“Harvard’s Top Astronomer Says An Alien Ship May Be Among Us”

“Before he started the whole alien spaceship thing last year, the chairman of Harvard University’s astronomy department was known for public lectures on modesty. Personal modesty, which Avi Loeb said he learned growing up on a farm. And what Loeb calls “cosmic modesty” — the idea that it’s arrogant to assume we are alone in the universe, or even a particularly special species.” A. Selk, The Washinton Post

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Avi Loeb poses in the observatory near his office in Cambridge, MA

 

Excerpt: Harvard’s top astronomer says an alien ship may be among us — and he doesn’t care what his colleagues think, By  Avi Selk,  The Washington Post

“You can find a poster for one of these lectures in Loeb’s office today, though it’s a bit lost among the clutter: photos of Loeb posing under the dome of Harvard’s enormous 19th-century telescope; thank-you notes from elementary-school children; a framed interview he gave the New York Times in 2014; his books on the formation of galaxies; his face, again and again — a bespectacled man in his mid-50s with a perpetually satisfied smile.

Loeb stands beside his desk on the first morning of spring courses in a creaseless suit, stapling syllabi for his afternoon class. He points visitors to this and that on the wall. He mentions that four TV crews were in this office on the day in the fall when his spaceship theory went viral, and now five film companies are interested in making a movie about his life.

A neatly handwritten page of equations sits on the desk, on the edge closest to the guest chairs. ‘Oh, this is something I did last night,’ Loeb says. It’s a calculation, he explains, supporting his theory that an extraterrestrial spacecraft, or at least a piece of one, may at this moment be flying past the orbit of Jupiter.

Since publishing his controversial paper, Loeb has run a nearly nonstop media circuit, embracing the celebrity that comes from being perhaps the most academically distinguished E.T. enthusiast of his time — the top Harvard astronomer who suspects technology from another solar system just showed up at our door. And this, in turn, has left some of his peers nonplused — grumbling at what they see as a flimsy theory or bewildered as to why Harvard’s top astronomer won’t shut up about aliens.

What you can’t call Loeb is a crank. When astronomers in Hawaii stumbled across the first known interstellar object in late 2017 — a blip of light moving so fast past the sun that it could only have come from another star — Loeb had three decades of Ivy League professorship and hundreds of astronomical publications on his résumé, mostly to do with the nature of black holes and early galaxies and other subjects far from any tabloid shelf.

So when seemingly every astronomer on the planet was trying to figure out how the interstellar object (dubbed Oumuamua, Hawaiian for ‘scout’) got to our remote patch of Milky Way, Loeb’s extraordinarily confident suggestion that it probably came from another civilization could not be easily dismissed…’Oumuamua is not an alien spaceship, and the authors of the paper insult honest scientific inquiry to even suggest it,’ tweeted Paul M. Sutter, an astrophysicist at Ohio State University, shortly after the paper published.

‘A shocking example of sensationalist, ill-motivated science,’ theoretical astrophysicist Ethan Siegel wrote in ForbesMost scientists besides Loeb assume ‘Oumuamua is some sort of rock, be it an asteroid ejected from some star in meltdown hundreds of millions of years ago, or an icy comet wandering the interstellar void.

But it’s moving too fast for an inert rock, Loeb points out — zooming away from the sun as if something is pushing it from behind…And while he’s not saying it’s definitely aliens, he is saying he can’t think of anything other than aliens that fits the data. And he’s saying that all over international news.”

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 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

Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming

Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about  the topic (alien life on earth).  Regroup as a class and list these ideas on the board. Students can use a brainstorming chart for assistance.

Brainstorming chart by UIE

 

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. Dr. Avi Loeb is the chairman of Harvard University’s astronomy department.
  2. Loeb learned personal modesty growing up on a farm.
  3. Dr. Loeb has many books on the formation of galaxies.
  4. His spaceship theory went viral.
  5. Since publishing his controversial paper there has been many media people in t his office.
  6. Loeb may be the most distinguished E.T. enthusiast of his time.
  7. Some scientists view Loeb as an astrophysicist that poses a theory that they might not believe.
  8. Some scientists believe Oumuamua is some sort of rock, but it’s moving too fast— zooming away from the sun as if something is pushing it from behind.
  9. Loeb is not saying it’s definitely aliens but  he can’t think of anything other than aliens that fits the data.
  10. In a matter of months, Loeb has become a one-man alternative to the dirge of terrestrial news.

