Category Archives: Science

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

2014: Erasing Unwanted Memories!

To begin the New Year it seems fitting to discuss a new method that can help erase all of those unhappy 2013 memories. Scientists are researching a method  that will erase memories associated with mental trauma, psychiatric disorders and drug addiction.

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key.

Erasing Unwanted Memories

Excerpt: Unwanted Memories Erased…By Gautam Naik, The Wall Street Journal

“Scientists have zapped an electrical current to people’s brains to erase distressing memories, part of an ambitious quest to better treat ailments such as mental trauma, psychiatric disorders and drug addiction.

In an experiment, patients were first shown a troubling story, in words and pictures. A week later they were reminded about it and given electroconvulsive therapy, formerly known as electroshock. That completely wiped out their recall of the distressing narrative.

Forgetting painful memories.

Forgetting painful memories.

It’s a pretty strong effect. We observed it in every subject,” said Marijn Kroes, neuroscientist at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands and lead author of the study, published Sunday in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Film: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. poster

Film: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. poster

Science has tinkered with similar notions for years. In exposure treatment, repetitive exposure to a phobia in a nonthreatening way is designed to help patients confront their fears and gradually weaken the fear response, a process known as extinction.

The hope is that one day it may be possible to selectively eliminate a person’s unwanted memories or associations linked to smoking, drug-taking or emotional trauma.

Scientists used to think that once a memory took hold in the brain, it was permanently stored and couldn’t be altered. People with anxiety disorders were taught to overcome their fears by creating a new memory. Yet the old memory remained and could be reactivated at any time.

About a decade ago, scientists made a surprising discovery. They showed that when a lab rodent was given a reminder of some past fear, the memory of that event appeared to briefly become unstable. If nothing was done, that memory stabilized for a second time, and thus got ingrained—a process known as reconsolidation.Photo- The Examiner

But when certain drugs, known to interfere with the reconsolidation process, were injected directly into the rodent’s brain, they wiped out the animal’s fearful memory altogether.

Whether it was possible to disrupt the memory-consolidation process in humans was thought to be difficult to answer because injecting drugs into the human brain is risky business. Dr. Kroes and his colleagues found a way around the problem.

In ECT treatment, patients get a muscle relaxant and an anesthetic and an electrical current is passed to part of their brains, triggering a brief seizure that can help treat the depression…

A lot more work needs to be done. It isn’t clear whether the memory erasure is temporary or permanent. And while the technique might work for simple stories, it needs to be shown that it also works for real-world traumatic memories.”

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 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 read 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.

Pre-reading Organizer By Scholastic

Pre-reading Organizer By Scholastic

 

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 Freeology for assistance. vocab Freeology

  1. Scientists have zapped an electrical current to people’s brains.
  2. This is part of an ambitious quest to better treat mental ailments.
  3. The plot of the movie shows an estranged couple erasing memories of each other.
  4. Science has tinkered with similar notions for years.
  5. Repetitive exposure to a phobia is designed to help patients confront their fears.
  6. Scientists used to think that once a memory took hold in the brain, it couldn’t be altered.
  7. Whether it was possible to disrupt the memory-consolidation process in humans was thought to be difficult to answer.
  8. In ECT treatment, patients get a muscle relaxant.
  9. An electrical current is passed to part of their brains, triggering a brief seizure.
  10. A week later, the 39 patients were randomly assigned to one of three groups.

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. This process can work on children who have had bad experiences.
  2. In an experiment, patients were first asked to describe a troubling experience.
  3. The experiment recalls the plot of the movie Eternal Sadness of the Spotless Mind.
  4. The hope is that one day it may be possible to eliminate a person’s unwanted memories linked to smoking, drug-taking or emotional trauma.
  5. All countries are doing research on this project.
  6. Before this, scientists used to think that once a memory took hold in the brain, it was forgotten.
  7. One experiment involved 39 patients who were undergoing electroconvulsive therapy for severe depression.
  8. In ECT treatment, patients get a muscle relaxant and an electrical current is passed to part of their brains, triggering a brief seizure.
  9.  It’s clear that  the memory erasure is permanent.
  10. People will have to pay fee for this treatment.

 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. Scientists have zapped an electrical current to people’s brains.
  2. In a experiment, patients were first shown a troubling story.
  3. It’s a pretty strong effect.

II

  1. The experiment recalls the plot of the movie.
  2. Science has tinkered with similar notions for years.
  3. About an decade ago, scientists made a surprising discovery.

