I'm always in the look out for materials and topics to enliven my advanced speaking classes. I have some wonderful groups, and I usually devote many hours of hard worh to planning materials for them. I hope this lesson becomes useful to other teachers out there. Please, let me know what you think.
A. WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE HUMAN BRAIN?
Rutger Hauer, The Dutch National Ballet and Amsterdam's Creative Community got together to make brains from people. Watch the short video to get inspired to share your thoughts.
B. FACTS & MYTHSEvery day, scientists learn more about how the brain works. In the past 20 years, their knowledge has grown exponentially, even proving some of our earlier beliefs false. WORK WITH A PARTNER AND READ THE SENTENCES BELOW. DECIDE WHETHER THEY ARE FACTS (F) OR MYTHS (M). YOU DON’T HAVE TO AGREE, BUT YOU MUST JUSTIFY YOUR POSITION.
1. We only use 10% of our brain.
2. Modest exercise, 15 minutes per day, can delay by 30% the age at which people may get Alzheimer’s disease.
3. Having a big head can also indicate highly developed skills.
4. The brain can change its structure and size as a result of learning.
5. London cab drivers have large brains.
6. To keep a brain at its peak condition, one should learn a variety of new skills.
7. Turning down the TV can help you hear better.
8. Getting forgetful is an inevitable part of aging.
C. THE ANSWERS TO ―B ARE IN FIVE SHORT VIDEOS. EACH GROUP WILL WATCH ONE OF THEM. PREPARE TO TELL THE OTHERS ABOUT IT.
D. NOW YOU¡¦LL WORK IN PAIRS. EACH STUDENT WILL GET SOME MORE BRAIN FACTS. READ YOURS AND PREPARE TO TELL YOUR PARTNER ABOUT THEM.
Tip: Spend some time rehearsing what you will say and use dictionaries to check the pronunciation of some words if necessary.
Babies Lose Half their Neurons at Birth It is estimated that a baby loses about half their neurons before they are born. This process is sometimes referred to as pruning and may eliminate neurons that do not receive sufficient input from other neurons.
Baby Talk Increases Vocabulary A study showed that when mothers frequently spoke to their infants, their children learned about 300 more words by age two than did children whose mothers rarely spoke to them.
Birdsong Similar to Human Speech Birdsong and human speech have similar characteristics. Birds, like humans, learn their complex vocalizations early in life and imitate their adult counterparts to acquire these skills. These two species have evolved a complex hierarchy of specialized forebrain areas where motor and auditory areas interact continuously in order to produce detailed vocalizations.
Blind Spot In Eye The optic nerve exits the retina as a single bundle. The exit point within the retina has no receptor cells. This location forms a blind spot in each eye. We rarely notice these spots because they do not overlap within the image formed by the two eyes. Your ophthalmologist can only detect your blind spots by having you close the eye not being tested.
STUDENT B BRAIN USES 20% OF BLOOD Approximately 20% of the blood flowing from the heart is pumped to the brain. The brain needs constant blood flow in order to keep up with the heavy metabolic demands of the neurons. Brain imaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) rely on this relationship between neural activity and blood flow to produce images of reduced brain activity. BRAIN USES 20% OF OXYGEN BREATHED Although the brain accounts for only 2% of the whole body's mass, it uses 20% of all the oxygen we breathe. A continuous supply of oxygen is necessary for survival. A loss of oxygen for 10 minutes can result in significant neural damage. CHILD BRAIN DEVELOPMENT Measures of brain activity show that during the second half of a child's first year, the prefrontal cortex, the seat of forethought and logic, forms synapses at such a rate that it consumes twice as much energy as an adult brain. That furious pace continues for the child's first decade of life. NEWBORNS DISTINGUISH SPEECH Children as young as four days old can distinguish the vowel sounds of the language in their natural environment from those of a foreign language. THE AGING BRAIN Studies of people who have died contradict the popular belief that adults lose an enormous number of neurons every day. In fact, many areas of the brain, primarily in the cortex, maintain most of their neurons. Examples include the parietal cortex, which plays a role in sensory processes and language, and the striate cortex, which processes visual information. The connectivity between neurons changes with aging, so that the brain is constantly capable of being modified or improved.
E. YOU’LL READ AN ARTICLE ABOUT GETTING DISTRACTED. BEFORE YOU READ, TALK TO YOUR PARTNER AND DISCUSS THE QUESTIONS BELOW:
1. How forgetful are you?
2. Are you the kind of person who forgets where you parked your car or where you keys are? Do you know someone who is?
3. Do you consider yourself a person who has good memory capacity?
4. What do you think about multitasking?
5. What do you do when you have to memorize a great amount of information?
6. Many people enjoy being fully immersed in their work but find themselves becoming distracted by e-mail, the Internet and other things throughout the day. Why do people lose focus so easily?
7. Look at the title of the article and, as a group, discuss what you think the author means.
DISTRACTED? IT’S TIME TO HIT THE RESET BUTTON.
G. READ THE ARTICLE AND CHECK YOUR GUESSES FOR QUESTION 6 AND 7.
You enjoy being fully immersed in your work but find yourself becoming distracted by e-mail, the Internet and other things throughout the day.
