint Virga likes to arrive at a zoo several hours before it opens, when the sun is still in the trees and the lanes are quiet and the trash cans empty. Many of the animals haven’t yet slipped into their afternoon ma­laise, when they retreat, appearing to wait out the heat and the visitors and not do much of anything.

Patient (lft)- Willie, donkey has depression over change in habitat.Patient-(right) Sukari, Masai giraffe, has Anxiety around people with large cameras. CreditRobin Schwartz for The New York Times

Patient (lft)- Willie, donkey has depression over change in habitat.Patient-(right) Sukari, Masai giraffe, has Anxiety around people with large cameras. CreditRobin Schwartz for The New York Times

Virga likes to creep to the edge of their enclosures and watch. He chooses a spot and tries not to vary it, he says, “to give the animals a sense of control.” Sometimes he watches an animal for hours, hardly moving. That’s because what to an average zoo visitor looks like frolicking or restlessness or even boredom looks to Virga like a lot more — looks, in fact, like a veritable Russian novel of truculence, joy, sociability, horniness, ire, protectiveness, deference, melancholy and even humor.

The ability to interpret animal behavior, Virga says, is a function of temperament, curiosity and, mostly, decades of practice. It is not, it turns out, especially easy.

Do you know what it means when an elephant lowers her head and folds her trunk underneath it? Or when a zebra wuffles, softly blowing air between her lips; or when a colobus monkey snuffles, sounding a little like a hog rooting in the mud?

Dr. Vint Virga's book- The Soul of All Living Creatures.

Dr. Vint Virga’s book- The Soul of All Living Creatures.

Virga knows, because it is his job to know. He is a behaviorist, and what he does, expressed plainly, is see into the inner lives of animals. The profession is an odd one: It is largely unregulated, and declaring that you are an expert is sometimes enough to be taken for one.” Read more.

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

 Predictions

Analyzing 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.  

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 for assistance. 

Freeology Chart

Freeology Chart

 

  1. Many of the animals haven’t yet slipped into their afternoon ma­laise.
  2. A profusion of recent studies has shown animals to be far closer to us than we previously believed.
  3. An unprecedented document was  masterminded by Low .
  4. It asserted that mammals, birds and other creatures like octopuses possess consciousness.
  5. It is not the habit of researchers to speculate broadly about the implications of their work.
  6. Virga’s convictions about animal individuality predate the recent science.
  7. Hypotheses about animal cognition is fascinating to consider but they aren’t always germane to a behaviorist.
  8. On my first visit there, Virga and I found ourselves in the middle of a good-size commotion.
  9. Still, there’s no denying the public qualms about the entire project of keeping our animal friends captive.
  10. Yet avoiding anthropomorphism at all costs may be the main cause of the schism between scientists and the public.

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. Dr. Vint Virga likes to arrive at a zoo when it opens to observe the people interacting with the animals.
  2. Sometimes he watches an animal for hours, hardly moving.
  3. The ability to interpret animal behavior is easy.
  4. Dr. Vint Virga is a behaviorist.
  5. Virga believes that his patients possess unique personalities and vibrant emotional lives.
  6. He follows the research, and Virga, 56, is a researcher.
  7. Zoos contact Virga when animals develop difficulties that vets and keepers cannot address.
  8. Dr. Vint Virga lives in California and has worked with the zoo for six years. 
  9.  Virga happens to be a veterinarian whose full-time job is tending to the psychological welfare of animals in captivity.
  10. Dr. Vint Virga may take the animals home with him to study.

Grammar

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. Dr. Vint Virga likes to arrive at a zoo several hours before it opens.
  2. Virga chooses a spot and tries not to vary it.
  3. The abilities to interpret animal behavior is not easy.

II

  1. Virga know, because it is his job to know.
  2. The profession is an odd one.
  3. He works with zoos across the United States and in Europe.

III

  1. The notion that animals think and feel may be rampant among pet owners.
  2. These day, moats and glass have replaced cages.
  3. Clouded leopards are among the most solitary of the large cats.