Grammar: Identifying English Articles

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

It’s ___stable lifestyle, but for me it resembles more ___lifestyle of___ business person rather than scientists,” he says. Loeb grew upin___ Israeli farming village.

“I don’t have___class system in my head of academia being ___elite,” he says, as he leads ___reporter into ___locked chamber of ___Great Refractor — ___enormous 19th-century telescope where he sometimes does photo ops. “I see it as___continuation of childhood curiosity — trying to understand what ___world is like.

Note: The English Articles may be reviewed in  ESL-Voices Grammar section

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.

“The ___ thing that can happen to___ is I would be ___of my ___duties, and that would give ___even more time to___on science,” Loeb adds. “All the ___ I have, I can ___them back. In fact, I can dial myself back to the farm.”

WORD LIST:  focus, dial,  me, administrative, titles, relieved, worst,  me, 

 

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

  1. Do you believe there are aliens living among us? Provide reasons for your answer.
  2. The article states, Since publishing his controversial paper, Loeb has run a nearly nonstop media circuit, embracing the celebrity that comes from being perhaps the most academically distinguished E.T. enthusiast of his time …And this, in turn, has left some of his peers nonplused — grumbling at what they see as a flimsy theory or bewildered as to why Harvard’s top astronomer won’t shut up about aliens.” After reading this article do you think Loeb is talking too much about the possibility of aliens? Explain why or why not.
  3. In your opinion, what are the most significant ideas of this article?  Explain why.

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. For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

Category: UFOs | Tags:

Beware of The Silicon Valley “Con”

“The average person would have to spend 76 working days reading all of the digital privacy policies they agree to in the span of a year. Reading Amazon’s terms and conditions alone out loud takes approximately nine hours.If no one reads the terms and conditions, how can they continue to be the legal backbone of the internet?” The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Credit- Molly Snee, The New York Times

Excerpt:  How Silicon Valley Puts the ‘Con’ in Consent

“Why would anyone read the terms of service when they don’t feel as though they have a choice in the first place? It’s not as though a user can call up Mark Zuckerberg and negotiate his or her own privacy policy. The ‘I agree’ button should have long ago been renamed ‘Meh, whatever.’

The legal fiction of consent is blatant in the privacy scandal du jour. Both Google and Facebook have been paying people — including minors as young as 13 — to download an app that tracks nearly all their phone activity and usage habits.

Facebook advertised their app on services beloved by teens, like Snapchat and Instagram, seeking participants between the ages of 13 and 35. The sign-up process required minors to get parental consent. (How rigorous? Users simply had to scroll down and click on a check box.) In exchange for participating in what Facebook called a research project, each user received $20 a month, plus referral bonuses.

Similarly, Google’s Screenwise Meter app harvested user information in exchange for money. Google was a little more careful than Facebook, barring minors unless they were participating as part of a larger household.

It’s unlikely these children understood what they gave up by agreeing to use the app. And even if they’d received proper parental consent, their parents may not have understood what they were giving away on their child’s behalf.

But it wasn’t the predatory nature of these programs that prompted Apple to disable them on iPhones and iPads. Rather, Apple objected to how Google and Facebook had used a loophole to transmit customer data without having to go through Apple first… People are often startled by what they wind up giving away by clicking on the “yes” button.

They are shocked to find when they connect their Spotify and Netflix accounts to their Facebook account that those streaming services gain access to their Facebook messages.

They are confused and outraged by Facebook’s uncanny ability to recommend “friends” that the company shouldn’t really know about — say, a social worker’s client or a woman’s father’s mistress. Data is powerful and can inform on us in unexpected ways. Companies learn all about you, but also all about your friends who haven’t signed up for these services.

Consumers’ confusion about this gives rise to conspiracy theories that phone microphones are secretly snooping on users.  According to academics who have done the research, that’s probably just paranoia.