III

  1. Their test subjects was 39 patients undergoing therapy.
  2. The 39 patients were asked to watch two distressing stories.
  3. A week later, the 39 patients were randomly assigned to one of three groups

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 article states, “Scientists have zapped an electrical current to people’s brains to erase distressing memories, part of an ambitious quest to better treat ailments such as mental trauma, psychiatric disorders and drug addiction.” What would be an example of “zapping” away distressing memories?
  2. Can you think of other situations where erasing bad memories might come in handy?
  3. In your opinion, are there situations where erasing a bad memory might not be a good thing to do? Provide examples.
  4. If you had the opportunity, would you like to have any bad memories erased? Provide reasons for your answers.

 Main Idea / Debate

Directions: Divide students into  two teams for this debate. Both teams will use the article  as their source of information.

Team A will list five reasons for Erasing  bad memories. Team B will list  five reasons against Erasing bad memories. Each team will have time to state their points of view,  and the teacher decides which team made their points. For organization, have students use this great Pros and Cons Scale organizer  from Freeology

Pros and Cons Scale

 

IV. Listening Activity   

Video Clip Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Pre-Listening

In the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind  the connections between people and memories become the focal point of a very unique romance.

Plot: Joel (Jim Carrey)  is stunned to discover that his girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet)  has had her memories of their tumultuous relationship erased. Out of desperation, he contracts the inventor of the process, Dr. Howard Mierzwaik, to have Clementine removed from his own memory. But as Joel’s memories progressively disappear, he begins to rediscover their earlier passion. From deep within the recesses of his brain, Joel attempts to escape the procedure.[Much of the film takes place in Joel’s mind.] As Dr. Mierzwiak and his crew chase him through the maze of his memories, it’s clear that Joel just can’t get her out of his head. Written by Focus FeaturesIMDb

While Listening Activities

Sentence Fill-ins -Multiple Choice

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.

Note: In this clip Joel and Clementine are meeting for the first time on a train to Montauk, New York.

1. At the beginning of the train scene who says “Care if I sit closer?”

a. Joel

b. Clementine

c. conductor

2. Clementine asks Joel

a. How far you going?

b. Do you like my hair?

c. Do you work in a book store?

3. Clementine asks Joel

 a. Do you ever  hop at Barnes and Nobles?

b. Do you ever shop  at Barnes and Nobles?

c. Do you ever shop  Nobles  and Barnes?

4. Joel  tells Clementine that

a. he never recognized her

b. he will remember her

c. he would have remembered her

5. Clementine tells Joel that he might not recognize her because

a.  she travels a lot.

b. she reads a lot.

c. her hair color changes a lot.

6. Clementine begins to name various

a. hair colors

b. books

c. places she’s visited.

7. Clementine asks Joel not to make jokes about

 a. her hair color

b. her name

c. her nose spray

8. Who begins to sing?

a. Joel

b. the conductor

c. Clementine

9. Joel tells Clementine that her name means

a. merciful

b. mercy

c. merciless

10. Who uses nose spray?

a. Joel

b. the onductor

c. Clementine

Post-Listening Activities

Questions for Discussion

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

1. From this clip, would you say that Joel and Clementine were attracted to each other? Why or why not.

2. Who was more aggressive in the meeting, Joel or Clementine? How do you know this?

3.  In your opinion do they make a good couple? Provide reasons for why or why not.

4. Having read the plot for this film, what does the title mean?

4. With your group members, make up questions that you would like to ask Clementine or Joel.

 ANSWER KEY: Erasing Memories

 

A Dance of Death Might Prove: E = mc2

“Death Dance” Stars Found—May Help Prove Einstein Right
by Andrew Fazekas, National Geographic News

Lesson Plan for this article With Answer Key.

White Dwarfs-photo National Geographic

This is an interesting article about two stars heading towards a major collision. What’s fascinating is that although they are circling each other every twelve minutes, the actual collision won’t take place for another 900,000 years.

“3,000 light-years away a pair of aging stars is locked in a “dance of death”. According to astronomers, the union will end in a collision and a possible supernova. The binary star system consists of two white dwarfs—the burnt-out cores of sunlike stars. The white dwarfs are gradually spiraling toward each other at breakneck speeds of 370 miles (595 kilometers) a second, and they’re destined to merge in 900,000 years.

But astronomers hope that, before the collision, the spinning stars will help scientists test Einstein’s general theory of relativity and even reveal the origins of an entire class of supernovae. What is so incredible is that this exotic pair of Earth- and Neptune-sized stars are orbiting each other at only a third of our Earth-moon distance, circling each other every 12 minutes, said study leader Warren Brown, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

And because there is no interaction—or star matter streaming between them—we may have a unique stellar laboratory here to look for effects of general relativity and probe for extreme gravity.””The most exciting aspect is that the change in the orbital period as it emits gravitational waves can actually be measured,..That means we will not only indirectly test general relativity, but also directly measure the predicted gravitational waves, which has never been done before… Such a mission would truly open a new way to study the universe.” Read the rest of the article.

