Category Archives: Science

The President Needs to be Ready…Science is Changing Fast

“What science-related issues will the next president face? Climate change is sure to loom large, as will the annual debates over how much the government should spend on basic research and which fields are likely to provide the biggest short-term economic payoff. Technological advances, from self-driving cars to genome engineering, will pose new regulatory challenges. And surprises such as disease outbreaks, oil spills, and natural disasters are all but certain.”  D. Malakoff and J. Mervis, Science Magazine

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

presidential-seal-by-enchanted-learning

Excerpt: Science lessons for the next president By David Malakoff and Jeffrey Mervis,  Science Magazine

“In each case, a little science savvy might help a president better understand the issues and how best to respond. With that in mind, we offer the winner a crash course in areas of science that are likely to demand attention in the Oval Office over the next 4 or 8 years.

Pathogens change faster than our defenses. The viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites that cause disease in people, farm animals, wildlife, trees, and crops are in an arms race with their hosts… Evolving pathogens can threaten our food and water supplies, natural resources, and health.

filamentous-ebola-virus-particles-budding-from-a-chronically-infected-vero-e6-cell-image-science-magazine

filamentous-ebola-virus-particles-budding-from-a-chronically-infected-vero-e6-cell-image-science-magazine

Seas are rising sooner than you think. Regional variation means Atlantic shorelines are already at risk of flooding. Nearly 40% of the U.S. population lives near the coast, and shorelines host extensive infrastructure— Already, shorefront communities in hot spots of sea level rise, such as Hampton Roads, Virginia, and Miami Beach, Florida, are seeing tidal floods—even on sunny days—that clog traffic, poison lawns, and corrode utilities.image-investmentu

Machines are getting much, much smarter. Advances in artificial intelligence carry promise and peril. After years of halting progress, artificial intelligence (AI)—which aims to give machines a humanlike ability to gather information, learn, and make independent decisions—is taking off… Products and services from self-driving cars to systems that guide medical care and treatment could bring major benefits, including increased labor productivity, lucrative new markets, and fewer deaths from traffic accidents and medical mistakes. But AI brings worries, too. It will enable employers to automate more tasks and displace workers, and economists predict that some low-wage jobs will be among the first to be eliminated, possibly increasing economic inequality.elon-musk

We aren’t so great at assessing riskGut instinct can lead to poor policy. When experts calculate risk, they rely on statistics, but ordinary people tend to rely on their guts. Both approaches have their pitfalls, says Paul Slovic, a pioneer in the psychological study of risk at the University of Oregon in Eugene. There is wisdom and foolishness on both sides of the divide, he says.  One downside of gut assessments is obvious: They lead us to overestimate the chances of horrible things happening and underestimate more familiar risks. For example, since the attacks of 9/11, terrorists have killed at most a few hundred Americans. Over the same period, car accidents have killed more than 500,000 and heart disease roughly 8 million—perils we tend to take in stride.image-world-economic-forum

The  president will face a lengthy list of policy decisions surrounding known risks, including terrorist attacks, foreign conflicts, domestic crime and violence, flu pandemics, and natural disasters. But there will be emerging issues, too, including the potential risks of new technologies such as DNA editing and autonomous cars. With each, the challenge will be correctly assessing the risk, communicating it to the public, and developing sensible policies that can win support from voters, affected industries, and local, federal, and state policymakers.”

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Greetings poster by Askideas.com

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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 Activities

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. New presidents typically move into the White House.
  2. Some say they would cut taxes, promote education, and boost the economy.
  3. They do not intend to spend much time on arcane technical issues.
  4. Two science-focused events bracketed the 9/11 attacks
  5. Scientists derided President Ronald Reagan’s attempt to build a space-based laser system.
  6. The year 1976 had what the media dubbed the swine flu fiasco.
  7. In each case, a little science savvy might help a president.
  8. Pathogens change faster than our defenses.
  9. This poses the threat of a global pandemic that could kill millions.
  10. uses of certain  gene-editing technology could also raise ethical concerns.