The likely truth is that all the other data you give away is enough to predict what you have said and will say in conversations… Legislation can mandate transparency about who has your data and can give users the right to stop it from being sold. New laws can lay down basic guarantees of privacy that won’t require you to wade through hundreds of thousands of words of legalese…Americans deserve strong privacy protections. Consent is not enough to replace them. It’s time to start seeing the ‘I agree’ button for what it really is.”

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 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:  Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

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. Users cannot negotiate his or her own privacy policy.
  2. The ‘I agree’ button should have long ago been renamed ‘Meh, whatever.’
  3. The legal fiction of consent is blatant in the privacy scandal du jour.
  4. Facebook advertised their app on services beloved by teens.
  5. Some claimed these programs were of a predatory nature.
  6. Data is powerful and can inform on us in unexpected ways.
  7. Many consumers feel that phone microphones are secretly snooping on users.
  8. There are countless  conspiracy theories concerning apps that spy on consumers.
  9. Legislation can mandate transparency about who has your data.
  10. New laws can lay down basic guarantees of privacy.

 

 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. Google were a little more careful.
  2. Two tech giants didn’t read the policy closely enough.
  3. People are often startled by what they wind up giving away.

II

  1. Facebook have the  ability to recommend friends.
  2. Companies learn all about you.
  3. Americans deserve strong privacy protections.

 

III

  1. The sign-up process required minors to got parental consent.
  2. Users simply had to scroll down and click on a check box.
  3. Parents may not understand what they are giving away on their child’s behalf.

 

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

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

  1. When buying or signing up for  apps do you read the digital privacy policies  before hitting the “consent” button?
  2. Do you have Facebook or Instagram accounts? How is the service so far?
  3. The article states, The likely truth is that all the other data you give away is enough to predict what you have said and will say in conversations. Countless devices and internet services now pervade daily life.”  Do  you give away personal data online? If so describe how (e.g., one of the social media sites).
  4. The article also states, “Legislation can mandate transparency about who has your data and can give users the right to stop it from being sold.”Rephrase this statement and provide an example of how this would work.

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: Technology

Frida Kahlo’s U.S. Exhibit: “Appearances Can Be Deceiving”

“Frida Kahlo’s exhaustively documented crossover from artist to pop culture icon isn’t happenstance. The artist meticulously built her own image. A sweeping survey at the Brooklyn Museum examines how she did it, and why.” R. Kleinman, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Frida in New York City– by Nickolas Muray, 1946, printed 2006.

Excerpt: Frida Kahlo Was a Painter, a Brand Builder, a Survivor, And So Much More, By Rebecca Kleinman, The New York Times

“The painter meticulously crafted her own image on a par with Cleopatra…Now it’s America’s turn to see how, and, more important, why she did it. Some of the contents of the home she shared with her husband, the muralist Diego Rivera — known as La Casa Azul (Blue House) in Mexico City — will be accessible for the first time in the United States in ‘Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving,’ an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, from Feb. 8 to May 12.

Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait on the Border Line Between Mexico and the United States (1932)

Their belongings were to be locked away until 15 years after Rivera’s death, according to his instructions, but the task of unsealing and inventorying them didn’t happen until much later, in 2004. This is the biggest stateside show devoted to Kahlo and a considerably expanded iteration of last year’s exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London…Neither her disabilities from polio and a bus accident, nor her frequent relapses of pain deterred Kahlo.

A plaster corset, painted and decorated by Frida Kahlo, from Museo Frida Kahlo.

By the time she died at the age of 47 in 1954, she left behind a public persona that is still being mined well into the 21st century; today she has more than 800,000 Instagram followers. ‘People have an insatiable curiosity with her, and this presentation is a rare opportunity to see how she built her identity,’ said Catherine Morris, a senior curator at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art who organized the Brooklyn Museum’s version of the show with Lisa Small, senior curator of European Art.

The exhibition includes her daily beauty products such as Revlon’s Everything’s Rosy lipstick, 1944-54.

