Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mama: Theories of Cognitive Development and Language Acquisition - Piaget & Chomsky -

This is a scary movie, but the beginning is perfect for warming up topics such as the ones proposed on this post.
Read a short summary of Piaget's and Chomsky's theories of language acquisition. Then watch the segment and answer the questions. Although the segment is fictional, there are several registered cases of similar cases and outcomes. 

Taken from wikipedia

Piaget is one psychologist reluctant to ascribe specific innate linguistic abilities to children: he considers the brain a homogeneous computational system, with language acquisition being one part of general learning. He agrees this development may be innate, but claims there is no specific language acquisition module in the brain. Instead, he suggests external influences and social interaction trigger language acquisition: information collected from these sources constructs symbolic and functional schemata (thought or behaviour patterns). According to Piaget, cognitive development and language acquisition are lifelong active processes that constantly update and re-organise schemata. He proposes children develop L1 as they build a sense of identity in reference to the environment, and describes phases of general cognitive development, with processes and patterns changing systematically with age. Piaget assumes language acquisition is part of this complex cognitive development, and that these developmental phases are the basis for an optimal period for language acquisition in childhood. 

Chomsky - The capacity to learn a language is indeed innate, and, like many such inborn mechanisms, it is circumscribed in time. If a child does not learn a language before the onset of puberty, the child will never master language at all. This is known as the critical period hypothesis, which claims  that if somebody does not acquire a first language before a certain time (around puberty), they will lose the ability to acquire language. There are two versions of this hypothesis: The strong version states that language acquisition will be impossible after this point has been reached. The weak version states that acquisition will be difficult after this period has been reached.


1. Describe what happened to the children.

2. How do you think the theories are applicable in both cases?

3. They have spent the same amount of time away from society. How/Why are their behavior different?

4. How do you think their lives will be permanently affected?

5. How does the situation corroborate (or not) to the theory of the Critical Period Hypothesis?

6. Do you think the movie segment shown an accurate picture of what might happen to children who are isolated from the rest of the word? Explain it.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Ender's Game: Leadership

I. Work with a partner:

1. What are the qualities a good leader  must and must not have?

2. Can someone learn how to be a leader, or are they born one?

3. Do you consider yourself a good leader? Explain it.

4. Can you think of influential leaders? Give examples. 

II. Read the quotes below about leadership. Discuss with each other their meanings and whether you agree with them: 
"The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they
set for themselves."
Ray Kroc
"An effective leader is defined by results not whether they make
great speeches or is liked."
- Peter Drucker

 "The process of influencing others to perform a task by providing
purpose, direction and motivation."
- The Army
"Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.
- John Maxwell
"Leadership is someone who gives hope."
- Tom Peters

 "A true leader is someone who inspires others to become more
of who they truly are.  They bring out the talent in people and
have them put it to use over and over.  They inspire others to be
more than they ever dreamed of."
- Anthony Robbins
"A leader is someone that people follow."
- Warren Buffett

  "Good leaders make people feel that they're at the very  heart
of things, not the periphery."
- Warren Bennis
III. Match the adjectives that describe leadership and their meanings:

1. Responsible

2. Self-confident

3. Competitive

4. Bossy

5. independent

6. Ambitious

7. Sensible

8. Imaginative

9. Enthusiastic

10. Principled

11. Self-assured

12. Tough-minded

( ) People who like giving orders to other people

( ) people who always want to win

( ) People who trust their abilities or skills

( ) Worthy of trust

( ) People who have common sense and are practical

( ) has or shows great excitement and interest; 

( ) shows poise and confidence in your own worth;

( ) has high moral principles

( ) People you can trust or depend on

( ) People who want to be successful in life

( )  Faces facts and difficulties with strength and determination; realistic and resolute.