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 are from the article. Put them into your words then discuss the issues with your group members.

“The notion that animals think and feel may be rampant among pet owners, but it makes all kinds of scientific types uncomfortable. If you ask my colleagues whether animals have emotions and thoughts,” says Philip Low, a prominent computational neuroscientist, many will drop their voices to a whisper or simply change the subject. They don’t want to touch it.”

“Often, the animals suffer from afflictions that haven’t been documented in the wild and appear uncomfortably close to our own: He has treated severely depressed snow leopards, brown bears with obsessive-compulsive disorder and phobic zebras. Scientists often say that we don’t know what animals feel because they can’t speak to us and can’t report their inner states, Virga told me. But the thing is, they are reporting their inner states. We’re just not listening.”

“Much of the residue of mistrust that clings to the roughly 250 accredited zoos and aquariums in the United States stems from their less than picturesque past. Zoos have changed incredibly in the last 30 years… These days, moats and glass have replaced cages; there are education departments and conservation initiatives. And full-time vets, antibiotics and better diets have doubled and in some cases tripled animals’ life spans in captivity.”

2. If you own pets how do you treat them? For example like members of your family where they reside in the house or remain outside? Are you aware of your pets’s moods?  If you don’t have a pet is there any particular reason why? Not all people like animals.

3. In your opinion, can animals  experience emotions like humans? For example, sadness, joy, or anger?

IV. Listening Activity   

Video Clip:  Sad Eyes & Empty Lives

“Sad Eyes and Empty Lives is a clear and eloquent argument against the practice of imprisoning animals in zoos. All the major justifications put forward by the modern zoo industry are destroyed here, from the ‘con’ in conservation, the myth that zoos serve to ‘educate’ people about wild animals, and the lie that zoo prisoners are adequately protected by the law in the shape of the 1981 Zoo Licensing Act.”

 

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. Is the zoo really any place to keep/kept animals such as these?
  2. Should we really be keeping while/wild animals in captivity just for our entertainment?
  3. What quality/quilt of life can we hope to offer them?
  4. And in real/reality what life do they really get?
  5. Space rarely/rare if ever, matches the animal’s natural range and more commonly is reduced instead to virtually nothing.
  6. Animals which left to themselves would roam/room for tens of miles a day, tread the same few paces daily.
  7. Some of the fastest animals on earth live in pens so small they could not gather pace to a trot/tot, let alone full speed.
  8. Birds are virtually stripped/strip of their most precious gift, flight.
  9. But it is not just a matter of space it is also the quantity/quality of the environment.
  10. Even some zoos are starting to admit/admitted that certain animals like Polar bears shouldn’t be there at all.

Video link. 

Post-Listening Activities

Questions for Discussion

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

  1.  List at least 3 reasons why captured zoo animals are upset.
  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.  Can you think of ways to provide comfort to captured animals?
  4. With your group members, make up questions that you would like to ask the speaker or Dr. Virga.

ANSWER KEY: Zoo Animal Doctor

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Facebook Controls Its Users

July 5th, 2014  |  Published in Social Issues

Last week Facebook announced that it had manipulated users’ news-feeds as part of a psychology experiment. The result of the experiment revealed that people who received  happier messages in their feeds caused them to write  happier posts, while those who received sadder messages prompted sadder posts. Unfortunately for Facebook this experiment was  conducted without the consent or knowledge of the users.

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key.

Image Credits freeimages by Solove.

Image Credits freeimages by Solove.

Excerpt: Should Facebook Manipulate Users?  By Jaron Lanier The New York Times

“Should we worry that technology companies can secretly influence our emotions? Apparently so.

A study recently published by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, Cornell and Facebook suggests that social networks can manipulate the emotions of their users by tweaking what is allowed into a user’s news feed.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, changed the news feeds delivered to almost 700,000 people for a week without getting their consent to be studied. Some got feeds with more sad news, others received more happy news.

The researchers were studying claims that Facebook could make us feel unhappy by creating unrealistic expectations of how good life should be.  But it turned out that some subjects were depressed when the good news in their feed was suppressed. Individuals were not asked to report on how they felt; instead, their writing was analyzed for vocabulary choices that were thought to indicate mood.