Viewing Kahlo’s beauty products brings to mind a child’s sense of wonder with a mother’s dressing table. There’s an aura in the presence of her actual things that you just can’t experience through media and Instagram, Ms. Morris said of Kahlo’s eyebrow pencil, Pond’s Dry Face Cream, and red lipstick and vibrant nail polishes from Revlon, a favorite brand.

‘A mastermind at using fashion to her advantage, Kahlo delivered red-carpet moments wherever she went. She even dressed that way to work in her studio,’  Ms. Small said. 

Cotton huipil with chain-stitch embroidery; cotton skirt with printed floral motifs. NYT

Vogue magazine took notice. Kahlo championed her homeland’s indigenous customs in wearing huipiles (woven tunics), rebozos (shawls) and flouncy, long skirts. They also drew attention away from her polio-ravaged right leg and body casts from several operations after her near-fatal bus accident. She frequently referred to herself as the great concealer.

Self-Portrait With Monkeys, 1943, oil on canvas.NYT

Besides its feminine allure, jewelry struck a more personal chord for Kahlo. Like her intricate updos embellished with hair ornaments and blossoms, chandelier earrings and bold necklaces drew onlookers’ focus to her face… Animals graced her work, and she had a mini-menagerie at La Casa Azul. There was a chaotic array of dogs — she adored the hairless variety of Xoloitzcuintli, an ancient breed — as well as monkeys, exotic birds and a deer named Granizo roaming about.

The hand earring that she wears in a couple of her portraits was given to her by Pablo Picasso. nimzu.be

Comfort with cross-dressing came early on… For ‘Self-Portrait With Cropped Hair,’ in 1940, with scissors and musical notes, she returns to men’s wear with a baggy suit like those worn by her ex-husband.  Shorn in spite, her cropped cut re-establishes her independence. ‘People are very interested in the fact that she had relationships with women, but there’s only one known reference where she actually spoke about it,’ Ms. Morris said.

Kahlo’s Self-Portrait With Cropped Hair

Kahlo suffered extensively for much of her life, and the most moving section of the show is devoted to her ecosystem of medical devices… Kahlo’s right leg was amputated the year before she died in 1954. People have described her as broken and fragile, but she was strong and accomplished a tremendous amount in her lifetime.”

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 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:  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. Frida Kahlo made a crossover from artist to pop culture icon.
  2. Her husband was the famous muralist Diego Rivera.
  3. Kahlo’s works were culled from the museum’s vault in London.
  4. Her disabilities from polio and a bus accident failed to deter Kahlo from her work.
  5. People have an insatiable curiosity with her.
  6. Her ethnic ensembles were inspired by Oaxaca’s Tehuana society.
  7. Besides its feminine allure, jewelry struck a more personal chord for Kahlo.
  8. In one gallery, the curators set out to re-create the vibe of Kahlo and Rivera’s home.
  9. Frida Kahlo owned a mini-menagerie.
  10. Kahlo was both dazzled and disgusted by New York City.

Grammar Focus: Identifying 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,

They were also another vehicle ___her___ express her passion___Mexican crafts including contemporary silver jewelry and native materials like jade, favored___ the ancient Maya. She most commonly wore gold rope necklaces and Mesoamerican jade stones, which she’d string ___extraordinarily chunky necklaces,

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. Frida Kahlo crafted her own image with that of  Nefertiti.
  2. She shared a home with her husband, the muralist Diego Rivera.
  3. Two features Kahlo was known for were her beard and unibrow.
  4. Kahlo’s home La Casa Azul (Blue House) is located in Mexico City.
  5. The Frida Kahlo exhibit will be presented at  the Manhattan Museum.
  6. Frida Kahlo and her husband wanted to have many children.
  7. The last exhibit on Kahlo was held last year at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
  8. Frida’s mother taught her to be polite when she was young. NA
  9. Vogue magazine took notice of Frida Kahlo’s fashion style.
  10. Frida Kahlo had a mini-menagerie at La Casa Azul.

III. Post Reading Activities

Discussion Questions for Comprehension

  1. Why do you think the name of the exhibit is  Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving? 
  2. The article states that Viewing Kahlo’s beauty products brings to mind a child’s sense of wonder with a mother’s dressing table.” In your opinion are Frida’s beauty products an important part of the exhibit?  Why or why not?
  3. It is stated that Frida “frequently referred to herself as the great concealer.” Why was this?
  4. Write  three questions  you would like to ask Frida Kahlo or anyone else mentioned in the article. Share your questions with the class.