( ) People who are creative and good at thinking new ideas

Answer key:

Competitive - people who always want to win
Reliable -People you can trust or depend on
Responsible - Worthy of trust
Insecure - People who do not trust their abilities/skills
Self-confident - People who trust their abilities or skills
Independent - People who like doing things on their own, without help
Bossy - People who like giving orders to other people
Sensible - People who have common sense and are practical
Imaginative - People who are creative and good at thinking new ideas
Ambitious - People who want to be successful in life
Enthusiastic - Has or shows great excitement and interest
Principled - Has high moral principles
Tough-minded - Faces facts and difficulties with strength and determination; realistic and resolute
Self-assured - Shows poise and confidence in your own worth

IV. Watch the movie segment and discuss the questions.

1. What is a mind game in this case?
2. What personality traits does Ender have?
3. What do you think about their leadership training methods?
4. Which adjectives in Exercise III would you use to describe Ender?
5. Which adjectives would you use to describe the other leaders in the training?
6. What did Ender do that stood out the others?
7. Are they all effective leaders? Explain it.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dark Tides: Dangerous Occupations

I. Read the information taken from the awesome site Work with a partner and rank them from 1 to 8, being 1 the most dangerous.

Chauffeurs, Taxi Driver and Truck Drivers
taxi drivers
With the ever growing traffic on roads, comes the menace of road accidents. In this regard, the life of a taxi driver or a chauffeur is more miserable than anyone who is driving his/her personal vehicle. The number of people getting fatal injuries is very high in this job.

We all share a feeling of awe for actors and actresses seeing them perform dangerous stunts in a movie or advertisement. In reality these stunts are performed by stuntmen. Even after the advent of technology in this field, this job is still regarded among the top most dangerous jobs in the world.
Roofers and Linemen
electric worker
The risk factor involved in the job of a power line installer or repairer is the risk of electrocution from the high voltage lines. Moreover, they are also at a high risk of falling due to high location of the power lines.
Structural Iron and Steel Workers
iron and steel
People working in the structural Iron and Steel industry are always at a risk of falling from the very structures they build despite the fact that nowadays, the safety measures are in place. 
Flying Engineers and Aircraft Pilots
The job of a pilot is more dangerous than others because of the responsibility that they carry on their shoulders and the risk that are inherent in their job. Although the financial prospects are very high in this job but the risks involved are far more dangerous in nature than they are assessed. It is no news that repetitious engine failures have more often than not resulted in crashes. The risks involved in the job of a test pilot who are required to test aircraft are far more than an ordinary aircraft pilot. And those pilots who work in rescue operations are more prone to dangers as they are required to work for long hours in very tough weather conditions.
Timber and Logging Workers
The prime responsibility of a timber cutter is to cut and transport trees. And the risk involved in this job is the falling of the tree on the timber and logging worker. The timber and logging workers are more prone to hazards as they are required to work under tough weather and geographical conditions. 
Military and Police Personnel
To use the words of Jack Nicholson from the movie-’A few good men’, we live in a world that has walls and those walls need to be guarded by men with guns. Every state has defense as an essential component of its existence.
Ever thought why sea-food is so expensive? Yes, it is so because of the transportation costs but the more important reason is that deep-sea fishing is the most-dangerous job on this planet for the simple reason that the gravity hardships that a fisherman encounters cannot be over-stated. They are constantly at risk of drowning because of the unpredictable nature  of sea weather.
II. Do you agree with their list? What other dangerous occupations would you add to the list?
III. Watch the movie segment and answer the questions:

1. What is the main characters' occupation?
2. How dangerous is it?
3. Would you like to have such a job? Why not?
4. What are their major risks at work?
5. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this profession.
6. Would like to have a dangerous or extreme occupation? Why (not)?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Butler: The African American Civil Rights Movement

This is a worth-seeing film. I loved the way they portray the Civil Rights Movement in the USA. 

Work in pairs:

1. What do you know about Martin Luther King and his fight against discrimination in the USA?

2. How were African Americans viewed in the 50's and 60's? How are they seen nowadays?

3. Read the text below and then share what your read with a partner, using your own words.

The African-American Civil Rights Movement was an ongoing fight for racial equality that took place for over 100 years after the Civil War. 

