Question of the day

What is in your food?

We live in a fast paced world with all kinds of conveniences. Food taking a huge chunk of the convenience market, many foods are processed and packaged to serve. If food and nutrition are a topic of interest to you and your students, you might find this National Geographic article about Henry Heinz rather interesting.

Pre discussion

  • What concerns do you have about food?
  • What do you look for when you read the labels on packaged foods?
  • What are your ‘rules of thumb’ when food shopping?

The article: How Henry Heinz used ketchup to improve food safety

  • Mind Map the main points of the article
  • What were some of Heinz’s values?
  • How did that affect his products?
  • Do you think today’s food producers are concerned about the same things as Heinz?
  • What can food producers learn from this story?

 

 

Do you want to climb a mountain?

I am an amateur rock climber…very amateur. It’s not for everyone, I know. But what is interesting about rock climbing is it puts you smack in the middle of a discussion between your “afraid self” and your “courageous self”.  Alex Honnold, famed for climbing Yosemite’s El Capitain without ropes, candidly talks about this discussion and how he talked his “afraid self” into trust.

There is a fine line between fear being a wise consultant and an insecure mother. And many athletes have died by choosing wrong. I am sharing this TED talk more because I am fascinated by Honnold’s composure, discipline and wisdom. What’s more, I think there is an interesting Honnold sets a context for a very different type of discussion about fear.

Pre discussion

  • Have you ever done anything that made you afraid?
  • How did you overcome your fear?
  • What are risks worth taking?

The Video: TED with Alex Honnold

  • What are all the elements that Honnold does to prepare for this feat (do a Mind Map)?
  • What did he do to overcome his fears?
  • Why was he not satisfied after he completed his climb?
  • What are the elements that go into “mastery”?
  • Do you master anything?

 

How exactly does gender work?

It is an age old discussion. What are the differences between men and women? Biologist Karissa Sanbonmatsu presents some of the new discoveries from epigenetics and research in DNA that explain the differences between men and women from a biological perspective. This is a science based lesson plan with tons of scientific vocabulary to describe how DNA works to create gender differences.

Sanbonmatsu, a transgender scientist, also talks about the challenges she faced in her scientific community given her struggle with her own identity. This content is layered and complex. On one hand the objective is to help science-based students become more verbal with DNA related vocabulary–an important corner stone topic for biologists. But beyond that, the speaker pulls in the social challenges of the “old boys club” that exists in the scientific community.

Pre discussion

  • What are some of the theories you have heard about the differences between men and women?
  • Do you think there are differences?

The Video: The Biology of Gender

There are really two aspects in this video mashed up together. 1) Sanbonmatsu shares the science of gender. 2) Sanbonmatsu talks about the reactions of her scientific community, thus the social issues surrounding transgenderism in various communities.

I would first untangle each aspect.

  • What does the latest research tell us about gender?
  • What is the behaviour of our DNA?
  • How is Sanbonmatsu contributing to a society of tolerance inclusion?
  • Why does Sanbonmatsu expose the scientific community as being especially hard on her choices?
  • Do you think there are other social circles where transgenderism is more difficult?
  • What about less difficult?

I leave you with that for the weekend…have a good one.

Mel

 

What’s the weather today?

I love talking about the weather. It is the single most easy way to initiate a conversation with a stranger or acquaintance if you need to break the silence. Great for elevator rides, spontaneous waiting time and warm repartee.

This particular discussion lesson plan on the weather goes from general to scientific. The objective is to elicit some scientific vocabulary around a familiar topic. If you have no scientists among your students, you can always focus on the important of predicting the weather. And also the importance of being able to talk about the weather as a conversation starter.

Pre discussion

  • What are the different types of weather or climate you can name?
  • What affects the weather?
  • Do you use the weather forecast to plan activities?

The Video: The Science of Weather

  • Divide the video into 2 or 3 segments and do a Tell Back  of the main themes and words
  • How do meteorologists sort through information, identify trends, and make predictions.
  • Why do they often get it wrong?
  • What is it important to predict the weather

Why do new years resolutions fail?

I know, I know…it’s a cliché to talk about new year’s resolutions in January, but I think it still makes for a good introspective discussion. And if you angle it right, you are creating a great natural context to use the past and futur tense.

Did you know that January comes from the Roman God Janus. He had two faces: one facing back to reflect on the past and one facing forward to think about the future. Watch this PBS video snippet about why new years resolutions fail (3.22 min.):

It is a relatively short presentation so depending on the level of you students you could watch the whole thing or cut it up.

Warm up

You could also warm up the discussion by making some guesses about why resolutions fail. What are some of the features of new years goals that make them difficult to achieve?

Video Comprehension Questions

  • First do a Tell Back of the video and write down all the key vocabulary and concepts.
  • Why do resolutions fail?
  • What are the “psychological traps” that make resolutions difficult?
  • Why can making resolutions be bad for us?
  • How can we make “smart” resolutions? In other words, what are the features of good resolutions?
  • What do you think about the presenters’ t-shirt (I threw that in just for fun)

General Discussion

  • What are some of the things to did last year that surprised you?
  • What obstacles did you overcome?
  • What were some changes that happened in you life?
  • What were some good books you read?
  • What are some things you would like to do this year?
  • Are there any changes you would like to make?
  • Anything you would like to learn?
  • What are your personal or professional goals?

If you want to do something a little different, you could also have students do a quick mind map of the year and talk about it after they get a few ideas down.

Have a great lesson!

I would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone for supporting eslconversation.ca and wish you a great year full of fruitful discussions. Discussion is the tie that bind us together and breaks isolation, depression and puts our ideas in the collective. Mel

 

Where would you travel to?

If you could choose among National Geographic top 15 travel destinations, where would you go?

Scroll through the top 15 destinations suggested by National Geographic and say which you would choose and why (only read titles and look at pictures).

Go explore the picture of the chosen destination. What is happening? What is the weather like? Where are we, in the mountains, the city, the forest, etc? What do you like about it?

Now choose a destination you DON’T want to visit. Why? What is happening in the picture? Where are we? What is the weather like? What don’t you like about it.

What are you doing to prevent climate change?

What are you doing to prevent climate change?

PBS Frontline presents an innovative interactive presentation on how the people of Marshall Island are affected by climate change. Even though the presentation is a bit deep and disturbing, I would use it to spark a discussion on actions related to climate change. I would first do a  Tell Back  of the video centered around how climate change is affecting the daily lives of the people of Marshall Island (note: you must click the forward buttons to make the presentation go forward. You can stop at any point to discuss).

Here is a link to the PBS lesson plan. It includes some of the key vocabulary which can save you a bit of time in analyzing the content from the perspective of second language difficulties.

Discussion Questions

Do you notice any differences in the weather that could be related to the weather?

What are some of the current actions happening in your community that is intended to help stop climate change?

What habits have you changed?

If you review just this last year, is there anything you do differently?