 

Art Projects

Directions: In groups have members view the paintings by Frida Kahlo.  Each group writes a paragraph or two explaining what they think the paintings mean; paint their own self-portraits using a mirror; paint a mural  that includes items that are important to them (e.g., their country’s flag, fashion, favorite personal items, etc.)

ANSWER KEY

“Dynamic Duos: Why Science Loves Twins”

“One of the broadest studies of twins in the United States suggests that our genes tend to influence the diseases that afflict us more than where we live, according to research published Monday in the journal Nature Genetics.” M. Nedelman, CNN

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Astronaut twins Mark (l) and twin Scott Kelly (r)-were subjects of experiments. NASA

Excerpt: Why science loves twins, M.Nedelman, CNN

“Using insurance claims data, researchers identified more than 56,000 pairs of twins and estimated the heritability of 560 diseases, finding that nearly a third of the variation in these conditions could be attributed to genetics, on average. Where people grew up was less contributory on the whole…’The relationship between genetics and environment in disease is incredibly nuanced,’ said study author Chirag Patel, assistant professor of biomedical informatics at Harvard Medical School.

Scott Kelly (left) spent a year in space while his identical twin Mark (right) stayed on Earth as a control subject. Photo- NASA

Of the diseases the researchers looked at, 40% had a significant genetic component, and about 25% had an environmental one — though the strength of that relationship could be different for any given disease. For example, morbid obesity was found to be strongly influenced by genetics and the environment, Patel said.

‘You get people who are very deterministic, who say ‘it’s genes’ or ‘it’s environment.’ This shows it’s a mixture,’ said Jeffrey M. Craig, associate professor at the Deakin University School of Medicine and deputy director of Twins Research Australia. Craig was not involved in the new study.

Twin Plus Festival-Melbourne.weekendnotes.comjpeg.

As twin registries merge and incorporate big data, as in the new study, experts like Craig look forward to new stages of twins enriching science. ‘That’s one of the ways twin research is growing,’ he said.

About 33 in every 1,000 human births in the United States are twins, a rate that has climbed in recent decades as more women marry later and take fertility drugs or employ in vitro fertilization, factors that are known to increase the likelihood of multiple births. Identical twins are an even more exclusive club: roughly four in every 1,000 births. They are formed when a single fertilized egg splits in two, creating two embryos with the same DNA.

McClure Twins.

In more recent years, however, twins have revealed a genetic component to a number of outcomes such as epilepsy, religiosity, autism and mental health, according to experts. NASA even conducted its own twin study on how astronaut Scott Kelly’s gene expression changed after a year on the International Space Station, relative to that of his identical twin, Mark, who remained on Earth. Twins have also suggested that something outside the genetic code can explain why one identical twin might develop Type 1 diabetes or Parkinson’s disease and the other doesn’t.

Annual gathering in Twinsburg, Ohio. mirror.co.uk

One festival for twins has also become one big Petri dish for scientists: Twins Days, an annual event that brings thousands of twins to northeastern Ohio.

Year after year, a cluster of research tents invites twins to contribute to a potpourri of science. In past years, Procter & Gamble, the maker of Olay, has studied twins to better understand the aging process and its effect on skin.

The Los Angeles Police Department has looked at slight differences between twins’ fingerprints to improve its identification tools. Biometric researchers have photographed and recorded twins speaking in order to create better facial and voice recognition systems. The FBI has funded similar research there, as well.

Traditionally, researchers have studied identical twins versus fraternal controls. These sibling pairs share the same upbringing and environment, but identical twins share all their DNA and fraternal twins onlyabout half…There’s even research by twins, for twins — looking at their ‘special bond’ in order to best counsel them in therapy, Craig said.

Ayumichi twins.

But even though twin research long predates the discovery of the double helix, advancements in genetics have not replaced twins, who continue to unravel our most elusive traits.”