Why do you lose focus so easily? People often lose their concentration when they are bored, of course, but also when they are engaged in challenging tasks, says Peter Bregman, “We have a momentary feeling of wanting to escape what’s difficult or boring, so we jump out,” he says — hence the appeal of e-mail and shopping Web sites.
The brain’s wiring also lends itself to being distracted. The part of the brain devoted to attention is connected to the brain’s emotional center, says Srini Pillay. Any strong emotion — frustration with a colleague, problems at home — can disrupt your attention, he says.
Add to that the necessity, and perceived virtue, of multitasking at work. Studies over the last decade have shown that multitasking can reduce our capacity to sustain attention, says Michael Komie. “Although there are always exceptions to the rule,” he says, “the research shows that for the average worker in the workplace, multitasking while trying to solve a complex problem is a very bad strategy.”
Refocusing is hard for many people because they have trained their brains to work on a variety of things at the same time. Dr. Pillay suggests visualizing a reset device in your brain and saying: “I need to press the reset button and get back on track.” This takes the spotlight off the distraction and puts it on the redirection. “You are rewiring your brain,” he says. Robert Epstein, suggests that you stop and listen to music for a few minutes, go for a short walk or take a cleansing breath (breath in deeply, count to five slowly, hold it and breathe out very slowly).But if you are having severe problems maintaining focus at work, you should consult a psychologist or physician, Dr. Komie says, as severe symptoms could be a sign of anxiety, depression or adult forms of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder.
If you want to set up your day so you aren’t easily distracted and can complete your tasks, you should structure your time and become more aware of your behavior - for example, you could set your phone alarm to go off every hour, as a reminder to stay on task.
You are more vulnerable to distraction when you’re uncomfortable, hungry or tired, so it’s important to plan “self-management” activities. Starting the day with a to-do list is important, but if it’s overly ambitious, you will put yourself in a state of anticipatory anxiety, which makes it harder to the brain to concentrate. Look at what is realistically possible and be specific with yourself about what you can and cannot do that day.
Scheduling distractions as a reward for productivity can motivate your brain to stay focused, Dr. Pillay says. Ideally, those distractions should also be good for you — like a massage, a yoga class or just putting on headphones and listening to music. “The brain benefits significantly from breaks,” he says.
If your distraction of choice is Facebook, Twitter or other social media, schedule time for that, says Dr. Epstein, so that you’re proactive, not reactive. “You control it,” he says, “rather than IT controls you.”
Adapted from the article written by EILENE ZIMMERMANPublished: November 19, 2011 (for the full version, - please see:
H. AFTER YOU READ, DISCUSS THE QUESTIONS BELOW:
a) What tips does the author give in this article?
b) Is there any tip that you could use to improve your productivity at work?
I. IS IT EASY FOR YOU TO CONCENTRATE? YOU’LL NOW TAKE AN ATTENTION TEST. WATCH THE VIDEO.
J. YOU’LL HEAR A NEWS STORY ABOUT HOW BEING BILINGUAL MAY BOOST YOUR BRAIN POWER. BEFORE YOU LISTEN: SAY WHETHER YOU AGREE OR NOT WITH THE SENTENCES BELOW.
1.Research suggests that bilingual speakers may have an advantage that goes beyond communication.
2.Most bilinguals speak both languages fluently, and without any accent.
3.The idea that children exposed to two languages from birth become confused or that they fall behind monolingual children is a common misconception.
4.Growing up bilingual is just as natural as growing up monolingual.
5.Bilinguals have to do something that monolinguals don't do — they have to keep the two languages separate.
6.Bilingual speakers have been shown to perform better on a variety of cognitive tasks.
7.Being bilingual may physically remodel parts of the brain.
K. LISTEN TO THE RECORDING AND CHECK YOUR IDEAS.
L. PRONUNCIATION WORK
Most babies learn language as a result of hearing it: hundreds of hours of conversation between a baby and his parents and other caregivers shape the developing language areas of the brain.
At birth, babies can perceive many more speech sounds than adults. The more you talk to babies, the better they can focus on the sounds of their native language. The experience of hearing speech sounds strengthens some neural pathways at the expense of others.
Between the age of six and twelve months, babies begin to lose some ability to detect differences in the speech sounds of a foreign language, as they become better at recognizing the sounds of their native language.
Some sounds in English are particularly difficult for speakers of other languages because the brains have crossed them out of their repertoire at a very early age.
The following sounds are particularly difficult for non-native English speakers and, at the same time, are very important in effective communication.
think X sink
three X free
three X tree
thought X taught
feast X fist
sheep X ship
leave X live
beat X bit
shop X chop
ship X chip
share X chair
Now, work with a partner and practice saying the sentences below. Thirty-three thirsty, thundering thoroughbreds thumped Mr. Thurber on Thursday. Tom threw Tim three thumbtacks. She sells seashells on the seashore.
CHOOSE ONE OF THE QUESTIONS BELOW TO ANSWER NEXT CLASS.
1. What can a person do to improve memory?
2. What strategies can a person use to help remember words?
3. What strategies have you used to remember new vocabulary items in English?
4. What have you learned today? What can you do to help you remember?