Researchers Are Finding New Ways to Enter Our Dreams

“Scientists are figuring out how to communicate with people while they’re dreaming. What will be discovered on the other side?” V.  Greenwood, The Boston Globe, July 20, 2021

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Illustration- Gregori Saavedra. The Guardian

Excerpt: A passageway is opening into the world of dreams, By Veronique Greenwood, The Boston Globe, July 20, 2021

“Lucid dreamers can control their surroundings and the narrative of their dreams. Near the corner of the small, dark room, there is a narrow folding bed. Every now and then, a speaker on a nearby table emits an eerie violin riff. A line of red lights near the ceiling flashes, then flashes again, bathing the room in a lurid glow. In the bed someone who is fitted with a series of scalp and face electrodes is sleeping.

Sleep Lab -Boston Medical Center

This surreal tableau is part of scientists’ effort to breach the wall between the waking world and wherever it is we are when we’re dreaming. The researchers who control the speaker and flashing lights in the lab of Ken Paller, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Ill., have been asking questions of people who are dreaming and hoping to get answers.

The Netherlands Institut

The dreamers have talked back in a handful of cases. Or rather, signaled back, swiveling their closed eyes back and forth or making little muscle twitches to answer arithmetic problems asked by an experimenter…It’s not quite on the level of “Inception,” the 2010 movie in which Leonardo DiCaprio enters people’s dreams to steal their secrets, but it could be a way to learn more about the peculiar places we inhabit, built by our brains without our knowledge, when we lie down to sleep.

Poster from film: Inception

Researchers have found that lucid dreamers can move their closed eyes voluntarily while asleep and can signal using a prearranged rapid movement — left-right-left-right — that they’ve become lucid. The sleeper may then perform another prearranged task, like singing a song or practicing a workout in the dream and then signal again when they’ve completed it. This has allowed researchers to ask big questions. Do activities take the same amount of time in a dream as in waking life? (Yes, it appears.)”

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 60 minutes.


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 improving oral skills. 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: Examine the titles of the post and of the actual article.  Examine any photos, then create a list of  words and  ideas  that you  and your group members think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. Scientists are figuring out how to communicate with people while they’re dreaming.
  2. Lucid dreamers can control their surroundings and the narrative of their dreams.
  3. Every now and then, a speaker on a nearby table emits an eerie violin riff.
  4. In the bed someone is fitted with a series of scalp and face electrodes.
  5. This surreal tableau is an effort to breach the wall between the waking world and when we’re dreaming.
  6. Some dreamers  can signal back by making little muscle twitches.
  7. It’s not quite on the level of “Inception,” the 2010 movie.
  8. Some believe that we enter an alternate life while sleeping.
  9. A phenomenon called lucid dreaming offers the possibility of communication in real time.
  10. Some experimenters spoke these questions, some used Morse code.

 

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.  Identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I

  1. Scientists are figuring out how to communicate with people while they’re dreaming.
  2. What will be discover on the other side?
  3. The researchers control the speaker and flashing lights in the lab.

II

  1. The dreamers have talked back on a handful of cases.
  2. Two-way communication with dreamers is possible.
  3. But there is a delay between a dream and when scientists can try to learn about it.

III

  1. Lucid dreaming offers an possibility of communication in real time.
  2. It is possible for some people to train themselves to dream this way.
  3. Researchers have found that lucid dreamers can move their closed eyes voluntarily while asleep.

 

Reading Comprehension

Identify The  Speakers

Directions: Read the following quotes and descriptions  from (and of)  the speakers in the article. Then identify the speakers.

  1. This scientist is part of the group of researchers who control the people  who are dreaming.
  2. “One of the main challenges of doing dream research is that you only have access to the dream experience, the dream report, after the fact.”
  3. This sleep researcher helped bring the subject of Lucid dreamers to the mainstream.
  4. He and his colleagues have found that when lucid dreamers trace a line with their eyes they move with a smoothness they don’t have when awake and imagining the same experience.
  5. “It is not clear why some people perceived the questions and others did not…But staying lucid is like balancing on a knife’s edge…On the one hand, you may get so excited you’ve achieved lucidity that you wake up. On the other, you can fall back into the deep, languid waters of regular dreaming, losing the ability to participate in experiments.
  6. However, the method will always be really difficult and impractical, in the sense that you have to test dozens of participants before getting one instance of really convincing, successful communication.”

