“Why It Matters When Two Men Fall in Love on the Ballet Stage”

“Two men run across the stage in sweeping circles until one stops the other by pressing a palm into his chest. They lock eyes. Then the second melts backward into the arms of the first…A pas de deux — a dance for two — is usually about love and usually between a man and a woman. But here were two men, not incidentally men of color, in a tender, athletic display of desire. Ballet is slower to change than most art forms, but in the span of just two weeks, New York City Ballet, one of the world’s premier companies, will have shown two ballets featuring significant same-sex duets.” G. Kourlas, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

I think for gay ballet dancers, you rarely get to be yourself. — Taylor Stanley Michael Kirby Smith for The New York Times

 

Excerpt: When Two Men Fall in Love on the Ballet Stage, and Why It Matters, by G. Kourlas, The New York Times

“Not Our Fate” had its premiere before a donor-filled crowd at New York City Ballet’s fall gala, on Sept. 28. And on Thursday, Justin Peck, the company’s resident choreographer and a soloist, makes his own statement with a casting change in his ‘The Times Are Racing’ that City Ballet says is unprecedented at the company: In the central pas de deux, Mr. Stanley will perform the role originally created for a woman.

Same-sex partnering on its own is not new, especially in contemporary ballets and in modern dance. And even at City Ballet, there have been instances of same-sex partnering in several ballets, including those by Ms. Lovette, Pontus Lidberg and Mr. Peck. What feels unusual in these two dances is their fresh approach: Full of abandon and brimming with romantic desire, they seem utterly natural… On Oct. 1, the choreographer Alexei Ratmansky wrote on Facebook: ‘sorry, there is no such thing as equality in ballet: women dance on point, men lift and support women. women receive flowers, men escort women offstage. not the other way around (I know there are couple of exceptions). and I am very comfortable with that.’ His post was accompanied by what appeared to be a Photoshopped image of a ballerina holding a man in the air.

It’s time for there to be roles in the ballet where two men can fall in love.— Justin Peck Michael Kirby Smith for The New York Times

A few days earlier Mr. Peck had announced his casting change on Instagram, writing that ‘The Times Are Racing,’ which had its debut in January, would be continuing its  ‘exploration of gender-neutrality.’  (His post included the hashtags: #loveislove #genderneutral #equality #diversity #beauty #pride #proud.) Last spring, he recast the dance’s tap duet, giving the dancer Ashly Isaacs one of the parts originated by a man.‘The Times Are Racing,’ created during the presidential election, is something of a protest ballet — the dancers’ costumes are adorned with words like unite,’  react,  and  fight. And it’s danced in sneakers, which means no pointe shoes.

‘The future of ballet is really in the hands of the creators,’ Mr. Peck said, ‘so if it’s something that interests them to push the envelope with gender roles, then I think it will change. But if that’s not of interest to a dance-maker, if their interest is to sort of preserve the way things have been done for the past 200 years, then nothing is going to change.”‘

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

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

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. The two men danced a pas de deux.
  2. The ballet “Not Our Fate” had its premiere at New York City Ballet’s fall gala.
  3. The ballet  “Times Are Racing” is unprecedented at the company.
  4. Same sex dancers challenge certain fundamental traditions in ballet.
  5. Positive response from critics  feels long overdue.
  6. The ballet critic  didn’t mean to offend or impose a ban.
  7. City Ballet was co-founded by the choreographer George Balanchine.
  8. Their fresh approach was full of abandon and brimming with romance. 
  9. Gender norms in ballet have developed through the use of the pointe shoes.
  10. For the dancers, the roles feel like opportunities to express themselves in more nuanced ways.


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.

For his___ Mr. Peck has made small ___so that each dancer takes a turn leading the other; learning how to be the one has been an ___for both. “There’s a constant___of who’s leading and who’s in charge,” Mr. Applebaum said. “So you have to ___on a dime.”