White Dwarf explodes into supernova-You Tube

Lesson Plan for this article:

Language Skills – reading, speaking, vocabulary, and grammar practice.

Level: Low-intermediate-advanced

Time: approximately 1 hour 30 minutes.

Materials: article excerpt, dictionary.

Goals: Learners will be able to identify adjectives; practice reading and speaking skills, along with vocabulary meanings.

Procedure

I. Pre-Reading  Tasks

A. Prediction:

Have students  read the titles (of both this post and of the original article) survey the photos, to see if they can predict what the article will be about.

B Stimulate background knowledge:

Have learners brainstorm to build a list of all of the words they can  think of associated with the terms: Astronomy, stars, light-years, and white dwarfs.

II. While Reading Tasks

A. Grammar Focus: Adjectives

Organize students in groups and give each group a paragraph to work with from the article. Have them identify the adjectives in each paragraph. Review adjectives here.

B. Vocabulary Practice: Word Meanings

Have students connect the meanings to the correct adjectives.

1. aging a. reckless or dangerous, especially because of excessive speed.
2. binary b. inoperative as a result of heat or friction.
3. white c. of a kind not used for ordinary purposes or not ordinarily seen.
4. burnt-out d. being or similar to the size of the planets earth and neptune.
5. sunlike e. the force of attraction between any two masses.
6. breakneck f. light or comparatively light in color.
7. incredible g. growing old
8. exotic h. impossible to believe.
9. Earth- and Neptune-sized i. resembling the star around which the planets revolve and from which they receive light and heat.
10. unique j. being the only one of its kind; unlike anything.
11. stellar k. of or pertaining to an orbit.
12. extreme l. reaching a high or the highest degree.
13. exciting m. stirring; thrilling.
14. orbital n. say or estimate (a specified thing) will happen in the future.
15. gravitational o. of or relating to a star or stars.
16. predicted p. consisting of, indicating, or involving two.

C. Questions for Reading Comprehension

1. What is the article about?

2. When will the actual collision occur?

3. How many light-years away are the stars?

4. What is it that scientists hope to test before the stars collide?

5. Who is Warren Brown?

6. Besides testing general relativity, what else might the astronomers be able to measure?

III. Post Reading Tasks

A. WH- and How questions

Have  learners discuss the article using the  Wh-questions. Who or what is the article about?  When did the event occur?  Why or  how did the event occur?

B.  Writing / Speaking Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein- photo: google

“A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving…”_ Albert Einstein-Wikiquote

1.  In groups, have students read the quote by Einstein, and answer the following questions:

a. In your own words, explain what Einstein is saying.

b. Make a list of questions you would ask him if you had the opportunity.

2. Have students read about Albert Einstein, and write an essay explaining why he is so important to people all over the world.

Additional Learning Sites

National Geographic Gallery of White Dwarfs– great photos to show students.

NASA Introduction to White Dwarfs-complete and easy to read information about the White Dwarf stars.

University of Texas  Lesson Plans Teachers and students can share in the study of these cosmic time machines through lessons and activities created by Winget and McDonald Observatory education specialists and tested in Texas classrooms. These activities will sharpen students’ understanding of how stars live and die, and how astronomers use white-dwarf stars to probe many of the mysteries of our galaxy.

Answers

II. While Reading Tasks

A. Grammar Focus: Adjectives

Paragraph 1
aging, binary, white, burnt-out, sunlike, breakneck,
Paragraph 2
incredible, exotic, “Earth- and Neptune-sized”, unique, stellar, extreme.
Paragraph 3
exciting, orbital, gravitational, predicted.

B. Vocabulary Practice: Word Meanings

  1. aging-g
  2. binary-p
  3. white-f
  4. burnt-out-b
  5. sunlike-i
  6. breakneck-a
  7. incredible-h
  8. exotic-c
  9. Earth- and Neptune-sized-d
  10. unique-j
  11. stellar-o
  12. extreme-l
  13. exciting-m
  14. orbital-k
  15. gravitational-e
  16. predicted-n

C. Questions for Reading Comprehension

1. Two stars heading towards a major collision.
2. the actual collision won’t take place for another 900,000 years.
3. 3,000 light-years away
4. Einstein’s general theory of relativity
5. An astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
6. The predicted gravitational waves, which has never been done before.