What is your definition of success?

Success is a looming goal that can drive us, but also plague us. It can be defined in so many ways. Money, fame, happiness, many things can be considered hallmarks of success, but are we chasing the wrong things? Also, how does our culture define success? Do you think this might be driving us unconsiously?

Without a doubt, success is important. No one strives to fail. But this drive can sometimes create unhealthy life choices and lead us to prioritize the wrong things. In Alain de Botton TED talk, he exposes his struggle with success and some of the elements that may shape our choices.

Warm up

  • Name someone you consider successful?
  • What makes them successful? Money, fame, happiness?
  • Put the following elements in order of priority: happiness, family, work, relaxing, spouse, exercise, health
  • How is our relationship with success unhealthy?

The Video: TED A Kinder, Gentler, Philosophy of Success by Alain de Botton 

  • Divide the presentation into 5 min segments and do a Tell Back
    • First 5 min: What is snobbery according to Botton?
    • 5-10 min: What is meritocracy? How might it be destructive?
    • 10-15 min: What can literary tragedy teach us? Why does nature attract us?
  • If you have time, I would suggest doing a Mind Map of the main elements that contribute to our notion of success. Perhaps group them according to those that are good and bad.

What is Brexit doing to the U.K.?

Whether you are for, against or take a neutral position of the Brexit negotiation, it is interesting to see how this deal is affecting British politics.

This New York Times video looks at some of the societal issues that prompted the need for Brexit. But now, it seems as though people are changing their minds. Why?

Warm up

  • What do you know about Brexit?
  • How do you think the people of the United Kingdom feel about it?
  • Where do you stand? For, against, neutral

The Video: New York Times-Brexit a disunited kingdom 

  • What are some of the actions you see?
  • What are the people feeling?
  • Can you do a Tell Back of some of the main points?
  • Do you think the people are changing their minds?
  • What do they hope to achieve in accepting/rejecting this deal?

What do you do for Valentine’s Day?

A popular North American celebration, February 14th is the day for lovers. For me, it is a day filled with pressure and lack of inspiration. Yes, you heard me, I just don’t know what to do on Valentin’s Day.

Thus since this celebration is a little weird in my view, here is some weird stuff to look at and talk about

Warm Up

  • Do you have Valentine’s Day, or the equivalent in your culture?
  • What do you do?

Activity 1: Here is what the birds do

  • Describe the actions in this video
  • What are some of the “messages” this bird is trying to send?

Activity 2: And another just for fun…

  • Describe the actions in this video

Activity 3: Forbes on the expense associated to Valentine’s Day

  • Summarize the main points of this article
  • Why is Valentine’s Day costing us more?
  • Do you think it is money well spent?
  • Do you make a point of spending time with your spouse?


Would you eat the marshmallow?

TED features Joachim de Posada’s presentation of the famous “marshmallow” test done children. It is a test that claims to predict the success of those children through their ability to delay gratification.

I won’t go into great detail about the test because the video only last about 5 min. I will say this, although this test makes me feel a little uncomfortable, I think it makes an interesting discussion.

Pre discussion

  • Do you consider yourself a patient person?
  • What things or events in your life have you had to wait for?
  • What stories or anecdotes from your life show how you are patient or impatient?

The video: Don’t eat the marshmallow by Joachim de Posada TED

  • How did the video of the children make you feel?
  • How did the children act around the marshmallow?
  • If it were you, would you have eaten it? Why?
  • Why do you think it is important to be able to delay gratification?
  • What do you think Posada means by “we are eating more marshmallows that we produce?”
  • Do you agree?

Which “Friends” character are you?

I know, I know, pretty cheesy. But if there is one thing I learnt from teaching overseas, the television series Friends is everywhere. So if you need a relaxing frivolous lesson, here it is.

Pre discussion

  • Which Friends character do you relate to most?
  • Which is your least favorite and why?

The Quiz: Which Friends character are you?

If you have multiple students I suggest you do this quiz in pairs. Of course you will need a computer, tablet or smart phone…

  • What personal characteristics can you associate with each character?
  • Which ones describe you best?
  • Why do you think this series was so popular?

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?

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.

However, here is the twist, Sanbonmatsu, a transgender scientist, also talks about the challenges she faced through 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 as well as the very misunderstood transgenderism.

Pre discussion

  • What are some of the theories you have heard about the differences between men and women?
  • Do you think there are differences?
  • What does it mean to be transgender?

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 towards transgenderism.

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.


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?