WORD LIST: exchange, supported, tweaks,  pas de deux,  adjustment, switch

Using Adjectives  to describe pictures    

Directions: Have students choose a picture from the article  and write a descriptive paragraph using adjectives.

For a review of Adjectives visit ESL Voices Grammar

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 for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups  and  have each group compose a letter or note to a  person mentioned in the article telling her/him their thoughts on the topic. Share the letters as a class.

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: Culture | Tags: ,

Giving Credit to the [Real] Dogs of War

“I would wager that 90 percent of American combat troops killed in action during the Vietnam War never saw their killers. Whether it was a sniper at 200 yards, a rocket fired into a base camp or an attack from a well-concealed bunker complex, the element of surprise was usually on the side of our enemies. But our forces did have one elite weapon that sometimes took the advantage away. At times, these weapons even turned such situations upside down and enabled us to surprise and take them out. That elite weapon was our military working dog, and we had thousands of them.” R. Cunnigham, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Sentry dogs with their handlers after patrolling near Da Nang in 1969. Credit R.A. Elder/Hulton Archive, via Getty Images Once in Vietnam, these dogs were the gold .jpg

Excerpt: The Dogs of the Vietnam War, by Richard Cunnigham, The New York Times

“I was a sentry dog handler in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968, a member of the 212th Military Police Sentry Dog Company stationed in Tay Ninh. My companion was a German shepherd named Smokey. I was 20 years old and weighed 135 pounds; Smokey weighed 90 pounds. Our unit’s responsibility was to protect the Tay Ninh Base Camp, and especially the ammunition dump. Smokey and I typically worked at night, 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., but we would also conduct daylight area sweeps when temporarily attached to infantry units.

Fieldy is an athletic black Labrador retriever who served four combat tours in Afghanistan. Phot- ABC News

In Vietnam, American forces used dogs for everything from base security to detecting ambushes to hunting down fleeing enemy units. We used German shepherds like Smokey, mixes of shepherd types and Labrador retrievers that were well trained in detecting, attacking and tracking the enemy. They were certainly not all purebreds. Most were given to the military by families back home.

The dogs started out at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas with a thorough physical exam. Then they were observed and tested to determine which area of training they would be assigned. Aggressive dogs usually went to the sentry unit. Less aggressive but still highly intelligent shepherd dogs went to the scout school. The Labradors, with their amazing noses, went straight to tracker training.

Specialized Search Dog (SSD) Taz, a Black Labrador Retriever, finds explosives during war. Photo-Camp Pendleton

Every dog accepted was highly intelligent, and each became a canine soldier, with his or her own individual four-digit service number tattooed in the left ear. Dogs and their handlers went through three phases of instruction: drill/obedience, aggression and scouting. And although it appeared that the dogs were being instructed, it was the soldiers who were actually being taught.

At Okinawa, where I met and trained with Smokey, most of the dogs were veterans being reassigned to new handlers. They knew the drills inside and out, and we did not. Our training instructors seemed to take a perverse pleasure in informing us how dumb we were compared with the dogs.

A human nose has about five million scent receptors; a shepherd has at least 225 million. The dogs can detect movement much faster and more accurately than we can, and their ears can hear, even at a very early age, sound from four times farther away than we can. What’s more, all our dogs had lived with our American ‘smells’ for years. The scent of the Vietnamese was very different and much easier for them to pick up and alert on.

When our politicians decided to exit Vietnam — in a hurry — the military classified our dogs as “equipment.” As such, they were left behind. Some, but not many, were transferred to the South Vietnamese military and police. Of the 4,000 dogs that served in-country, fewer than 200 made it back to the States. Not a pleasant thought to consider given their incredible service, endurance and devotion to duty.

I’ve heard it said that without our military dogs, there would be 10,000 additional names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall. I, for one, think that’s an understatement.

