Category Archives: Science

Ancient Horse DNA Reveals How the Fierce Scythian Warriors Survived

“Horses sacrificed by fierce nomads living in Central Asia more than 2,000 years ago have provided new insights into how people tamed the wild animals and bred them to their needs. The Scythians roamed over a vast swath of this region, from Siberia to the Black Sea, for about 800 years…They were known for their equestrian battle skills, including the ability to shoot arrows while riding, and for the brutal treatment of those they defeated…the Scythians blinded their slaves, and the warriors drank the blood of the first enemy they killed in battle.” K. Chang, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Beautiful Mongolian horse

Excerpt:  Ancient Horse DNA Shows Scythian Warriors Were Adept Domesticators, By Kenneth Chang, The New York Times

“In a study published Thursday by the journal Science, an international team of researchers deployed the latest genetic tools with 13 stallions that were buried in a mound in what is now Kazakhstan, well-preserved in the permafrost. (The Scythians appear to have only sacrificed male horses.) The decoded DNA not only provides insights into the ancient horses, but also suggests the Scythians were more than warriors.

‘Here we see them as breeders,’ said Ludovic Orlando, a professor of molecular archaeology at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, who led the research. ‘We reveal part of their management strategy and part of their knowledge 2,300 years ago.’

The findings also fit an emerging theory of how domestication in general changes animals as they become intertwined with humans.

Mongol horse archer

‘It’s great stuff,’ commented Greger Larson, director of the paleogenomics and bioarchaeology research network at the University of Oxford in England, who was not involved in the research. ‘It demonstrates the power of ancient whole genomes to understand the pattern and the process of domestication.’ Among the farm animals whose lives have become entwined with people, horses were a late addition.

Dogs were the first animal friends of humans — wolves that scavenged for food among garbage piles and turned docile about 15,000 years ago, or possibly much earlier. Cattle, chickens and pigs were domesticated by people in different parts of the world between 8,000 and 11,000 years ago.

A Mongolian horse breeder catching horses.Credit NYT

It was only about 5,500 years ago that people in Central Asia started catching and keeping wild horses for meat and milk. Riding horses came later.”

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 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. Nomads living in Central Asia were fierce warriors.
  2. Researchers deployed the latest genetic tools.
  3. The decoded DNA provides insights into the ancient horses.
  4. They found 13 stallions buried in a mound well-preserved in the permafrost.
  5. The genetic changes may slightly reduce the number of neural crest cells.
  6. The Scythian horses’ DNA showed no signs of inbreeding.
  7. Researchers  found two stallions from a royal Scythian tomb  and one mare.
  8. Evidence shows  earlier people, figured out how to use horses to pull two-wheeled chariots.
  9. The findings also fit an emerging theory of how domestication in general changes animals.
  10. Here we see them as breeders.

ELLteaching 2.0 vocabualry chart

 

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  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.

Among the___ animals whose lives have become___with people, horses were a late addition.

Dogs were the first___ friends of humans — wolves that ___for food among garbage piles and turned docile about 15,000 years ago, or possibly much earlier. Cattle, chickens and pigs were___by people in different parts of the world between 8,000 and 11,000 years ago.

It was only about 5,500 years ago that people in Central Asia started ____and keeping wild ____for meat and milk. Riding horses came later.

WORD LIST: horses, domesticated, animal, scavenged, entwined, catching, farm, 

 Grammar Focus

Grammar: Identifying Articles

Directions: Have students choose the correct English articles (THE, A, AN) from those provided to fill in the blanks.

___genetic changes may slightly reduce___number of neural crest cells. This begins to support___sort of grand theory. In modern horses,___Y chromosomes in stallions are almost identical. ___Y chromosome tells ___ genetic story of males of ___ species.

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?

Directions: Place students in groups Have each group list 3  questions they would like to ask any person mentioned in the article. Groups share questions as a class.

Extra: Web Search

Directions: In groups/partners have students search the web for additional information about the topic. Students can either have further discussions or write an essay about the subject.