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 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 Activity: Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions:  Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

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. The relationship between genetics and environment in disease is incredibly nuanced.
  2. Research found that nearly a third of certain conditions could be attributed to genetics.
  3. Obesity was found to be strongly influenced by genetics and the environment.
  4. More women marry later and take fertility drugs.
  5. Some women employ in vitro fertilization
  6. Identical twins are  a very exclusive class.
  7. Twins have also suggested that there is something outside the genetic code to explain various diseases.
  8. Biometric researchers have photographed and recorded twins speaking.
  9. One festival for twins has also become one big Petri dish for scientists.
  10. Traditionally, researchers have studied identical twins versus fraternal twins.

Word Map by Against the Oddstiff

 

Grammar Focus: Identifying 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,

Environment was less contributory ___the whole.

One ___the broadest studies___twins___ the United States takes place ___Ohio.

Roughly 33 ___every 1,000 human births___ the United States are twins.

Decades ago, there was very little acknowledgment___genetic influences ___children’s mental health.

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.

Our ___is whether some ___are ___and, if so, to what? Our ___is whether this is a ___determined trait. We like to ___genetically___twins to___that are no more ___than ordinary siblings.

WORD LIST:  similar,   twins,  compare, identical, taste-blind, question, genetically, people, interest,

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

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

  1. The article states, There’s also value in looking at children of twins and at twins raised apart…which could shed light on whether certain behaviors or disorders are likely to be passed down through parents’ genes versus their home environments.”  Provide examples that supports this statement.
  2. Are you a twin? If so describe how you and your twin behave differently (or the same) as other siblings.
  3. Would you like to be a twin? Explain why or why not.

 

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

“CES 2019: The Year of Virtual Assistants”

“A visual tour of the world’s most important tech conference offers a window into the year’s trends, including next-generation wireless networks and the invasion of A.I.” B.X. Chen, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

2019 CES Tech Conference.

Excerpt: CES 2019: It’s the Year of Virtual Assistants and 5G By B. X. Chen, The New York Times 

“The show must go on. That sentiment couldn’t have been stronger this week at CES, the largest consumer electronics convention in the country. The conference, which brought more than 180,000 people to Las Vegas, was a reminder of what the tech industry is best at: being optimistic about itself. Who cares about the abysmal stock market and growing fears that we are sliding into a recession? Check out these virtual-reality headsets, self-driving cars and big-screen TVs.

DJI’s virtual-reality headset connected to a drone was among the thousands of products on display at the CES tech conference .Credit J. Buglewicz for The New York Times

Filippo Yacob, a tech entrepreneur who attended, was blasé about the state of the market. ‘The speed of progress and innovation happens at such a rapid pace that it’s not like it pulses with the stock market,’ said Mr. Yacob, whose company Primo Toys makes tech products for children. ‘It’s more like a bullet train.’

Cutest companion robots ces 2019 torooc liku. digital Trendsjpeg

This year’s event was also slightly larger than the last, with more than 4,500 exhibitors sprawled across 2.7 million square feet. The conference offered a peek at the year’s hottest tech trends, including artificially intelligent virtual assistants, next-generation wireless networks and connected cars.

UBTech Walker and Cruzr robots strut into CES 2019

LG lured attendees into its giant booth with televisions that can be rolled up as if they were  yoga mats. Wireless carriers and chip makers highlighted 5G, the next-generation cellular network arriving this year in a small number of cities with data speeds so zippy that devices can download an entire movie in seconds.

Laptops get more compact. Mashable

The most surprising news came when a host of tech companies announced they were working with Apple to bring some of the company’s content and virtual assistant capabilities to their devices.

TVs go to 8K. -Mashable

Vizio, the TV maker, said its newer TVs would work with AirPlay, an Apple software feature for streaming video and audio content from an iPhone or Mac to a television screen. People will be able to speak to Siri on their iPhones to play content they had purchased from iTunes on the Vizio TVs. Samsung, Sony and LG announced similar partnerships with Apple. In the past, AirPlay and iTunes videos were mostly tied to Apple-made hardware like the Apple TV set-top box. Their expansion to third parties underlines Apple’s ambition to expand the revenue it generates from its internet content and services.