The Civil Rights Movement has its background in the abolitionist movement before the Civil War.  After the war, slavery was made illegal with the thirteenth amendment to the US Constitution. After the Civil War, many southern states continued to treat African-Americans as second class citizens. They implemented laws that kept black people separate from white people. They required separate schools, restaurants, restrooms, and transportation based on the color of a person's skin. Other laws prevented many black people from voting. 

The 1950's and early 1960's brought about several major events in the fight for the civil rights of African-Americans. In 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving up her seat on the bus to a white passenger. This sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott which lasted for over a year and brought Martin Luther King, Jr. to the forefront of the movement. King led a number of non-violent protests. 

The Civil Rights Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. This act outlawed segregation and the Jim Crow laws of the south. It also outlawed discrimination based on race, national background, and gender. Although there were still many issues, this law gave the NAACP and other organizations a strong base on which to fight discrimination in the courts. 

II. Watch the movie segment and discuss the questions:


1. Describe the scene.

2. According to the text above, when do you think this scene took place? Before the 2nd World War, in the 1950's or 1960's, in the 1980's, or nowadays?

3. How did the USA react to the assassination of Martin Luther King?

4. Do you think the African Americans situation nowadays is resolved? Explain it.

4. Did Brazil (your country) go over a similar movement as the Civil Rights Movement in the USA? Talk about it.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Mama: Feral Children

This is a scary movie, but this scene is great. It shows a child that was separated from society and spends several years alone in the jungle.

I. Discuss with a partner:

1) What is your earliest memory? How old were you?

2) Do you remember your first school? What do you remember?

3) How would you think someone's life would be if he/she were separated from society at his/her very early years? 

4) Could this person be reintegrated to society? What difficulties would they face?

5) Have you heard of the stories of Mowgli and Romulus & Reno*, who were raised by wolves? What do you know about them?

* In ancient mythology, Romulus and Remus were brothers who were raised by wolves and went on to become the founders of Rome. In Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, Mowgli is a boy who lives in the wild and behaves like one of the animals. He is stronger and lives by a higher moral code than most human children.

II. Read the definition of Feral Children below and then discuss the questions:

feral child (also, colloquially, wild child) is a  child who has lived isolated from human contact from a very young age, and has no (or little) experience of human care, loving or social behavior, and crucially, of human language. Some feral children have been confined by people (usually their own parents); in some cases this abandonment was due to the parents’ rejection of a child’s severe intellectual or physical impairment. Feral children may have experienced severe  trauma before being abandoned or running away. Feral children are sometimes the subjects of folklore and legends, typically portrayed as having been brought up by animals.

Scientific Interest in Feral Children:
Feral children provide scientists an interesting view of humanity that no other person could provide. Feral children are devoid of acculturation, meaning they lack the basic social skills and communication skills that are naturally developed in a healthy child when they are surrounded by other people. More than anything else, however, feral children have changed the way scientists look at human language. Having never been exposed to human language, feral children do not speak. In fact, they have a severely impaired ability to learn language and inter human communication. This supports a hypothesis known as the Critical Period Theory. This hypothesis states that first language acquisition can only occur during a critical development period, when children are very young. 

Taken from the wonderful:

III. Share what you read, using your own words, and say whether you agree or disagree with the passage.

 IV. Watch the segment and discuss the questions that follow:

1. What happened to the children?

2. Which of the two girls are considered feral children?

3. Describe the younger sister's behavior.

4. Describe the older sister's behavior.

5. How different are they from each other? And what about  the rest of the girls of their own age?

6. Do you think they will ever be "normal" again? Explain it.

7. What should their caretakers do to make them behave more appropriately?

V. Web Search:

Visit the site below and choose one of the feral children's real stories and then report it to a partner. Explain why you chose that particular feral child.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Surf's up: Inspiration, Admiration


I love animated movies. This one has a beautiful story about friendship, admiration and fighting for your beliefs. Besides, it is a lovely scene.