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

Category: Science | Tags:

New Stem-Cell Discovery Stirs New Ethical Questions

“As biological research races forward, ethical quandaries are piling up. In a report published Tuesday in the journal eLife, researchers at Harvard Medical School said it was time to ponder a startling new prospect: synthetic embryos. In recent years, scientists have moved beyond in vitro fertilization. They are starting to assemble stem cells that can organize themselves into embryo like structures.Whatever else, it is sure to unnerve most of us.” by C. Zimmer, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Biological landscape of embryos and Synthetic human entities with embryonic features (SHEEFs) in relation to moral status. image-elife

Excerpt: A New Form of Stem-Cell Engineering Raises Ethical Questions, by Carl Zimmer, The New York Times 

“Soon, experts predict, they will learn how to engineer these cells into new kinds of tissues and organs. Eventually, they may take on features of a mature human being. In the report, John D. Aach and his colleagues explored the ethics of creating what they call ‘synthetic human entities with embryolike features’ — Sheefs, for short. For now, the most advanced Sheefs are very simple assemblies of cells. But in the future, they may develop into far more complex forms, the researchers said, such as a beating human heart connected to a rudimentary brain, all created from stem cells.

Established guidelines for human embryo research are useless for deciding which Sheefs will be acceptable and which not, Dr. Aach argued. Before scientists get too deeply into making Sheefs, some rules must be put in place. Dr. Aach and his colleagues urged that certain features be kept off limits: Scientists, for example, should never create a Sheef that feels pain…Scientists began grappling with the ethics of lab-raised embryos more than four decades ago.

Photo- The stem cell blog

In 1970, the physiologist Robert G. Edwards and his colleagues at the University of Cambridge announced they had been able to fertilize human eggs with sperm and keep them alive for two days in a petri dish. During that time, the embryos each divided into 16 cells. In 1979, a federal advisory board recommended that the cutoff should be 14 days…Adherence to the 14-day rule led to tremendous advances. For decades, scientists did not break the 14-day rule — but only because they did not know how. But last year, two teams of scientists determined how to grow human embryos for 13 days. Those advances hinted that it might be possible to allow scientists to tack on a few days more, by changing the 14-day rule to, say, a 20-day rule… A hint of the future arrived in a study published this month by researchers at the University of Cambridge.

They built microscopic scaffolding into which they injected a mixture of two types of embryonic stem cells from mice. While these artificial embryos developed from embryonic stem cells, it may soon become possible to build them from reprogrammed adult human cells. No fertilization or ordinary embryonic development would be required to build a mouse Sheef. Henry T. Greely of Stanford University was less optimistic. While it is important to have a discussion about Sheefs, he said, it may be hard to reach an agreement on limits as enforceable as the 14-day rule. Even if ethicists do manage to agree on certain limits, Paul S. Knoepfler, a stem cell biologist at the University of California, wondered how easy it would be for scientists to know if they had crossed them.”

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 Activities

Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming

Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about  the topic of stem-cell research.  Next, have students look at the photos 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. Students can use a brainstorming chart for assistance.

G. Cluster Brainstorming-workshopexercises

 

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. Some experts predict cell engineering will cause trouble.
  2. What are the ethics of creating synthetic human entities?
  3. They may develop into far more complex forms.
  4. Scientists might be able to test out drugs for diseases such as cancer or diabetes.
  5. There has to be guidelines for human embryo research.
  6. Scientists began grappling with the ethics of lab-raised embryos.
  7. Adherence to the 14-day rule led to tremendous advances.
  8. Some scientists were optimistic.
  9. Other kinds of research such as cloning could be studied.
  10. Spotting a primitive streak is easy.

ELLteaching 2.0 vocabualry chart

 

Reading Comprehension

Word -Recognition

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

Dr. Edwards won the Nobel Prize in 2010 for his reset/research, which opened the door to in vitro fertilization/fertilize. The discovery/discover also made it possible to study the early/earliest moments of human/humane development. Governments around the world/worldly began deliberating over how length/long research laboratories and fertility clinics/clinic should be allowed to let these embryos grow. The so-called 14-day rule came to be embraced/embody not just by scientists in the United States but in other countries as well.

 Grammar Focus: Prepositions

Directions: The following sentences are from the news article.  For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.

Prepositions:  in, for, of, with, by,  on, at, to, as, into, across, around, over,  through, from, during, up, off,

Experts predict, they will learn how___engineer these cells ___new kinds ___tissues and organs.

___the future, they may develop___ far more complex forms.

Such ___a beating human heart connected ___a rudimentary brain, all created ___stem cells.

Adherence ___the 14-day rule led___ tremendous advances.

Each ___those germ layers goes ___  ___produce all the body’s tissues and organs.

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?

Group Debates

Directions: After reading the article, place students in groups and  have each group choose one side of the following debate:  For or Against the New Form of Stem-Cell Engineering. Allow groups to develop their arguments and conclude with a class discussion.

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

Category: Science, Social Issues

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.”

untitled

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