Photo Gizmodo.

Photo Gizmodo.

The researchers claim that they have proved that “emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness.” The effect was slight, but imposed on a very large population, so it’s possible the effects were consequential to some people…The manipulation of emotion is no small thing. An estimated 60 percent of suicides are preceded by a mood disorder. Even mild depression has been shown to increase the risk of heart failure by 5 percent; moderate to severe depression increases it by 40 percent. The subjects in the study still, to this day, have not been informed that they were in the study. If there had been federal funding, such a complacent notion of informed consent would probably have been considered a crime. Subjects would most likely have been screened so that those at special risk would be excluded or handled with extra care.” Read more.

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, 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

Analyzing 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.  

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 for assistance. 

  1. Technology companies can secretly influence our emotions.
  2. Facebook changed the news feeds without getting their consent.
  3. Facebook could make us feel unhappy by creating unrealistic expectations. 
  4. Emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion.
  5. It’s possible the effects were consequential to some people.
  6. Research with human subjects is generally governed by strict ethical standards.
  7. Facebook’s generic click-through agreement doesn’t mention this kind of experimentation.
  8. This is only one early publication about a whole new frontier in the manipulation of people.
  9. We know that a social network proprietor can engineer emotions for the multitudes.
  10. Research has also shown that voting behavior can be influenced by undetectable social maneuvering.

Word Map Education Oasis

 

Reading Comprehension Check

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. The study changed the news feeds delivered to people for a week without getting their consent to be studied.
  2. Everyone got feeds with more sad news.
  3. The researchers were studying claims that Facebook had no effect on people.
  4. It turned out that some subjects were depressed when the good news in their feed was suppressed.
  5. Some subjects were never affected by the information from Facebook.
  6. The researchers claim that they have proved that emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion.
  7. The general consensus is that the public has every right to be informed of otherwise undetectable commercial or political practices.
  8. An analogy was made to a pharmaceutical research secretly using an experimental drug.
  9. Facebook users under the age of 18 were affected by this experiment.
  10. People will never use Facebook again.

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. Should we worry that technology companies can secretly influence our emotions?
  2. The study changed the news feeds delivered to almost 700,000 people.
  3. Some gotten feeds with sad news and others received more happy news.

II

  1. It turned out that some subject were depressed.
  2. The manipulation of emotion is no small thing.
  3. An estimated 60 percent of suicides are preceded by a mood disorder.

III

  1. Research with human subjects are generally governed by strict ethical standards.
  2. Normally the subjects would have been screened first.
  3. The researchers noted that emotion was relevant to human health.

III. Post Reading Tasks

Reading Comprehension Check

Directions:  Have students use this advanced organizer from Write Design to assist them with  discussing  or writing about  the main idea and points from the article. 

Main idea chart By Write Design

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. Review Review ESL Voices Modes of Writing.  

1.  Rewrite the following 3 statements from the article in your own words. Then discuss the meanings with your group. Share your results with the class.

“A study recently published by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, Cornell and Facebook suggests that social networks can manipulate the emotions of their users by tweaking what is allowed into a user’s news feed.” 

“The researchers were studying claims that Facebook could make us feel unhappy by creating unrealistic expectations of how good life should be. But it turned out that some subjects were depressed when the good news in their feed was suppressed. Individuals were not asked to report on how they felt; instead, their writing was analyzed for vocabulary choices that were thought to indicate mood.”

“The manipulation of emotion is no small thing. An estimated 60 percent of suicides are preceded by a mood disorder. Even mild depression has been shown to increase the risk of heart failure by 5 percent; moderate to severe depression increases it by 40 percent.”

2. In your opinion was this experiment productive in any way? For example did the results benefit any of Facebook’s users?

3. Do you use Facebook? Do you think that you are manipulated by the news-feeds in your posts? Explain how.

4. Following the results of this experiment, do you think Facebook users could be influenced in other areas such as political elections?