CES 2019 Cools on Self-Driving; Digital Cockpits, V2X & In-Vehicle Shopping Drive Mobility Market

In a statement provided by Samsung, Eddy Cue, Apple’s head of internet software and services, said that with the expansion of iTunes and AirPlay, ‘iPhone, iPad and Mac users have yet another way to enjoy all their favorite content on the biggest screen in their home.’ Google erected an enormous outdoor booth to show off the multitude of devices that now work with Assistant, including smart watches, speakers and displays. The company said a billion devices now work with its assistant, up from 400 million last year. Google wants to make the Assistant the focal point of a consumer’s life: in the home, in the car and on mobile devices.

Mercedes-Benz Vision Urbanetic

‘When I walk down the aisle at Home Depot, will all the devices I might buy work with the Assistant?’ Nick Fox, a Google executive who oversees Assistant, said of items like smoke detectors and thermostats. ‘The answer is yes.’

The battle among virtual assistants is shaping up to be very different from past platform wars between tech companies because consumers will have more choices. Many of the smart gadgets at CES worked with multiple virtual assistants…Car manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz and BMW showed off concepts of autonomous vehicles powered by artificial intelligence and 5G wireless connections. But consumers won’t be able to buy self-driving vehicles from a dealership anytime soon, in part because companies still need much more data on how people drive cars.  Smarter cars with features like built-in voice assistants to help people use maps, play music or get a sports update without taking their eyes off the road are available now, however.

CES 2019- Hyundai’s Elevate walking car concept.

If the economy does cool off, sales of cutting-edge gadgets will drop. Fast. But that didn’t faze people here. None of the CES attendees I spoke to expressed concern. Matt Strauss, who oversees Comcast’s Xfinity internet and cable service, was especially bullish about the year ahead. He said just about everything announced at CES required an internet connection, so that’s the last thing that people would cut off. ‘It’s become like oxygen,’ he said.”

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 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:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and the photos. Ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

Pre-reading Organizer By Scholastic

 

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. CES offers a visual tour for consumers.
  2. Consumers don’t seem to care about the abysmal stock market
  3. There was a  battle among virtual assistants.
  4. Many of the smart gadgets worked with multiple virtual assistants.
  5. The smart home is already too complex with products from different brands.
  6. If the economy does cool off, sales of cutting-edge gadgets will drop.
  7. Car manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz and BMW showed off concepts of autonomous vehicles.
  8. The speed of progress and innovation happens at a rapid pace.
  9. Google wants to make the Assistant the focal point of a consumer’s life.
  10. Matt Strauss, who oversees Comcast’s Xfinity internet was especially bullish about the year ahead.

ELLteaching 2.0 vocabulary chart

 

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.

Amazon also had/have a large presence on/at the show. It filled a/an large conference room at/by the Venetian hotel with/on dozens of product/productsthat/this work with Alexa, including an/a Audi car, a/an motorcycle helmet and a/the stereo system.

Reading: Fill-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.

Google ___an enormous outdoor ___to show off the ___of devices that now work with Assistant, including ___speakers and displays. The company said a ___devices now work with its assistant, up from 400___last year. Google wants to make the ___ Assistant the ___point of a consumer’s___: in the home, in the car and on mobile devices.

WORD LIST:focal, life, watches, erected, smart, booth, million, multitude,  billion,Assistant,

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

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

  1. The opening paragraph in the article begins, “The show must go on. That sentiment couldn’t have been stronger this week at CES, the largest consumer electronics convention in the country. The conference, which brought more than 180,000 people to Las Vegas, was a reminder of what the tech industry is best at: being optimistic about itself.”What is the tech industry optimistic about? Do you agree with this optimism? Explain why or why not.
  2. The article states, “Google erected an enormous outdoor booth to show off the multitude of devices that now work with Assistant, including smart watches, speakers and displays. The company said a billion devices now work with its assistant, up from 400 million last year.” Why is it important to Google that the average consumer’s devices work with the Assistant?
  3. Are there any products that seem useless and a waste of money?Why?
  4. With your group members choose the products that you think consumers will buy.
  5. Which products would you buy? Provide reasons why.

 

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. 

ANSWER KEY

Category: Technology