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following paragraphs taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

A month earlier,___ wrestled with whether to___ federal funding for ___involving stem cells taken from___embryos. And just a week after the attacks, someone___anthrax-filled letters to media outlets and___, killing five people and ___the White House to launch a ___effort to improve bioterror defenses.

WORD LIST: human, prompting, massive, Bush, mailed, politicians, allow, research,

Grammar Focus

Word -Recognition

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

Other brain/bran health issues abroad/abound. Learning disabilities are a big/bag issue in classrooms; mental/metal illness is common in the homeless, in addicts/addictions, and in prison/prism  inmates; and concussions/conclusions have become a major concern in sports. The military farces/faces the burden of treating traumatic brain/bane injuries and the psychological aftereffects of combat. Effective/effects diagnostics and treatments could make a huge difference.

III. Post Reading Activities

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

Ask/Answer  Questions

Directions:  Place students in groups and have each group list 3  questions they would like to pursue in relation to  the article. Have groups exchange questions. Each group tries to answer the questions listed. All responses are shared as a class.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading or  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

Category: Science

Amazing: How We Hear With Our Eyes!

“Listening to someone speak is a simple process. The sound waves leave their mouth, enter your ear and travel to your brain, where your neurons get busy making sense of those random sounds. It all seems pretty straightforward, right? Well, not quite… sometimes this very simple process can go weirdly wrong.” A. Swank & D. Taylor Washington Post

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Image- Youtube

Image- Youtube

Excerpt: You can literally hear with your eyes, A. Swank & D. Taylor Washington Post

“The video below demonstrates something called the McGurk effect, a famous perceptual illusion that psychologists Harry McGurk and John MacDonald discovered in the 1970s while studying how children develop language. The two actually discovered the effect by accident when a sound technician synced a video they were studying to the wrong sound track. Although the sound is actually exactly the same throughout the video (it’s always “ba”), most people will perceive it as changing from “ba” to “va” as the image changes.

What is happening here? Basically, your brain is receiving conflicting signals from your eyes and your ears. While your ears are hearing “ba,” your eyes are seeing a mouth pronounce the syllable “va.” When that happens, your brain lets the visual information override the auditory information, and the sound appears to change.

Image- imgur.com

Image- imgur.com

However, some people will not perceive the effect as strongly. Studies have shown that women perceive the effect more strongly than men do. And those with damage to the brain, dyslexia, autism and certain language disabilities may not hear the sound change at all.

Fascinatingly, research has shown that the McGurk effect doesn’t work well for Japanese listeners, possibly because of the language’s different sounds, and a cultural tendency in Japan to avoid looking at a speaker’s face…This is just one example of the many fascinating techniques your brain uses to manage and simplify the huge amount of sensory information it is receiving at all times.

Dilbert

Dilbert

Sometimes when your brain tries to deal with uncertain situations, it jumps to conclusions that just aren’t quite right.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (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 Tasks

 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.

  1. The video demonstrates the McGurk effect.
  2. A sound technician synced a video incorrectly.
  3. This was a simple auditory illusion. 
  4. Basically, your brain is receiving conflicting signals.
  5. The effect works well.
  6. Not all people will perceive the effect as strongly.
  7. Some people with dyslexia may not hear the sound change.
  8. You can also learn to override the McGurk effect.
  9. There is cultural tendency in Japan to avoid looking at a speaker’s face.
  10. This is a fascinating technique.
Vocabulary Cluster By Learnnc.org

Vocabulary Cluster By Learnnc.org

 

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following paragraphs taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

The ___works so ___that you don’t necessarily have to be looking right at the person’s___. You might___ the McGurk___ even if you are ___at another___of your screen. If you have a lot of___time and___, you can even ___the McGurk effect yourself while looking in a mirror and___ the sound.

Word List: mouth, energy, effect, perceive, well, part, effect, looking, extra, mouthing,  replicate,

Grammar Focus

Word -Recognition

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

This is just/jest one example of the manny/many fascinating/facets techniques your brain/brawn uses to message/manage and simplify/simply the huge/hug amount of sensors/sensory information it is receiving at all times. Sometimes when your brain tries to deal/dead with uncertain situations, it jaunts/jumps to conclusions that just aren’t quite/quit right.

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 restate the following statement. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class.