 

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Have  students discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards,  students share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. Do you dream often? Can you remember your dreams when you wake up?
  2. According to the article have dreamers ever spoken (or signaled) back to the scientists?  How?
  3. What are some of the positive advantages of learning about our dreams?
  4. What type of  experiments did the researchers ask the sleepers to perform?
  5. At the present,  what’s the best way to get information about  what we dream about?
  6. Explain what Lucid Dreaming means.
  7. What are some of the things that  lucid dreamers can do?
  8. What are some questions researchers ask about lucid dreamers?
  9. In the 2010 movie ‘Inception,’ Leonardo DiCaprio enters people’s dreams to steal their secrets. In your opinion, do you believe this could actually happen with further dream research?
  10. Why are researchers cautious about future research in dreaming?
  11. In your opinion, are these experiments useful or harmful? Please provide reasons for your answers.

 

3-2-1-Writing

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

 

Extra Activities

Have each group research different institutions (in the U.S. and other countries)that have dream experimentation labs and write a report about the results. Each group will share their results with the class.

Have each member write about a dream they had and try to interpret the dream.

ANSWER KEY

Category: People, Psychology, Technology | Tags:

Embracing Indigenous knowledge to Help Save the Planet

“Nearly two decades ago, when the New Zealand highway authority was planning the Waikato Expressway, people from the Māori tribe Ngāti Naho objected. The highway would encroach on an area that, in Māori tradition, was governed by a water-dwelling creature, a taniwha.” R. Cernansky, The New York Times, July 10, 2021

Maori leaders and members of the Australian Defense Force. Lisa Maree Williams:Getty Images NYT

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Excerpt: Indigenous Knowledge, Innovative Solutions, By Rachel Cernansky, The New York Times, July 10, 2021

“The authorities took those concerns into account and rerouted the road to circumvent the area in question. As a result, a year later, when the area was hit by a major flood, the road was unharmed.

‘I’m still waiting for the headline, ‘Mythical Creature Saves the Taxpayer Millions,’  said Dan Hikuroa, a senior lecturer in Māori studies at the University of Auckland and member of the Ngāti Maniapoto tribe.  He has often wondered if, once the flood hit, the technical team later said, ‘Why didn’t you just say it’s a flood risk area?’

Violet Lawson, a land owner in Kakadu, Australia, studies her land for the right time to set fires that are not too hot but still clear the underlying debris and fuel to prevent larger wildfires. Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

Like many Indigenous peoples around the world, the Māori have developed their understanding of their environment through close observation of the landscape and its behaviors over the course of many generations.

Now the New Zealand Environmental Protection Agency regularly looks for ways to integrate traditional Māori knowledge, or mātauranga, into its decision-making…Western-trained researchers and governments are increasingly recognizing the wealth of knowledge that Indigenous communities have amassed to coexist with and protect their environments over hundreds or even thousands of years. Peer-reviewed scientific journals have published studies demonstrating that around the world, Indigenous-managed lands have far more biodiversity intact than other lands, even those set aside for conservation… This is ever more urgent, particularly as the climate crisis unfolds…Indigenous scholars warn, though, that while traditional knowledge can be used to benefit the world, it can also be mishandled or exploited.

Dominique David Chavez, a descendant of the Arawak Taíno in the Caribbean, and a research fellow at the Native Nations Institute at the University of Arizona and the National Science Foundation, says that, as Western scientists, ‘we are trained to go into communities, get that knowledge and go back to our institutions and disseminate it in academic journals.’

That can be disruptive to traditional knowledge sharing, from one generation to another, she says, which should be the priority — ensuring that Indigenous knowledge systems are preserved in and supportive of the communities that developed them…Ideally, the shared use of Indigenous knowledge can help mend broken relationships between Indigenous and Western communities.”

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 60 minutes.


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 improving oral skills. 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: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions: Examine the title of the post and of the actual article. Next examine  any photos. Write a paragraph describing what you think this article will discuss. A pre-reading organizer may be used.

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

II. While Reading Activities:

Word Inference

Directions: Try to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. You usea dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Indigenous people help their countries world-wide.
  2. Maori leaders and members of the Australian Defense Force worked together.
  3. The highway would encroach on a sacred area.
  4. The Māori have developed their understanding of their environment through close observation.
  5. The New Zealand Environmental Protection Agency regularly looks for ways to integrate traditional Māori knowledge.
  6. Indigenous communities and governments have learned to coexist.
  7. Indigenous scholars warn, traditional knowledge can be used to benefit the world, it can also be mishandled or exploited.
  8. Many believe that Indigenous knowledge systems should be preserved.
  9. Bridging Indigenous and Western science also means respecting the ecosystem.
  10. Some people still use industrial pesticides.