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

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

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

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

  1. There were many sentry dog handlers in Vietnam.
  2. The unit’s responsibility was to protect the camp.
  3. Soldiers were temporarily attached to infantry units.
  4. Dogs were good at detecting ambushes.
  5. Aggressive dogs usually went to the sentry unit.
  6. Every dog responded to both verbal and nonverbal hand commands.
  7. Scout dogs were able to raise an alarm about an ambush long before the the unit knew there was danger.
  8. With a dog’s help a soldier could call in fire or air support to obliterate the enemy position.
  9. Not every unit on patrol got a dog.
  10. With a scout dog team leading the way, most patrols were successful or uneventful.

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.

This ___or sound ___was also true of the ___dog teams, like Smokey and me. When a dog team___at its post — usually just a ___around a camp,___dump or air field — it ___a ‘changeover.’The handler changed the dog’s ___collar to his ___’now it’s time to work’ collar. The dog understood the difference___ and went to work.

WORD LIST: immediately, choke-chain, performed, arrived, sentry, scent,   alert, path, ammo, leather,

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.

There were also mind/mine and booby/body trap dogs. They protected/protect our soldiers on patrol/petrol from the many and diverse/diversified devices set to kill and maid/maim. Take the thin, monofilament line/lies that were practically invisible/advisable to the human eye, which the Vietcong attached to a grenade/green or other explosive device/devious that detonated when ‘tripped.’

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 for Comprehension /Writing

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

Extra: Web Search

Directions: In groups/partners have students search the web for the topic of dogs used in wars to see what additional information they can find. Students can either have further discussions or write an essay about the subject.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Animals

Science Soars On Butterfly Wings!

“Only nature can paint the gorgeous colors and patterns on a butterfly’s wings. But scientists said on Monday that they have mastered the first steps and hope in time to control the entire coloring system, making it possible to design living butterfly wings. The patterning and colors on butterflies’ wings are governed by suites of genes. The new Crispr-Cas gene-editing technique now makes it much easier to figure out what a gene does by deleting it and seeing what happens. A  group led by Linlin Zhang and Robert D. Reed of Cornell University has found that a gene called optix has a remarkable role: It controls all the color in a butterfly’s wing. When optix is deleted from the Gulf fritillary’s eggs, the resulting adult butterflies, which are mostly deep brown, wear a ghostly black and silver livery.” N. Wade, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

The beauty of monarch butterflies in the sky. Credit- treehugger

Excerpt:  Genes Color a Butterfly’s Wings. Now Scientists Want to Do It Themselves. By Nicholas Wade, The New York Times

“That’s because in the absence of the optix gene, the butterfly’s scales produce melanin, a black pigment, instead of the usual chestnut coloring. The biologists had already suspected that optix played a role in activating the butterfly’s brown pigment. But they were surprised that the black pigment was turned on in the absence of optix.

A further surprise came when they turned off the optix gene in a second species, the buckeye. The butterfly’s usual browns and yellows disappeared, replaced by scales of a blazing iridescent blue.

The Buckeye Butterfly credit-Gene Hanson

A second group, led by Anyi Mazo-Vargas of Cornell University and Araud Martin of George Washington University, has explored the role of a gene called WntA, which plays a powerful role in the patterning of butterflies’ wings.

The standard pattern of nymphalid butterflies, a 90-million-year-old family of some 6,000 different species, consists of four bands, parallel to the body, that run between it and the edge of the wings. The second band, called the central symmetry system, contains the pattern in the middle of the wings, and the third band holds the eye spots.

A Morpho butterfly – credit-thelife-animal.blogspot.com

Dr. Martin’s team found that when they delete the WntA gene with the Crispr technique, the central symmetry system band disappears entirely from the wings of the speckled wood and buckeye butterflies.

A sara longwing butterfly with normal wing patterns, left, compared with a genetically altered specimen, right. Credit; Richard Wallbank:Smithsonian Institution and University of Cambridge

But in other species, the loss of WntA has very different effects, suggesting that the gene has been adapted many times to play different patterning roles as new butterfly species evolved.

Gulf fritillary lMOSI Outside –

In the monarch butterfly, for instance, loss of WntA affects an almost invisible white line that edges the distinctive black lines that delineate the wing’s veins. In the absence of WntA, the white lines expand into the areas between the veins, replacing the distinctive orange pigment.