“People who often watch dubbed TV or movies — which are more common in countries that have their own language but don’t have a large film industry, like Vietnam or Russia — can learn to ignore what shape the actors’ mouths are making on television.”

3-2-1-Writing

Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic 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.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Science | Tags:

The Sounds of Silence…Can be Scary!

“You’ve probably never encountered real silence. Finding a place that remains sonically unmolested by the roar of commercial jets or the steady hum of highways is nearly impossible. Whether you live in a city, or on a ranch in Montana, sound in the modern world is more or less inescapable. Turns out, that’s a good thing… when confronted with absolute or even near silence, human brains and ears react in ways that can result in a wide range of bizarre sonic experiences.” B. Gardiner, Wired

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

CSA-Printstock

CSA-Printstock

Excerpt: “…Why Silence Make You Hear Things That Aren’t There?”  By Bryan Gardiner, Wired

“Sound is such a constant thing, we don’t even think about it says Eric Heller, author of Why You Hear What You Hear. Even a quiet house is 40 dBA (A-weighted decibels). For context, zero dBA is considered the point at which humans can start to detect sound. A soft whisper at three feet is about 30 dBA. And a busy freeway at 50 feet is 80 dBA.

Now compare that with something like the -9 decibels of Orfield Lab’s anechoic chamber in Minneapolis, the quietest place on Earth according to Guinness, and you begin to see the stark sonic difference between the natural world we live in and the one contained within these artificial 3-D sound sponges.

An anechoic chamber at Orfield Laboratories in Minnesota, is so quiet that the longest anybody has been able to bear it is 45 minutes.Image courtesy of Star Tribune

An anechoic chamber at Orfield Laboratories in Minnesota, is so quiet that the longest anybody has been able to bear it is 45 minutes.Image courtesy of Star Tribune

They’re able to squash reverberation (echoes) and keep external sounds out through a combination of architecture and special materials. Yet even after all that effort to block external sound and thwart internal reflections, silence is surprisingly hard to come by in an anechoic chamber. In fact, people have a habit of discovering new sounds both real and fake in these disorienting environments.”

Memorial Day

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 handout (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

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

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. Complete silence  may even explain auditory hallucinations.
  2. Zero dBA is considered the point at which humans can start to detect sound.
  3. According to Guinness, Orfield Lab is the quietest place on Earth. 
  4. Anechoic chambers are quiet by design.
  5. They’re able to squash reverberation.
  6. Most are rooms are soundproof.
  7. Sounds become unbearably loud.
  8. Abumrad had sealed himself inside the chamber.
  9. For a long time it was assumed that sound simply enters the ear.
  10. These inputs help our brains distinguish between thoughts and reality.
ELLteaching 2.0 vocabualry chart

ELLteaching 2.0 vocabualry chart

Reading Comprehension

Word -Recognition
Directions: Students are to circle or underline the correct word or phrases from the article. This exercise reinforces students’ attention on words that have been introduced in the reading. Have them skim the article to check their responses. Students should also find the meanings for all unknown words.

“The real staff/stuff is usually what people notice/note first. Starved for output/input, our ears and brain essentially/essential go into overdrive. Sounds/Sights that are typically drowned/down out in the den/din of modern lift/life become, in some cases, unbearably load/loud. Spontaneous firings/fire of the auditory/audit nerve can cause a high-pitched hiss, for example.”

Grammar Focus: Preposition Exercise

Prepositions: in, for, of, with, by, on, at, to, as, into, around, over, from, during, after
Directions: The following sentences were taken from the article. Fill in the blanks with the correct prepositions. Note that not all of the prepositions listed are in the article.

Anechoic chambers are quiet___ design, and are typically used ___test things like audio equipment and aircraft fuselages.
Yet even___ all that effort___ block external sound and thwart internal reflections, silence is surprisingly hard ___come ___ ___an anechoic chamber.
Starved ___input, our ears and brain essentially go ___overdrive.
Many people also have the strange experience ___hearing their own blood pumping___their head, their breath, their heartbeat, ___ well___ their digestive system’s symphony___ gurgles and blurps.

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 two statements were taken from the article. Rephrase each statement in your own words, then discuss the meaning with the members of your group.