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

ANSWER KEY

        

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World Cup Fever Reaches The Amazon

June 28th, 2014  |  Published in Sports

Despite being located deep in the Amazon jungle, the indigenous tribes of Brazil share their country’s pride  for their national game of soccer. The excitement is tangible as tribal members watch the World Cup matches on communal televisions in the  tiny poverty-stricken villages.

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key.

The Tatuyo tribe in the Amazonian village of Tupe play soccer with bare feet as the best players in the world play just a few miles away. Credit David Lazar

The Tatuyo tribe in the Amazonian village of Tupe play soccer with bare feet as the best players in the world play just a few miles away. Credit David Lazar. The Daily Mail.

Excerpt: Deep in the Amazon…By Jere Longman,The New York Times

“The PP Maués would not set sail for an hour, but its long and narrow decks were already crisscrossed with hammocks for an overnight trip down the Amazon. By the time it was to dock early last Monday at the regional port for which it was named, the Maués would have traveled 15 hours from the nearest World Cup stadium. A second boat would be needed to reach an even more remote indigenous village that planned to watch Brazil play Mexico last Tuesday. The village did not have electricity or cellphone signals and would rely on a diesel generator to indulge its secluded passion for soccer. While Rio de Janeiro and its famous beaches provide the touristic backdrop of the World Cup, the fevered grip of the world’s most popular sporting event can be felt even in some of the most isolated areas of the rain forest, where outsiders seldom visit. Football is in our blood, said Andre Pereira da Silva, 32, the chief of a small community of Sateré-Mawé Indians in Manaus, the largest city in the Amazon, who served as a guide. The intended destination was his home village, Monte Salém, one of an estimated 150 Sateré-Mawé communities of about 11,000 residents along the lower Amazon. As a boy in Monte Salém, he made soccer balls with the sap of rubber trees, using a stick to shape the latex into an improvised if sometimes uncontrollable sphere. Ten trees for one ball…Nova Belo Horizonte is home to 22 families, most of them living in wooden houses with thatched roofs. A rudimentary soccer field, with wood goal posts and no nets, has been cleared of stones and tamped flat amid the surrounding groves of guaraná, pineapples, oranges, bananas, peppers and the staple root called manioc.

The Tatuyo tribe's village is located in the jungles just northwest of Manaus. Credit David Lazar. The Daily Mail.

The Tatuyo tribe’s village is located in the jungles just northwest of Manaus. Credit David Lazar. The Daily Mail.

Health care is distant and inadequate, village elders said. There is no radio contact with the hub Maués, four or five hours away on the most common type of boat. Cellphones do not work. The front steps of the school have crumbled, and the ceiling leaks. Yet even if spending on World Cup stadiums seemed wasteful in a country with so many needs, it was important that the tournament returned to Brazil for the first time since 1950, said Reginaldo da Silva Andrade, 27, the chief of Nova Belo Horizonte… Brazilian people are the ones who love and watch the game the most in the world,” da Silva Andrade said. In Nova Belo Horizonte soccer serves many purposes: fun, fitness, conflict avoidance and a diversion from alcohol and drugs. It also provides a chance to socialize with other river villages. Teams travel by boat, and tournaments are often accompanied by festivals… “Brazil is a fighter,” said Luiz Sateré, Pereira da Silva’s father, who wore a Neymar jersey. “Brazil is a warrior.”

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, 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 aboriginal tribes living  in the Amazon jungle of Brazil.  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

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. The boat’s narrow decks were already crisscrossed with hammocks.
  2. It was to dock early last Monday at the regional port.
  3. A second boat was needed to reach an indigenous village.
  4. The intended destination was his home village.
  5. As a boy he made soccer balls with the sap of rubber trees.
  6. The game was also showing on a small, staticky television.
  7. A man pointed his flashlight at the water’s edge, searching for caimans.
  8. In mid afternoon Monday, the equatorial heat was stifling.
  9. Most families live in wooden houses with thatched roofs. 
  10. Health care is distant and inadequate.