Vocabulary Cluster By Learnnc.org

 

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.  Identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I

  1. The New Zealand highway is planned two decades ago.
  2. The Māori are ilke many Indigenous peoples around the world.
  3. The authorities rerouted the road.

II

  1. Mr. Hikuroa has been appointed the culture commissioner for UNESCO New Zealand.
  2. Western-trained researchers is recognizing that Indigenous communities have valuable knowledge.
  3. Indigenous knowledge can deepen Western scientists’ understanding of their own research.

III

  1. Traditional knowledge should be shared from one generation to another.
  2. The scientific method are designed to be indifferent to morals or values.
  3. Government regulations had already restricted the  harvest of sweetgrass.

 

Reading Comprehension

Identify The  Speakers

Directions: Read the following quotes from the speakers in the article. Then identify the speakers.

  1. “I’m still waiting for the headline, ‘Mythical Creature Saves the Taxpayer Millions.”
  2. “Why didn’t you just say it’s a flood risk area?”
  3. “As Western scientists, we are trained to go into communities, get that knowledge and go back to our institutions and disseminate it in academic journals.”
  4. “That can be disruptive to traditional knowledge sharing, from one generation to another, which should be the priority.”
  5. “In Indigenous sciences, it’s not possible to separate the knowledge from the ethics of the responsibility for that knowledge — whereas in Western science, we do that all the time.”
  6. “The scientific method is designed to be indifferent to morals or values. Indigenous knowledge puts them back in.”
  7. “That’s one of the reasons Native people were systematically removed from what are today’s national parks, because of this idea that people and nature can’t coexist in a good way.”

 

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 Questions for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Have  students discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards,  students share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. Do you have ways of helping our planet? For example, recycling helps address climate change.
  2. Why did the Māori tribe object to having the highway built?
  3. Why do you think the authorities in New Zealand listened to the Māori?
  4. From the article,Dan Hikuroa, a senior lecturer in Māori studies stated, “I’m still waiting for the headline, ‘Mythical Creature Saves the Taxpayer Millions.” Why do you think he said that? Was he joking?
  5. What is ‘regenerative agriculture’ ?
  6. Who  did Australian authorities consult last year while combating wildfires?
  7. List three new ideas  that you’ve learned about the topic from the reading,  two things that you did not understand in the reading, and one thing you  would like to know that the article did not mention.  Share your responses with your class.
  8. With your group members make a list of ways you can help with global warming.

ANSWER KEY

The Art of Being Happy Takes Work!

“Mr. Sherman, 70, is an Orthodox Jew, a professional clown and sometime playwright and director…’I picked Wall Street and Nassau for a reason,’ he said. I felt, that’s the center of power, they need the humanity the most. This one fellow stopped me and said: ‘I watch you. I have all the money I want in the world. But I’m not happy. I see you perform, and you’re happy. How do I become happy?’  It’s a living.” J. Leland, The New York Times, July 8, 2021

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Stanley Allan Sherman in his studio, which has also been his home since the 1970s. Credit- James Estrin:The New York Times

 

Excerpt: ‘How Do I Become Happy?’ Advice From a Professional Fool, By John Leland, The New York Times, July 8, 2021,

“In a city that has everything, he is one of the few makers of custom leather masks of the sort used in commedia dell’arte, a form of theater that uses stock characters denoted by their masks. He also makes them for the occasional pro wrestler or rapper.

Mr. Sherman during his time as a mime and juggler. Credit-Jim R Moore:Vaudevisuals

Everyone has a Sept. 11 story. The pages of Stanley Allan Sherman’s, a one-man show called ‘September,’ sat propped on a music stand in his apartment the other day, amid a room full of leather masks. Something about the text was vexing him… He started writing the Sept. 11 monologue several years ago, with interest from Theater for the New City in the East Village. Then the pandemic happened, leaving the show orphaned — a meditation on resilience during one calamity, sidelined by another. For Mr. Sherman, it was just one more occasion for improv.

Wrestling masks made by Mr. Sherman. Credit- maskarts.com

Like many artists of his generation, he arrived in New York without a plan, and found a sweet spot in a post-’60s art world that was just taking shape. It was roughly 1973, after he’d spent a year on a kibbutz in Israel and a couple more in Paris, and his intention was  to stay a couple of nights on his brother’s couch, in a fifth-floor walk-up on the edge of the Manhattan neighborhood now known as Chelsea…Instead of leaving town as planned, Mr. Sherman grabbed a set of antique toilet plungers and headed downtown to Wall Street, to pass the hat as a sidewalk juggler and mime.