“For a long time it was assumed that sound simply enters the ear and goes up to the brain…there’s actually more connections coming down from the brain to the ear than there are going back up it. Why is that important? Well, for one thing it allows the brain to tweak the gain levels in the inner ear…We’d all be constantly hallucinating were it not for the grounding input we receive from our other senses.”

“In other words, while sitting alone with your own thoughts in a pitch black, soundless room, whatever happens to pop into your brain, whether it’s the voice of a friend, or a random sound triggered by some memory, you’re more likely to perceive it as real.”

2. Would you like to visit the Orfield Lab’s anechoic chamber? Explain why or why not.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Science

Recipe for a Small Planet

“Astronomers announced on Tuesday that they had found eight new planets orbiting their stars at distances compatible with liquid water, bringing the total number of potentially habitable planets in the just-right Goldilocks zone to a dozen or two, depending on how the habitable zone of a star is defined.” D. Overbye New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Photo credit NYT

Photo credit NYT

Excerpt: So Many Earth-Like Planets...By D. Overbye, NYT

NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, now in its fifth year of seeking out the shadows of planets circling other stars, has spotted hundreds, and more and more of these other worlds look a lot like Earth — rocky balls only slightly larger than our own home, that with the right doses of starlight and water could turn out to be veritable gardens of microbial Eden.

As the ranks of these planets grow, astronomers are planning the next step in the quest to end cosmic loneliness: gauging which hold the greatest promise for life and what tools will be needed to learn about them.

The planets unveiled on Tuesday were detected by a group led by Guillermo Torres of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

On Monday, another group of astronomers said they had managed to weigh precisely a set of small planets and found that their densities and compositions almost exactly matched those of Earth.

Photo credit- NASA

Photo credit- NASA

Both studies are expected to be completed in the next few months, and could affect plans for a former spy telescope bequeathed to NASA three years ago. Astronomers hope to launch it in the early 2020s to study dark energy, and they plan to include a coronagraph to search for exoplanets, according to Paul Schechter of M.I.T., chairman of a design team.

All of this will be grist for the mill at the end of the decade when a panel of the National Academy of Sciences produces its wish list for astronomy in the 2020s.

For all of Kepler’s bounty, a planet like Earth, of the same size orbiting the same type of star, has not yet been confirmed. The most terrestrial of the new worlds announced Tuesday are a pair known as Kepler 438b and Kepler 442b, both orbiting stars slightly smaller, cooler and redder than our sun. Kepler 438b is only 12 percent larger than Earth in diameter and has a 35-day year; Kepler 442 is a third larger than Earth and has a 112-day year.”

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

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. Debrief as a class and list these ideas on the board.

Brainstorming chart by UIE.

Brainstorming chart by UIE.

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. Doses of starlight and water could turn out to be veritable gardens of microbial Eden.
  2. As the ranks of these planets grow, astronomers are planning the next step.
  3. The quest is  to end cosmic loneliness.
  4. The planets unveiled on Tuesday were detected.
  5. And yet we still do not have a clue that we are not alone.
  6. So far, Kepler has discovered 4,175 potential planets.
  7. Most planets are too far away for detailed study.
  8. Dr. Seager is investigating the concept of a starshade.
  9. All these are small and potentially habitable.
  10. The work complements and tightens studies done last year.
Word Map Education Oasis.

Word Map 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. NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, is in its tenth year of seeking out the planets circling other stars.
  2. Scientists found a set of small planets with densities and compositions almost exactly like those of Earth.
  3. Alien life was discovered on one small planet.
  4. The job of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite will be to find alien life forms closer to home.
  5. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite will be launched in 2017.
  6. Scientist Karl Stapelfeldt heads a group at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
  7. One of the main goals of these studies is to have any chance of seeing signs of life on terrestrial planets.
  8. For all of Kepler’s bounty, a planet like Earth, of the same size orbiting the same type of star, has not yet been confirmed.
  9. By the year 2020 scientists will definitely know that there is life on other planets.
  10. An Italian telescope in the Canary Islands is used to measure planets’ masses to determine their densities.