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. Many of the remote indigenous villages now  have electricity and cellphone signals.
  2. The villages are miles away from Rio de Janeiro.
  3. As a boy in Monte Salém  Pereira da Silva made soccer balls out of the skins of animals.
  4. Flamengo and Vasco da Gama are names of two famous soccer players. 
  5. Neymar is a young Brazilian soccer star.
  6. Today health care is  adequate in the small villages.
  7. Some believe that soccer came to Brazil in the late 1890s by a  man named Charles Miller.
  8. It is said that early Indians made balls from the latex of rubber trees.
  9. In the broader culture of Latin American soccer women are accepted into the game.
  10. There is an initiation ritual in which boys in the tribe become men after being repeatedly stung by venomous ants. 

 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 Maués would not set sail for an hour.
  2. A second boat would be need to reach an even more remote indigenous village.
  3. The village did not have electricity.

II.

  1. Rio de Janeiro is  famous for it’s beaches.
  2. He made soccer balls with the sap of rubber trees.
  3. Children played among the hammocks.

III.

  1. The boat had no satellite dish.
  2. Paulo José, the ships owner, was left to eat in silence.
  3. Classes for older students in Nova Belo Horizonte cannot be held at night during the World Cup.

 

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: The following statements are from the article. Have groups choose one and restate the idea into their own words. In addition, have students give their opinions  on what they think should be done to help the indigenous families living in the Brazilian jungles. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the discussion topics.

  1. “Nova Belo Horizonte is home to 22 [indigenous] families, most of them living in wooden houses with thatched roofs…Health care is distant and inadequate, village elders said. There is no radio contact with the hub Maués, four or five hours away on the most common type of boat. Cellphones do not work. The front steps of the school have crumbled, and the ceiling leaks.They only want our votes, said  Luiz Sateré, 56, a community coordinator for the Sateré-Mawé. It’s the only thing that matters.” 
  2. “Yet even if spending on World Cup stadiums seemed wasteful in a country with so many needs, it was important that the tournament returned to Brazil for the first time since 1950, said Reginaldo da Silva Andrade, 27, the chief of Nova Belo Horizonte.” 
  3. “In Nova Belo Horizonte soccer serves many purposes: fun, fitness, conflict avoidance and a diversion from alcohol and drugs. It also provides a chance to socialize with other river villages.

 

ANSWER KEY: World Cup in the Amazon

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Killer Robots or Human Errors?

June 20th, 2014  |  Published in Technology

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, stated that in the last 30 years there have been approximately 33 deaths and injuries caused by robots in the U.S. These mechanical robots work in cages and according to Rodney Brooks, the boss of Rethink Robotics they have “articulated mechanical arms nearly the size of telephone poles that move sections of partially built vehicles so scarily fast that anyone who accidentally ends up in the wrong place is as good as dead.”.   Most of the injuries and deaths have occurred when humans make an error or violate the safety barriers by entering a cage. The concern some people have is what will happen when we let autonomous  robots  out of the cages?

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key.

Robots working in a cage. People should turn the system off before entering. Credit- Technical Translation

Robots working in a cage. People should turn the system off before entering. Credit- Technical Translation

Excerpt:  As Robotics Advances, Worries of Killer Robots Rise By John Markoff and Claire C. Miller The New York Times

Future robots will have moral and ethical sense. Credit- Wonderful Engineering

Future robots will have moral and ethical sense. Credit- Wonderful Engineering.

“From driverless cars to delivery drones, a new generation of robots is about to revolutionize the way people work, drive and shop. But there is one area where robots are already entrenched and spreading fast: the industrial sector, especially manufacturing and storage. Robots have long toiled alongside workers in factories and warehouses, where they load boxes with items ordered online, drill and weld car parts, or move food from one conveyor belt to the next. Now many experts worry about the dangers that robots pose to the humans who work alongside them…Unlike today’s robots, which generally work in cages, the next generation will have much more autonomy and freedom to move on their own. Regulations have required that the robots operate separately from humans, in cages or surrounded by light curtains that stop the machines when people approach. As a result, most of the injuries and deaths have happened when humans who are maintaining the robots make an error or violate the safety barriers, such as by entering a cage.