Mr. Sherman’s mask for The Joffrey Ballet School Production of The Nutcracker Ballet in 2012. Credit- masks.com

It was a great way to learn about human psychology, he said. It also made him the apartment’s sole breadwinner… Mr. Sherman graduated from the sidewalk gig to performing in the small, adventurous theaters that were beginning to open downtown. ‘If you stay too long in the street you get mean,” he said. ‘I was getting mean.’

For Mr. Sherman, it has been an odd sort of career. His best-known performing role was as a guest on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” where he appeared more than 40 times in the 1990s, usually in bits calling for a Hasidic Jew, with or without juggling.”

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 60 minutes.


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 improving oral skills. 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: Examine the titles of the post and of the actual article.  Examine any photos, then create a list of  words and  ideas  that you  and your group members think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. Stanley Allan Sherman is  one of the niche artisans of New York theater.
  2. Sherman is also one of the few makers of custom leather masks of the sort used in commedia dell’arte.
  3. When the pandemic happened his  show closed.
  4. Sherman showed resilience during  the calamity.
  5. For Mr. Sherman, it was just one more occasion for improv.
  6. In 1973 he spent a year on a kibbutz in Israel.
  7. He  had studied mime and the use of masks in the fabled Parisian school of Jacques Lecoq.
  8. Mr. Sherman’s brother was trying to peddle a documentary.
  9. He was the apartment’s sole breadwinner.
  10. Mr. Sherman graduated from the sidewalk gig to performing in the theaters.

 

Word Map by Against the Odds

 

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.  Identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I

  1. Mr. Sherman graduated from the sidewalk to theaters.
  2. If you stay too long in the street you get mean.
  3. The only person I knew what made masks was in Italy.

II

  1. Mr. Sherman had found an niche in the community.
  2. He called puppeteers he knew for advice.
  3. Mr. Sherman also created masks for dancers.

III

  1. But his best-known mask appeared on the professional wrestler Mick Foley.   
  2. It can take Mr. Sherman a few day or as long as a year to make a mask.
  3. He is now hoping to revive ‘September,’  his one-man show.

 

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.

There was an ___couple with a___ pot of ___soup that fed ___for hours. All these ___things happened. Then seeing the line of ___trucks on the West Side Highway was just___. People in their 20s have no___of this. They hear about___, but they don’t know how the___ in the city was so amazing. It was a___ time.”

WORDLIST : magical, memory, disturbing, refrigerator, beautiful, people, Sept. 11, energy, old, giant, chicken, 

Graphic Organizers: Finding The Main Idea

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

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Have  students discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards,  students share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. During the pandemic, many people have become sad. We read about how some try to cheer themselves and others up. Name some ways that you cheer yourself or your friends up.
  2. Why do you think that Mr. Sherman was getting ‘mean’ in the New York City streets?
  3. Which wrestler wore Mr. Sherman’s best known mask?
  4. Mr. Sherman states, The reason late night comedy talk shows are so popular and so many people get their news from them, is because they’re speaking truth,” he said.
  5. “If it’s a lie, it’s not funny. Lies aren’t funny. Truth is funny.”
  6. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Provide reasons for your answers.
  7. If you could ask Mr. Sherman two questions, what would they be?
  8. Discuss three new ideas  that you’ve learned about the topic from the reading,  two things that you did not understand in the reading, and one thing you would like to know that the article did not mention.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Arts, People | Tags:

Good Gossip vs. Bad Gossip

“Two Proverbs: The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; A whisperer separates close friends. K. Radtke, The New York Times, June 29, 2021

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

image Credit- Gwendle Le Bec, NYT

Excerpt: Letter of Recommendation: Gossip, By Kristen Radtke, The New York Times, June 29, 2021

“In middle school I learned how to solve for the hypotenuse and identify properties of an atom, but the most enduring skill I picked up was how to gossip. Eighth grade in particular was consumed by chatter and rumors...As a class of 26, we had perhaps more access to one another than is advisable at such a vulnerable age.

Our homeroom teacher, Ms. Deehr, a severe Catholic-school teacher who resembled a sitcom stereotype, had no tolerance for what she called ‘talking behind each other’s backs.’

