How do know when to choose between what your heart says and what your mind says?

How do know when to choose between what your heart wants and what your mind says? ESL conversation lesson.

  • Language focus: action verbs, parts of the body
  • Media: video

Sometimes, this question feels like the battle royal of my existence. Not that my heart and mind are always in contradiction, but I honestly can’t always tell the difference between an impulsive desire and a deep wish for change. Can you?

Heart versus Mind

The battle between heart and mind, or need versus want, or emotion versus reason, is as old as it gets. And of course, rational thinking (a.k.a the mind) almost always plays the role of the wiser older sibling who makes informed choices, follows the rules and knows better. Inversely, emotion is the impulsive little sister who lets her heart govern and despite getting into trouble from time to time, seems to live a fuller life.

Watch your head! Pendulum Swing

The ‘heart’ really got its bad reputation during the 18th century, in the age of enlightenment. Many of the prominent thinkers of the time, René Descartes, David Hume, Emmanuel Kant, to name the more known ones, created a strong wave against tendencies towards superstition and irrational beliefs. It was a fundamental shift in how knowledge was qualified (no longer all by divine intervention). Eventually, the enlightenment movement gave birth to the scientific method, which is the foremost method used in research across many disciplines today. It was the antidote to the 18th-century version of ‘fake news.’

Teamwork People!

Still, as much as I like rational thought, my heart sometimes carries messages that my mind won’t let me have. That is why I really enjoyed famed neuroscientist António Damásio‘s book Descartes’ Error. In it, Damasio argues that rational thought cannot occur without emotional data. In other words, we cannot think rationally without our emotions factoring into the equation. Emotion is part of the information we use to make all decisions, regardless of profession or character.

Let’s Talk About It

Despite the complexity of the issue, this is a great topic to explore with students. To help prime the discussion, I found a great wordless animated short (linked below) that can even help even the more basic level students engage in the discussion. On the first level, it is a great way to mesh two vocabulary elements: parts of the body and action verbs. And on the next level, it may set a nice scene to gets your student’s thoughts on the matter–rational and emotional.

Warm up

  • Mind Map these two words: reason and emotion
  • When do you use reason and when do you use emotion
  • For intermediate students: try to remember a time in your life when either reason or emotion guided your decision. What did you learn?

The Video: Inner Workings by Jorge Tenorio

Discussion

Use this handout (0.99$ on TPT) to teach and classify information

Do you see what I see?

  • Level: A1, A2, B1, B2
  • Handout: on TPT
  • Media: Video
  • Language focus: action verbs, causal linking words

Do you like independent films? I think it’s a good habit to break away from mainstream films and explore some of the messages in indie films. Often I find myself conditioned by an expectation of a happy ending. I even find myself expecting it in my life. When it doesn’t it feels odd.

Movies Shape our Psyche

Does the dedicated athlete always take home the gold? Does the couple always live happily ever after? Does the cancer fighter always beat the sickness? Does the lost dog always find its way home? In movies, often yes, but in real life not so much. Do you think we feel more cheated of these defeats because we have developed a distortion of reality?

The Eye of the Beholder

Here are a couple of short thought-provoking wordless animations that you can use to elicit some discussion. You can start by identifying all the action verbs. When I taught it, students saw different things. It was rather personal. 

Then, if your students like introspective analysis, there is an opportunity to talk about the symbolism in the videos. In my experience, this sort of thing can either prompt a great philosophical discussion or fall flat. It really depends on the people you are working with.

Lesson Notes

Handout on TPT

The films are wordless, so you can use them with basic level students and stick to identifying the action verbs included in the handout. If you are working with a higher level, then you could ask them to note when the actions occur. Or better yet why the character does the action. And for the higher levels, you can go deeper and explore character motivation, how failure can create opportunity and how we cope with hardship. It’s a pretty elastic lesson.

Warm-up

  • Make a Mind Map of all the action verbs you know

ECIRAVA from Daisuke Kaneko on Vimeo.

SOAR: An Animated Short from Alyce Tzue on Vimeo.

Discussion

  • Pretend you have to describe this video to someone who can’t see, make a list of all the actions in this video?
  • What is the problem (s) in this story?
  • What is the difference between one side of the mirror and the other?
  • Which side do you think the man is likely to be happier?
  • What does the main character do to overcome the problems?
  • What are some of the emotions you can identify throughout the video?