Painted Lady butterfly. Credit-thinglink

‘A big question in evolutionary biology is how do you rewire these gene networks,’ Dr. Reed said.

A closer view of painted lady butterfly wings. A normal specimen, top, compared with a mutant with a deactivated WntA gene, bottom.Credit A. Martin:The George Washington University

Both Dr. Reed and Dr. Martin are enthralled by the ease and power of the Crispr gene-editing tool, invented in 2012. Before, they could infer what a gene might do but couldn’t prove it.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

KWL Chart

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

Directions: Have students use the KWL chart to list the information they already know about butterflies in general.  Later in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about the topic.

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. “That knocked our socks off,” Dr. Reed said.
  2. The butterfly’s scales can produce melanin.
  3. There are many species of butterflies.
  4. One study shows how species evolve different forms.
  5. A DNA molecule specifies the 3-D structures of the body.
  6. When butterflies evolved they recruited a  different set of genes.
  7. The standard pattern of nymphalid butterflies had changed.
  8. Scientists found that when they delete the WntA gene the central symmetry system band disappears entirely.
  9. The white lines expand into the areas between the veins on the monarch butterfly.
  10. The monarch butterfly has a distinctive orange pigment.

 

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 WntA___ becomes ___in the ___stage, impressing its patterning ___on the ___wing structures. Dr. Martin sees the WntA___ as a sketching___ that the outline of the wing  -___and the optix gene studied by Dr. Reed’s group as a “paintbrush” ___that fills in the color.

WORD LIST: defines,  gene, design, embryonic, tool, information,  gene, active, caterpillar,  gene

Grammar Focus: Prepositions

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

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

The biologists had already suspected that optix played a role ___activating the butterfly’s brown pigment. But they were surprised that the black pigment was turned ___  ___the absence ___optix.  Dr. Reed hopes___ time ___understand the patterning mechanism so well that he will be able ___recreate the pattern ___one butterfly’s wings___those ___a second species. But understanding butterfly wing patterning is just a step___ addressing larger questions___evolutionary biology.

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 for Comprehension /Writing

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

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Insects | Tags:

Want to Be Happy? Try Being Honest

“I’ve been keeping an honesty journal for the past several months. With honesty much in the news lately — you might even say honesty is having a cultural moment — I wanted to reflect on my own. My 6-year-old daughter once told me that telling the truth made her feel ‘gold in her brain.’ The day I started the journal, the same 6-year-old daughter asked me during her bath if the cat really went to sleep last year, and if that actually meant that I had killed him. I rinsed her hair and sighed, wondering if I should wait to start this honesty project until my children were grown.” J. Ketteler, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Excerpt: How Honesty Could Make You Happier by Judi Ketteler, The New York Times

“But I braved it and told her that yes, I had made the choice for him to die, because he was suffering and I wanted him to be at peace. She lost interest about halfway through my explanation, which was O.K. with me. It struck me that the choice to lie or be honest was often a choice between two equally undesirable things. Telling my daughter the truth did not make me happier, but lying wouldn’t have either.

Children learn the truth from their parents

A bigger opportunity arose with my 8-year-old son. Though he didn’t know anything about the journal, after a few weeks, he seemed to open up in a new way, asking me things he was too embarrassed or scared to ask before, like what the word ‘pimp’ meant and why people kill themselves. In fact, one of my biggest takeaways was that we shouldn’t lie to children when they are asking us about grown-up words or ideas — otherwise, they will just ask Siri.

Even the hard questions should be answered truthfully. milliyettiff

A recent study at the lab suggests that we are more likely to tell a prosocial lie when we feel compassion toward someone, because if you feel bad for someone, the last thing you want to do is hurt them with the truth. These lies feel better in the short term, but they often do more harm than good in the long. After all, the brutal truth can be painful, but people need to know it if they are to improve their performance, especially in a work or school situation.