She quoted from Proverbs: ‘A whisperer separates close friends.’ I burned with shame over my recess gossip, fearing that eternal flames awaited me if I didn’t stop.

Yet, I whispered relentlessly and often without cruelty. My friends and I talked about a classmate’s parents’ divorce when we were trying to understand our own parents’ fighting… We were trying to understand things about ourselves, and the tiny world we inhabited, the only way we knew how: by observing one another and making sense of those observations together. Ms. Deehr failed to mention a verse that came later, also from Proverbs: ‘The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels.’

The anthropologist Robin Dunbar has proposed that humans developed spoken language not to more effectively hunt or build or conquer but to gossip…If humans did indeed develop language in order to gossip, it’s because gossiping creates interpersonal bonds and offers context about the lives we lead.” 

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 60 minutes.


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 improving oral skills. 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: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions: Examine the title of the post and of the actual article. Next examine  any photos. Write a paragraph describing what you think this article will discuss. A pre-reading organizer may be used.

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. When I was young I picked up how to gossip.
  2. Ten is such a vulnerable age.
  3. Our homeroom teacher, Ms. Deehr, was a severe teacher.
  4. She quoted from Proverbs.
  5. I whispered relentlessly and often without cruelty.
  6. We speculated about someone’s trip to another country.
  7. Trading information felt like an opportunity to accrue capital in a world in which we had none.
  8. For an adolescent, gossip was about currying favor.
  9. New York is a city of complex rules and norms.
  10. The internet complicates fun by allowing Trash talk.

Word Map by Against the Odds

 

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.  Identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I

  1. I whispered relentlessly.
  2. We was trying to understand things about ourselves.
  3. My friends and I talked about a classmate’s parents’ divorce.

II

  1. Trading information felt like a opportunity.
  2. For an adolescent, gossip was about currying favor.
  3. My friend and I moved to New York around the same time.

III

  1. That doesn’t mean gossip is ever moral or fair.
  2. Social media platforms reward our meanest, least empathetic selves.
  3. The internet also obliterate the privacy of a personal network.

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.

That doesn’t mean___ is ever ___or___ or even true; it’s just that it can also be an ___amount of___…Despite her many attempts, my___ never completely kicked her ___habit, and I remain___ that I can ___her off the ____for good.

WORD LIST:  hopeful, gossip,  coax,  fun,  enormous, friend, gossip,  fair, moral,  wagon

III. Post Reading Activities

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Have  students discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards,  students share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. Do you gossip with your friends? Why?
  2. What do you gossip about?
  3. What reason does the author give for her gossiping in school?
  4. In the article the anthropologist Robin Dunbar has proposed that “humans developed spoken language not to more effectively hunt or build or conquer but to gossip.”  Do you agree or disagree with this idea?
  5. How does the author distinguish between ‘gossip’ and ‘spilling secrets’?  Do you agree with her?  Why?
  6. In your opinion is gossip the same as ‘trash talk’? Why or why not?
  7. After reading this article, is gossip a healthy habit among people? Why or why not?
  8. Discuss three new ideas  that you’ve learned about the topic from the reading,  two things that you did not understand in the reading, and one thing you would like to know that the article did not mention.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Culture, Language, People | Tags:

The Mysterious Magician David Berglas

“He walks aided by a cane and speaks in a refined British accent that carries no hint of his pre-World War II childhood in Germany. He has a white goatee and a pair of dark eyebrows… If he had a cameo in a film, he’d be credited as ‘Senior Wizard.’  At 94, the magician David Berglas says his renowned effect can’t be taught. Is he telling the truth?” D.  Segal, The New York Times, May 23, 2021

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Magician David Berglas UK

 

Excerpt:  The Mystery of Magic’s Greatest Card Trick, By David Segal,  The New York Times, May 23, 2021

“In the late 1940s, the British magician David Berglas started refining a trick that came to be known as ‘he holy grail of card magic.’ To this day, nobody is certain how he did it. Decades into his retirement, he has revealed just about every secret in his long and storied career…But even now, when the subject of Mr. Berglas’s famous effect is raised, he remains as cryptic as ever.

Is … this your card? David Berglas at work in a previous decade.Credit: David Berglas, The New York Times

‘It’s not a secret I can give to anyone because it’s not a secret as such,’ said Mr. Berglas, a formal and intense 94-year-old, at his home in North London. ‘t’s like asking a musician who can improvise to teach you his improvisation, which of course he can’t.’ The trick is a version of a classic plot of magic, called Any Card at Any Number. These tricks are called ACAAN in the business.