 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. As the ranks of these planets grow, astronomers  is planning the next step.
  2. NASA’s Kepler spacecraft,  is now in its fifth year of seeking out the shadows of planets.
  3. The planets were unveiled on Tuesday.

II

  1. On Monday, another group of astronomers managed to weigh a set of small planets.
  2. Both groups announced their findings at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle.
  3. And yet we still do not had a clue that we are not alone.

III

  1. We can count as many as we like.
  2. Finding Goldilocks planets closer to home will be the job of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite.
  3. Both studies are expected to be completed on the next few months.

 

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

“We can count as many as we like…but until we can observe the atmospheres and assess their greenhouse gas power, we don’t really know what the surface temperatures are like.”

“For all of Kepler’s bounty, a planet like Earth, of the same size orbiting the same type of star, has not yet been confirmed. The most terrestrial of the new worlds announced Tuesday are a pair known as Kepler 438b and Kepler 442b, both orbiting stars slightly smaller, cooler and redder than our sun.

“All these are small, all are potentially habitable… Most of these planets have a good chance of being rocky, like Earth.”

2. With the members of your group discuss the possibilities of life on other planets. Decide what “alien” life forms  might look like.

3-2-1-Writing

Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic 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.

ANSWER KEY 

They’re Smarter Than The Average Bear!

If bears can be trained to ride bicycles and balance beach balls, why not train them to use computers? Researchers at Oakland University are doing exactly this.  It appears that bears may have cognitive abilities comparable to those of primates such as chimpanzees.

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key.

Bear Deep in thought. Photo: BBC.

Bear Deep in thought. Photo: BBC.

Excerpt: Black bears show counting skills on computers, By Matt Bardo, BBC Nature

“Black bears have demonstrated counting abilities, in a first for the species. Three captive bears took a series of number-based tests on a touch-screen computer, research published in the journal Animal Behaviour showed.

They had to choose between two different-sized sets of dots and were rewarded with food for correct answers. People don’t generally understand them to be as intelligent as they probably are, said Jennifer Vonk, the researcher who led the study.

Although bears have the largest relative brain size of any carnivore, their cognition is not well understood. Black bears have a large brain size in comparison to their bodies. They have been filmed doing some remarkable things.

Dr Vonk, an assistant professor in psychology at Oakland University said that the North American black bears were first trained to understand the process and equipment involved in the tests.

School in session.Photo- PeakOnline.

School in session.Photo- PeakOnline.

This is the first published work with bears working on a touch screen, she said. It hasn’t been done with any large carnivores. The experiment then involved presenting the bears with two sets of dots or arrays.

Basically we were looking to see if they can understand to choose less or choose more,..  They touched the screen to select one or other of the arrays, and were given food if they got the answer right.

The team wanted to ensure that the animals were not merely estimating magnitude, a skill that has been shown by many animals. We’re really trying to differentiate between the ability to perceptually discriminate amount from actually quantifying a number of items.

Sybils Den. Photo and website by Pat Rask.

Sybils Den. Photo and website by Pat Rask.

So the team varied the pattern of the dots and the shaded area on which the arrays were shown, and in some tests the dots were also moving…These results are among the first to show that bears may have cognitive abilities that are equal to primates. I’ve been working for a while with these bears… but simultaneously I was working with a chimpanzee,.. I find that their abilities so far in terms of categorization and forming more abstract concepts seem quite comparable.” 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.

Objective: Students will read the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. After reading this article, students will be able to decide if bears are intelligent enough to use computers. They will discuss and write an essay on this issue.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

Directions: Have students use a KWL chart such as this one by MSU.

Advanced K-W-L chart.Intervention for Reading copy

 

II. While Reading Activities

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 Education Oasis for assistance.

  1. Although bears have the largest relative brain size of any carnivore, their cognition is not well understood.
  2. The team wanted to ensure that the animals were not merely estimating.
  3. We’re really trying to differentiate between the ability to perceptually discriminate amount from actually quantifying a number of items.
  4. The team varied the pattern of the dots and the shaded area on which the arrays were shown.
  5. The study found that bears did better when the size of the area corresponded to the number of dots.
  6. They also found that the bears were capable of compensating for an area that was smaller or larger than normal.
  7. Black bears in the wild are often solitary, non-social animals.
  8. Similar tests on primate species allowed the scientists to compare the ability of the black bears with non-human primates.
  9. These results are among the first to show that bears may have cognitive abilities that are equal to primates.
  10. The techniques used to research the bears’ skills could be used in the future to look at bear cognition in more depth.