Over all, I found that I struggled more with the small instances of honesty, rather than the big. So, when a client accidentally paid me twice for a project — sending a duplicate $1,000 check a week after they’d already paid me — there was no internal debate. It was $1,000, so obviously, I notified the client. But when the McDonald’s drive-thru cashier gave me an extra dollar in change and the line had been So long and all I wanted was a Diet Coke and my kids were acting crazy in the back seat and why was this stupid McDonald’s always so slow anyway?! . . . it was a different story. Even though I gave the dollar back, I almost didn’t, because an extra dollar was such a small thing and seemed somehow justified.

Had I not been focused on honesty, I’m not sure I would have given it back…I like the saying, ‘Everybody wants the truth, but nobody wants to be honest.’ I didn’t always want to be honest. But I wanted the truth, and this focus on honesty helped me feel that I was doing my part.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

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

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. My plan was to jot down different instances throughout the day.
  2. People are more likely to tell a prosocial lie.
  3. Many times you want to be nice and encourage friends.
  4. In reality people do not like rejection.
  5. The truth can be brutal at times.
  6. The news article sparked my curiosity.
  7. The compulsion to be honest is strong in some of us.
  8. Her experience was consistent with what behavioral economist Dan Ariely wrote about in his 2012 book.
  9. His research showed that we fudge the truth by about 10 percent or so.
  10. My social media self wasn’t a lie.

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. The author’s  plan was to jot down different instances throughout the day where she  had to make a choice about honesty.
  2. Her 10-year-old daughter asked  about the death of her cat.
  3. Her 18-year-old son asked what the word pimp meant.
  4. The author figured that if she didn’t answer her children they would ask the church.
  5. A recent  study showed that we are likely to tell a prosocial lie when we feel compassion toward someone.
  6. Over all,  the author struggled more with the large instances of honesty.
  7. The author wrote a book about the questions of honesty.
  8. McDonald’s  gave the author an extra dollar by mistake.
  9. The author and her family prefer to eat at  restaurants.
  10. The author  pulled way back from posting on YouTube.

Grammar: Identifying Articles

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

Still, I wondered about those little lies we tell to avoid hurting people’s feelings. Researchers at ___University of California San Diego Emotion Lab are looking at “prosocial” lies — ___white lies we tell to benefit others, like telling ___aspiring writer their story is great because you want to be nice and encourage them, when in reality you know it needs work and will meet rejection.

I also quickly came to realize that___Facebook version of Judi Ketteler, whose life was so together and children so well behaved, was ___very particular version of me. My social media self wasn’t ___lie.

II. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

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

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Group Debates

Directions: Divide students into  two teams for this debate. Both teams can use the article  as their source of information or sources from the Web.

Team A will list five reasons for being honest.

Team B will list  five reasons against being honest.

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

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: Social Issues

“Life in the Age of Facial Recognition”

“The human face is a remarkable piece of work. The astonishing variety of facial features helps people recognize each other and is crucial to the formation of complex societies…Technology is rapidly catching up with the human ability to read faces. In America facial recognition is used by churches to track worshippers’ attendance; in Britain, by retailers to spot past shoplifters. This year Welsh police used it to arrest a suspect outside a football game.” The Economist

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Future of Life Institute

Excerpt: Life in the age of facial recognition  By The Economist

“In China it verifies the identities of ride-hailing drivers, permits tourists to enter attractions and lets people pay for things with a smile. Apple’s new iPhone is expected to use it to unlock the homescreenSet against human skills, such applications might seem incremental.

Some breakthroughs, such as flight or the internet, obviously transform human abilities; facial recognition seems merely to encode them. Although faces are peculiar to individuals, they are also public, so technology does not, at first sight, intrude on something that is private. And yet the ability to record, store and analyze images of faces cheaply, quickly and on a vast scale promises one day to bring about fundamental changes to notions of privacy, fairness and trust.

