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Lesson of the day: “Why do we yawn? »

This lesson is part of our Accessible activities feature, which aims to accommodate a wider variety of learners on our site and on The Times. Learn more and tell us what you think here.

Featured Article: “Why do we yawn?” by Roni Caryn Rabin

The “Ask Well” section invites readers to ask questions about health and wellness. A reader asked:

Is there a purpose to a yawn? I know that means you’re sleepy, but is the body trying to accomplish something by yawning?

In this lesson, you’ll learn theories about why people yawn and what happens when we yawn, as well as write your own theory about why we yawn.

Before reading the article, watch this video:

Did you yawn after watching it?

Roni Caryn Rabin describes a yawn as follows:

Yawning consists of a deep inhalation of air accompanied by a powerful stretching of the jaw, followed by a shorter exhalation of air and a rapid closing of the jaw.

Why do you think our bodies yawn? Find as many reasons as you can.

Look at the nine words below that appear in the featured article. Define as many as you can.

1. contagious

2. physiological

3. speculate

4. deprivation

5. oxygenation

6. inspiring

7. cerebral

8. Annoy

9. synchronization

You can discover the meaning of all these words and practice using them by consulting this list on vocabulary.com.

Read the article or follow it PDFthen answer these questions:

1. What are the theories about why people yawn?

2. Why is yawning contagious?

3. Did you yawn while reading the article?

With your classmates, brainstorm a few health and wellness questions, then pick one to research and write an answer, like Roni Caryn Rabin does in the article you just read. One place to look for answers: Science News for Students.

Option 2:

Watch the video above, then do an experiment:

  • Create a list of five people and/or animals that you will see soon.

  • Predict what you think will happen if they see you yawning.

  • Then try yawning around them. (Be careful not to tell them what you are doing!)

  • Note if they yawn and write down your results.

What happened? Have you found that yawning is, in fact, contagious?


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