Word Chart By Education Oasis

Questions  for Reading Comprehension True / False /NA

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. People usually think Black Bears are intelligent.
  2. Bears have the largest relative brain size of any carnivore.
  3. Dr Vonk, is an assistant professor in psychology at Harvard University.
  4. This is the first published work with bears working on a touch screen.
  5. Basically the researchers were looking to see if bears could understand how to choose less or choose more.
  6. Black bears in the wild are often social animals.
  7. Similar tests on primate species allowed the scientists to compare the ability of the black bears with non-human primates.
  8. These results are among the first to show that bears may have cognitive abilities that are equal to primates.
  9. Dr Vonk was simultaneously working with orangoutangs.
  10. The techniques used to research the bears’ skills could be used in the future to look at bear cognition in more depth.

 Grammar Focus: Using Adjectives  to Describe a Photo.     

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 Activities

Reading Comprehension Check

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

WH-How Questions

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?

 KWL Chart

Directions:  Have students  fill in the last column of the KWL chart if they used one in the pre-reading segment of this lesson. They would list information they have learned from the reading.

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 ESL Voices Modes of Essay Writing.

  1.  In these experiments the bears were tested on a touch-screen computer. How might this information be useful to humans in general?
  2. The U.S. and Russia have trained oceanic dolphins to rescue lost naval swimmers and to locate underwater mines.  Do you think bears could be trained to help the military or regular people on land?   Provide examples.
  3. Other than chimpanzees and dolphins, what other animals might be trained to help humans?  Explain in what ways.

 IV. Listening Activity 

Video Clip:  Susie the Bear

“Two minute, 10 second color with sound film clip of Earl Pilgrim narrating a story about workmen befriending a black bear named Susie on a F. E. gold dredge on the Hogatza River in the Koyukuk Hughes mining district. Clip is an excerpt from AAF-745 of the Earl Pilgrim Collection held by the Alaska Film Archives, a unit of the Alaska & Polar Regions Department in the Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks.”

Pre-listening Activities

Review vocabulary from the video.

  1.  gangplank |ˈgaNGˌplaNGk| noun -a movable plank used as a ramp to board or disembark from a ship or boat.
  2. scrap  |skrap|-noun-(scraps) bits of uneaten food left after a meal, esp. when fed to animals.
  3. on-board |ˈɑn ˈˌbɔ(ə)rd|- adjective [ attrib. ]- available or situated on a ship, aircraft, or other vehicle.

 

While Listening Comprehension

 True /False 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 if the statement is  false they  mark  it F and provide the correct answer.

  1.  Susie is a brown bear that lives in  Hogatza or  Hog river.
  2. The crew started giving Susie scraps of food to entice her on the gang plank.
  3. It took a long time to entice Susie on the gang plank.
  4. They just let the gang  plank down and she’d  climb on board.
  5. When the narrator (Earl Pilgrim) first met  Susie, she ran away from him.
  6. One day Earl Pilgrim took 300 feet of movies of Susie.
  7. In one film he took of Susie, she was standing next to a woman unrolling a paper full of scraps.
  8.  According to Earl, Susie waited in a “lady-like” manner for the scraps too be given to her.

Video Link:  Susie the Bear

Post-Listening Activities

Questions for  Reflection and Discussion

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

  1. The crew in this video trained the bear Susie to come onto the boat, eat, and play. Discuss some ways this type of behavior might be a bad idea. How might it be a good idea?
  2. What do you think happened to Susie when the ship had to leave?
  3. With your group members, make up questions that you would like to ask the crew.

Group Projects

Directions: Place students in groups and have them research bears and provide presentations with photos (from zoos), drawings, and information from other websites. Students might think about video taping bears in a zoo (if permitted) and presenting the video to the class.

ANSWER KEY