Directions: After your students read “Measles erases immune memory,” ask them to answer the following questions.
Note to teachers: You can use these same questions for any Science News article.
1. Based on the headline alone, what is the main point of the article?
The point of the article is that measles can not only cause an immediate infection but also affect the immune system in such a way that people are more vulnerable to other, future infections.
2. Does the content of the article support the headline? Cite at least two examples in your answer.
Yes. The author points to scientific studies that have found evidence that measles affects the immune system long-term. One study found that, as scientist Rik de Swart says, “the virus preferentially infects cells in the immune system that carry the memory of previously experienced infections.” In another study, researchers found that children who had measles were more likely to need prescriptions for infections afterward than children who hadn’t had measles.
3. Who is the author? Based on what you can find in Science News magazine or on the About Science News page at www.sciencenews.org, is the author a regular writer for Science News? How do you know? What topics does she cover?
Laura Sanders. Yes, Laura Sanders is a staff writer; she appears on the masthead of the magazine and is listed as “staff” online. Laura regularly reports on neuroscience.
4. When was the article first published and where?
In the June 8, 2019 issue of Science News magazine. (Or, May 21, 2019 online at www.sciencenews.org)
5. Is the article based on primary sources? If so, what are they?
Yes, the article is based on primary sources. Laura speaks to Rik de Swart, who has done research on the immune effects of measles in children in the Dutch Bible Belt. She cites data presented in multiple research papers, including data on prescriptions for infections in U.K. children, from a BMJ Open paper published in 2018. If you are viewing the article online at www.sciencenews.org, the primary sources are listed in the citations section at the end of the article.
6. Does the article quote any outside experts? If so, who are they and how do they contribute to the article?
Yes. Laura quotes Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Fauci wasn’t involved in any of the research mentioned. His role is to add context to the story, by explaining how the loss of immune cells can affect a person’s health.
7. How many fact-based statements can you find in the article? Cite one example. Can you find any opinion-based statements? If so, list one example.
Students should be able to find dozens of fact-based statements (almost every sentence has a factual underpinning), but the article generally avoids opinion-based statements. Even quotes from the researchers are based on their expert knowledge and data. The one exception might be the last line in which Michael Mina of Harvard says, “It’s so simple.”
8. What does your answer to Question 7 reveal to you about the article’s purpose and/or author’s intentions?
The article is intended to inform the audience about existing and new research being done. The author is trying to convey facts and not trying to take a position or persuade the reader that some course of action is right or wrong.
9. Did you have any background knowledge on the topic before reading this article? If so, what did you know?
Student answers will vary but they might know that they or family members have received the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. They might also have heard about the recent outbreaks in the United States.
10. How does the article challenge your existing knowledge? Cite a specific example.
Student answers will vary, but they might be surprised, for example, that the measles virus can linger in the air and on surfaces for up to two hours. They might not have known how the measles virus spreads through the body or the worrisome outcomes associated with a measles infection. It might be a surprise that the virus can affect the immune system after the initial infection.