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ESL / EFL Lesson Plan on Dogs

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Canine suicide puzzle


Date: March 6, 2005
Level: Pre-Intermediate +
Downloads: This Lesson (Word Doc) | Class Handout (Word Doc) | Class Handout (PDF)

THE ARTICLE

Can dogs commit suicide? That is the puzzling question being asked by dog lovers and animal behaviourists today in a small town in Scotland. At least five dogs are known to have leaped 13 metres to their deaths from a bridge in the town of Dumbarton. The bridge is now known as Rover’s Leap and is next to a supposedly haunted mansion built in 1863, which was used as the location for a BBC TV series called Tales from the Madhouse. The latest suicidal canine completely distressed its owner by suddenly making a beeline for the bridge and jumping to its death. Animal psychologists are baffled at this abnormal behaviour and are keen to understand what is triggering it. Dogs are not like lemmings, which jump to their deaths in thousands, but are fully able to understand heights, just as humans are. Dogs would also have no reason to take their own lives – something unheard of in the canine world, especially happy pet dogs from good families. All dog owners in the area have been advised to keep their dogs on a leash when they approach the bridge in future, until this mystery has been cleared up.

POSSIBLE WARM UPS / COOL DOWNS

1. CHAT:  Talk in pairs or groups about dogs / suicide / haunted houses / BBC TV / strange animal behaviour / lemmings / pets / …

To make things more dynamic, try telling your students they only have one minute (or 2) on each chat topic before changing topics / partners. Change topic / partner frequently to energize the class.

2. DOG BRAINSTORM: Spend one minute writing down all of the different words you associate with the word ‘dog’. Share your words with your partner / group and talk about them.

3. ANSWERS: Which of the following reasons do you think is the answer to this mystery? Please add your own reason to the list before you begin. Give a mark of 1 to 10 for each reason: 1 = very probable, 10 = no way.

  1. A ghost dog from the haunted house is telling the dogs to jump.
  2. The dogs have had enough of the stresses of modern life and decided to end it all.
  3. A wicked person is standing beneath the bridge with the biggest, most aromatic juicy bone they’ve ever smelled.
  4. The dogs were abused by their owners and couldn’t take any more.
  5. There are trees below the bridge. The tops of the trees look like solid ground to the dogs when they jump into thin air.
  6. A mysterious virus has got into the dog food that gives dogs suicidal tendencies.
  7. Scottish dogs want to start canine bungee jumping.
  8. Dogs can smell or hear something that humans can’t, that makes them leap from the bridge.
  9. Each dog has recently lost its partner and is too sad to continue living.
  10. The dogs are part of a canine suicide cult.

4. 2-MINUTE DEBATES: Students face each other in pairs and engage in the following (for-fun) 2-minute debates. Students A are assigned the first argument, students B the second. Rotate pairs to ensure a lively pace and noise level is kept:

  1. Dogs are better than cats. vs. Other way around.
  2. A dog is man’s best friend. vs. A person is man’s (and woman’s) best friend.
  3. Dogs bite children and are dangerous. vs. Owners who do not train their dogs are dangerous.
  4. Dogs are dirty. They have fleas. vs. Your bed has fleas.
  5. Dogs should not be kept as pets. vs. Dogs have been kept as pets for thousands of years.
  6. People spend more money on dogs than on giving money to charity – that’s wrong. vs. That’s personal choice.
  7. Dogs are the cutest animals in the world. vs. Koalas are cuter.
  8. Dogs don’t need coats and beauty parlors. vs. Dogs like to look good too.
  9. Dogs are cleaner than most children. vs. That's a terrible thing to say.

 
 

PRE-READING IDEAS

1. WORD SEARCH: Students look in their dictionaries / computer to find collocates, other meanings, information, synonyms … of the words ‘dog’ and ‘lover’.

2. TRUE / FALSE: Look at the headline and guess whether these sentences are true or false:

  1. There is a new computer game called “Canine Suicide Puzzle”.  T / F
  2. Dog lovers in Scotland don’t understand the answer to something.  T / F
  3. Five dogs jumped to their deaths from a “haunted” bridge.  T / F
  4. The bridge is next to a mansion used for a TV horror series.  T / F
  5. The dogs were chasing bees and accidentally jumped from the bridge.  T / F
  6. Dogs often commit suicide.  T / F
  7. Dogs are fully able to understand heights, just as humans are.  T / F
  8. Dog owners have been advised to avoid the bridge when walking their dogs.  T / F

3. SYNONYM MATCH: Match the following synonyms from the article:

(a)

suicide

jumped

(b)

puzzling

recommended

(c)

leaped

rare

(d)

haunted

prompting

(e)

distressed

spooky

(f)

abnormal

unnatural

(g)

triggering

end it all

(h)

unheard of

solved

(i)

advised

upset

(j)

cleared up

baffling

4. PHRASE MATCH: Match the following phrases based on the article (sometimes more than one combination is possible):

(a)

commit

a beeline for the bridge

(b)

the puzzling question

at this abnormal behaviour

(c)

animal

death

(d)

haunted

behaviourists

(e)

the dog suddenly made

suicide

(f)

jumped to its

of

(g)

psychologists are baffled

their own lives

(h)

no reason to take

mansion

(i)

something unheard

cleared up

(j)

until this mystery has been

being asked by dog lovers

 