I. Work with a partner. Make a list of at least 10 people both of you admire. Make sure they are all from different areas/fields.

 II. Who have you most admired this year?Think about one person for each item below. Say who you admire and why.

A friend
A family member
A male celebrity
A female celebrity
A politician
A child
A sports person

III. Share your list in small groups.

IV. Discuss the questions.

1. Who did you look up to / admire most  when you were a child? Why did you have such admiration for that person?
2. Who do you look up to / admire most now?
3. Do you think you are a good role model?
4. Who do you think was a good / bad influence on you when you were a child?
5. Were you a good / bad influence on your friends?
V. Watch the movie segment and answer the questions.
1. Who is the role model in the segment?

2. Why is he so admirable?

3. Do you think he deserves the admiration? Why (not)?

4. How did he change the life of his admirers? 

4. Do you know anyone who has a similar story of admiration?  Share it with your friend. It does not have to be a surfer or a sports person.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Morning Glory: Commitment, Professionalism

This a great but overlooked movie. It has wonderful scenes and many of them are clever and funny. Make some time to watch it.

I. Discuss with a partner:

Here are four ways to show commitment at work, according to Christian Fisher.

Bringing energy and initiative to your job every day shows commitment. Caring more about your work and your organization will show in the results you produce. Showing commitment can demonstrate your leadership potential to managers and lead to career opportunities.

1. Do you agree with this statement? What are some ways of showing commitment in your workplace?

     2. He also mentions four different features of commitment. Write the item on the top of each of the following paragraphs

1. Putting customers first
2. Professionalism
3. Keep motivation strong
4. Teamwork

a) _______________________________

Attending to the details of your job demonstrates your understanding and respect for the workplace culture. For example, being punctual and prepared when at work, respecting workplace property and policies or attending meetings when expected shows that you can handle job obligations. Respecting office rules regarding such things as dress code, personal phone use or office romances shows maturity. Too many breeches of workplace basics can undermine your credibility when your commitment needs to shine. Going beyond basics by putting in extra hours, taking up others’ slack and delivering extra service to others shows leadership-level dedication.

b) _____________________________

Striving for satisfaction shows your commitment to your employer’s objectives. Even if your job doesn’t involve interacting with threm directly, your job plays a role in keeping your organization’s clients base loyal and growing. Handling every task with the idea fresh in your mind that your work impacts consumers, company profits and your paycheck may also boost your pride in your work and lead to improved job performance.

c) _____________________________

Making significant contributions to any group task shows commitment to your work team. Displaying confidence in your ideas, skills and solutions is a trait that employers value. Being a reliable follower shows commitment to your team’s objectives and an understanding of the part you play in a bigger picture. Taking leadership roles and organizing team members to cooperate with each other, or collaborate with other groups, shows a commitment to big picture achievement.

d) ______________________________

Keeping yourself and your co-workers or subordinates excited about the job can show your commitment to the overall challenges and demands of your business. It can be challenging keeping up high performance standards. Encouraging employees to develop new skills, improve operations and process or take new risks to advance the business can awaken them, suggests Michael A. Olguin in his “Inc.” article, “Worn Out Employees? Five Ways to Crank Up the Energy.” Also, practicing and encouraging a healthy balance between work and personal life shows commitment to worker well-being that’s good for business.


II.  Watch the segment and answer the questions:

1) What are the interviewer's feelings about the job? How committed is he?

2) What about the interviewee's feeling about the job?

3) What is the real situation of the the TV program, Daybreak? What is it about?

4) What does the candidate do to promote herself and be hired?

5) Which of the four different features of commitment in exercise 2 did you manage to see in the young professional looking for the job? Give concrete examples for each one of them, if it is the case.

answer key:
Ex: 2

a) professionalism
b) putting customers first
c) teamwork
d) keep motivation strong