The Guardian

Start with privacy. One big difference between faces and other biometric data, such as fingerprints, is that they work at a distance. Anyone with a phone can take a picture for facial-recognition programs to use. FindFace, an app in Russia, compares snaps of strangers with pictures on VKontakte, a social network, and can identify people with a 70% accuracy rate. Facebook’s bank of facial images cannot be scraped by others, but the Silicon Valley giant could obtain pictures of visitors to a car showroom, say, and later use facial recognition to serve them ads for cars.

Some firms are analysing faces to provide automated diagnoses of rare genetic conditions, such as Hajdu-Cheney syndrome, far earlier than would otherwise be possible. Systems that measure emotion may give autistic people a grasp of social signals they find elusive. But the technology also threatens. Researchers at Stanford University have demonstrated that, when shown pictures of one gay man, and one straight man, the algorithm could attribute their sexuality correctly 81% of the time.

Humans managed only 61% .  In countries where homosexuality is a crime, software which promises to infer sexuality from a face is an alarming prospect.  Less violent forms of discrimination could also become common. Employers can already act on their prejudices to deny people a job. But facial recognition could make such bias routine, enabling firms to filter all job applications for ethnicity and signs of intelligence and sexuality… Moreover, such systems may be biased against those who do not have white skin, since algorithms trained on data sets of mostly white faces do not work well with different ethnicities.

Such biases have cropped up in automated assessments used to inform courts’ decisions about bail and sentencing… The basis of social interactions might change, too, from a set of commitments founded on trust to calculations of risk and reward derived from the information a computer attaches to someone’s face. Cameras will only become more common with the spread of wearable devices.

Efforts to bamboozle facial-recognition systems, from sunglasses to make-up, are already being overtaken; research from the University of Cambridge shows that artificial intelligence can reconstruct the facial structures of people in disguise. Google has explicitly turned its back on matching faces to identities, for fear of its misuse by undemocratic regimes. Other tech firms seem less picky. Amazon and Microsoft are both using their cloud services to offer face recognition; it is central to Facebook’s plans.

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

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

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


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


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: 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. Technology can verify the identity of just about anyone.
  2. There are many breakthroughs in this field.
  3. Some facial recognition devices only encode features.
  4. There are notions of privacy, fairness and trust.
  5. One big difference between faces and other biometric data, such as fingerprints, is that they work at a distance.
  6. Governments will not want to forgo matching faces to identities.
  7. Face recognition is being used by many big tech companies.
  8. The FBI has photographs of half of America’s adult population stored in databases.
  9. Some private firms are unable to connect images and identity.
  10. Some systems may be biased against persons of color.

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: The following sentences are from the article. Choose the correct word for each blank space from the word list  or make up your own words.

People___much of their ___lives, in the___ and the courtroom as well as the___and the___reading faces, for signs of___, hostility,___ and deceit. They also ___plenty of time trying to dissimulate.

WORD LIST: spend, trust, attraction, bar, spend, bedroom, waking,  office,

 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.

Relationships might become more ration/rational, but also more transactional. Laws against discrimination can be apple/applied to an employer screening candidates’ images. Suppliers/slippers of commercial face-recognition systems might submit/submitted to audits, to demonstrate that their systems are not propagating bias unintentionally. Firms/Forms that use such technologies should be held/hold accountable. Such rules cannot alter the direction of travel, however.

III. Post Reading Activities

Finding The Main Idea

Directions:  Have students use this advanced organizer from Write Design to assist them with  discussing  or writing about  the main idea and points from the article.

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them  discuss the following 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. “China’s government keeps a record of its citizens’ faces; photographs of half of America’s adult population are stored in databases that can be used by the FBI. Law-enforcement agencies now have a powerful weapon in their ability to track criminals, but at enormous potential cost to citizens’ privacy.
  2. The face is not just a name-tag. It displays a lot of other information—and machines can read that, too.”
  3. “Eventually, continuous facial recording and gadgets that paint computerized data onto the real world might change the texture of social interactions. Dissembling helps grease the wheels of daily life.”

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

 

Category: Technology