But the robots whose generation is being born today collaborate with humans and travel freely in open environments where people live and work.Along with the new, free-roaming robots come new safety concerns. People worry about what happens if a robot spins out of control, or the first time a driverless car kills someone. The Google car has a padded front to soften any blow if the robot or a human causes an accident. The windshield is plastic, and the front of the car is rounded so it is less likely to hurt or trap pedestrians or cyclists. Another robot, Baxter, which does repetitive jobs in workplaces like packaging small items, is designed to sense humans and stop before coming in contact with them.”

 

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

 Predictions

Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Ask students to examine the titles of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Based on these sources, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article.  Have them use the Pre-reading Organizer by Scholastic.

 Pre-reading Organizer By Scholastic

 

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 Freeology for assistance. 

  1. A new generation of robots is about to revolutionize the way people work.
  2. There is one area where robots are already entrenched and spreading fast: the industrial sector.
  3. Robots have long toiled alongside workers in factories and warehouses.
  4. But the robots whose generation is being born today collaborate with humans.
  5. They are products of the declining cost of sensors and improved artificial intelligence algorithms.
  6.  Google’s newest driverless car is completely automated.
  7. Another robot, Baxter, does repetitive jobs in workplaces.
  8. Baxter is designed to sense humans.
  9. Baxter also has a display screen that cues those nearby.
  10. Baxter and its progeny will need more of these advances.

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. Robots have caused at least  99 workplace deaths and injuries in the last 30 years.
  2. Robots today generally work in outdoors.
  3. Until now, robots have largely been used in the auto industry.
  4. They have mostly been designed for complex tasks.
  5. Along with the new, free-roaming robots  comes a sense of security.
  6. Some of the new robots can take care of the elderly.
  7. The Google car has a padded front to soften any blow if the robot
  8. or a human causes an accident.
  9. Baxter is designed to  talk to humans.
  10.  Amazon is also working on a robotic car.

  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

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 article states the following, “Regulations have required that the robots operate separately from humans, in cages or surrounded by light curtains that stop the machines when people approach. As a result, most of the injuries and deaths have happened when humans who are maintaining the robots make an error or violate the safety barriers, such as by entering a cage.” How would you put this idea  into your own words?
  2. The article states,If robots and humans are going to live and work together, Baxter and its progeny will need more of these advances. To develop them, the robots’ creators will need to draw on one of the most human of emotions: empathy.”  In your opinion do you think its possible to develop robotic software that mimics the complexity of human emotions? Provide reasons for your answers.
  3. Do you think that the Google driverless car which is completely automated, without a steering wheel or a brake pedal is safe for people to drive? Why or why not? Would you drive in a Google car?
  4. What are your thoughts about robots who care for the elderly and help  people in disasters? Are they safer than robots in the workplace?  Provide reasons for your answers.
  5. With your group use the web to find information about other  areas where we use robots to help us. Share your result with the class.

IV. Listening Activity

Video Clip: 

“The six Nobel Peace Prize Laureates of the Nobel Women’s Initiative are joining international campaigners to call for a ban on autonomous weapons, or killer robots.  Automatic weapons are currently being developed with very little transparency. It is likely that these killer robots would be unable to distinguish between combatants and civilians. They would be incapable of showing mercy or recognizing surrender.”

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

   

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

 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.

Main Idea / Debate Activity

Directions: Divide students into  two teams for this debate. Both teams will use the article, the sites listed below and other sources from the web to support their arguments. 

Team A will list five reasons for allowing robots to work with humans.

Additional source:  How Do Robots & Robotics Affect the Workplace? by Felicia Greene, Demand Media

Team B will list  five reasons against robots working with humans.

Additional source:  10 reasons  to be terrified of robots by Andrew Handley

Each team will have time to state their points of view,  and the teacher decides which team made their points.  

For organization of their ideas students  can use this great Pros and Cons Scale organizer  from Freeology Pros and Cons Scale

 ANSWER KEY: Killer Robots

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