ACAAN has been around since the 1700s, and every iteration unfolds in roughly the same way: A spectator is asked to name any card in a deck — let’s say the nine of clubs. Another is asked to name any number between one and 52 — let’s say 31. The cards are dealt face up, one by one. The 31st card revealed is, of course, the nine of clubs. Cue the gasps. There are hundreds of ACAAN variations, and you’d be hard pressed to find a professional card magician without at least one in his or her repertoire…At some point, the magician touches the cards. The touch might be imperceptible, it might appear entirely innocent. But the cards are always touched.

David Berglas in South Africa in 1949, performing an illusion involving hypnosis.Credit…Via David Berglas

With one exception: David Berglas’s ACAAN. He would place the cards on a table and he didn’t handle them again until after the revelation and during the applause. There was no sleight of hand, no hint of shenanigans.

It was both effortless and boggling. Among magicians around the world, his touch-less ACAAN is one of the most talked-about and puzzled-over tricks in history. It was eventually labeled ‘The Berglas Effect,’ and helped make its creator’s reputation in a career that spanned six decades…The magician and mentalist Barrie Richardson, for instance, described a 1977 visit to Mr. Berglas’s home in his book for magicians, Theater of the Mind. Asked for a card and a number, Mr. Richardson settled on the seven of hearts and 42. After that: ‘He motioned me into his study and pointed to a deck of cards on his desk,’ Mr. Richardson wrote.

‘When I counted down to the 42nd card, I discovered the seven of hearts. The experience was chilling!’…It’s more like archery, which requires practice and concentration and can end with something other than a bull’s-eye.”

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 60 minutes.


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 improving oral skills. 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: Examine the titles of the post and of the actual article.  Examine any photos, then create a list of  words and  ideas  that you  and your group members think might be related to this article. 

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. In the late 1940s, the British magician David Berglas started refining a card trick.
  2. The trick  came to be known as ‘the holy grail of card magic.’
  3. Decades into his retirement, he has revealed just about every secret in his long and storied career.
  4. ACAAN has been around since the 1700s, and every iteration unfolds in roughly the same way.
  5. Nearly every professional card magician has at least one ACAAN in his or her repertoire.
  6. There are ACAANs in which in which the spectator shuffles the deck.
  7. At some point, the magician touches the cards. The touch might be imperceptible.
  8. some skeptics believe that Mr. Berglas’s ACAAN is both simple and vulgar.
  9. They say he uses a confederate masquerading as a spectator — a stooge.
  10. All he needed, detractors note, was an ally with a hidden crib sheet listing the order of the cards.

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.  Identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I

  1. In an late 1940s, the British magician David Berglas started refining a trick.
  2. The card trick is known as the holy grail of card magic.
  3. To this day, nobody is certain how he did it.

II

  1. Decades into his retirement, he has revealed just about every secret in his career.
  2. There is hundreds of ACAAN variations.
  3. Mr. Berglas and many other magicians have used allies in the past.

III

  1. Magicians lie to spectators constantly.
  2. I contacted Mr. Berglas to ask if he would talked about his famous trick.
  3. He debuted what became known as the Berglas Effect in 1953.

Reading ComprehensionFill-ins

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

I left his ___in a muddle, and I have returned to that ___every time I think of this___. Off by one seems, on some level, more___ than nailing it. Off by one implies that there is nothing___about this ACAAN, that it isn’t a contraption that simply works when deployed. It’s more like___ which requires practice and ___and can end with something other than a___.

WORDLIST: bull’s-eye, concentration, archery, automatic, perplexing, performance, house, muddle, 

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 Questions for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Have  students discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards,  students share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. Do you enjoy watching magicians? Why?
  2. Have you ever performed any magic tricks?
  3. Basically, how did Mr. Berglas distract the audience’s attention during the disappearing grand piano trick?
  4. What does ACAAN stand for?
  5. How long has ACAAN been around?
  6. How many versions of ACAAN are there?
  7. What is the one feature that  all ACAANs have in common?
  8. What was different about David Berglas’s ACAAN?
  9. What was the name of Mr. Berglas’s ACAAN?
  10. Explain why some people were skeptical of Mr. Berglas’s card trick.
  11. What do other magicians have to say about he Berglas Effect?
  12. List three new ideas  that you’ve learned about the topic from the reading,  two things that you did not understand in the reading, and one thing you  would like to know that the article did not mention.  Share your responses with your class.

ANSWER KEY

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