WHILE READING ACTIVITIES

1. GAP-FILL:  Put the missing words under each paragraph into the gaps.

Canine suicide puzzle

Can dogs __________ suicide? That is the puzzling question being asked by dog lovers and animal behaviourists today in a small town in Scotland. At least five dogs are known to have __________ 13 metres to their deaths from a bridge in the town of Dumbarton. The bridge is now __________ as Rover’s Leap and is next to a supposedly haunted mansion built in 1863, which was used as the location for a BBC TV series called Tales from the Madhouse. The latest suicidal canine completely __________ its owner by suddenly making a __________ for the bridge and jumping to its death. Animal psychologists are baffled at this abnormal behaviour and are keen to understand what is __________ it. Dogs are not like lemmings, which jump to their deaths in thousands, but are fully able to understand __________, just as humans are. Dogs would also have no reason to take their own lives – something unheard of in the canine world, especially happy pet dogs from good families. All dog owners in the area have been advised to keep their dogs on a leash when they approach the bridge in __________, until this mystery has been cleared up.

 

 

known
heights
commit
future
beeline
leaped
triggering
distressed

2. TRUE/FALSE:  Students check their answers to the T/F exercise.

3. SYNONYMS:  Students check their answers to the synonyms exercise.

4. PHRASE MATCH:  Students check their answers to the phrase match exercise.

5. QUESTIONS: Students make notes for questions they would like to ask the class about the article.

6. VOCABULARY:  Students circle any words they do not understand. In groups, pool unknown words and use dictionaries to find the meanings.


 
 

POST READING IDEAS

1. GAP-FILL: Check the answers to the gap-fill exercise.

2. QUESTIONS:  Students ask the discussion questions they thought of above to their partner / group / class. Pool the questions for all students to share.

3. VOCABULARY: As a class, go over the vocabulary students circled above.

4. STUDENT-GENERATED SURVEY: Pairs/Groups write down 3 questions based on the article. Conduct their surveys alone. Report back to partners to compare answers. Report to other groups / the whole class.

5. ‘DOG’/ ‘LOVER’: Students make questions based on their findings from pre-reading activity #1.

6. DISCUSSION:  Students ask each other the following questions:

  1. What was interesting in this article?
  2. Are you a dog lover?
  3. Why do you think the dogs are jumping?
  4. Is it possible for a dog to want to commit suicide?
  5. Do you believe in ghosts?
  6. Are you afraid of heights?
  7. What do you make a beeline for in a candy shop or department store?
  8. Have you known or heard of any strange dog behaviour?
  9. What is the best kind of pet to have?
  10. What would you do to research the causes for these canine ‘suicides’?
  11. Would you take your dog for a walk on the bridge?
  12. Would you spend one night alone in the haunted mansion?
  13. Teacher / Student additional questions.

HOMEWORK

1. VOCAB EXTENSION: Choose several of the words from the text. Use a dictionary or Google’s search field (or another search engine) to build up more associations / collocations of each word.

2. INTERNET: Search the Internet and find information on lemmings and their suicidal behaviour. Share your findings with your class next lesson.

3. SPOOKY STORY: Write your own spooky story about a dog. Share it with your class next lesson.

4. LETTER TO DOG OWNER: Write a letter to one of the dog owners telling him / her how you feel about this mystery.

ANSWERS

TRUE / FALSE

  1. There is a new computer game called “Canine Suicide Puzzle”.  F
  2. Dog lovers in Scotland don’t understand the answer to something.  T
  3. Five dogs jumped to their deaths from a “haunted” bridge.  T
  4. The bridge is next to a mansion used for a TV horror series.  T
  5. The dogs were chasing bees and accidentally jumped from the bridge.  F
  6. Dogs often commit suicide.  F
  7. Dogs are fully able to understand heights, just as humans are.  T
  8. Dog owners have been advised to avoid the bridge when walking their dogs.  F

SYNONYM MATCH:

(a)

suicide

end it all

(b)

puzzling

baffling

(c)

leaped

jumped

(d)

haunted

spooky

(e)

distressed

upset

(f)

abnormal

unnatural

(g)

triggering

prompting

(h)

unheard of

rare

(i)

advised

recommended

(j)

cleared up

solved

PHRASE MATCH:

(a)

commit

suicide

(b)

the puzzling question

being asked by dog lovers

(c)

animal

behaviourists

(d)

haunted

mansion

(e)

the dog suddenly made

a beeline for the bridge

(f)

jumped to its

death

(g)

psychologists are baffled

at this abnormal behaviour

(h)

no reason to take

their own lives

(i)

something unheard

of

(j)

until this mystery has been

cleared up

 

GAP FILL:

Can dogs commit suicide? That is the puzzling question being asked by dog lovers and animal behaviourists today in a small town in Scotland. At least five dogs are known to have leaped 13 metres to their deaths from a bridge in the town of Dumbarton. The bridge is now known as Rover’s Leap and is next to a supposedly haunted mansion built in 1863, which was used as the location for a BBC TV series called Tales from the Madhouse. The latest canine to jump completely distressed its owner as the dog suddenly made a beeline for the bridge and jumped to its death. Animal psychologists are baffled at this abnormal behaviour and are keen to understand what is triggering it. Dogs are not like lemmings, which jump to their deaths in thousands, but are fully able to understand heights, just as humans are. Dogs would also have no reason to take their own lives – something unheard of in the canine world, especially happy pet dogs from good families. All dog owners in the area have been advised to keep their dogs on a leash when they approach the bridge in future, until this mystery has been cleared up.

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