Can you live a zero-waste life?

  • Level: A2, B1, B2
  • Discussion questions: in the post
  • Media: Video
  • Language focus: environment, action verbs, household items

Can you live a zero-waste life? I know I can’t…not yet anyway. But every year I try to incorporate a new environmentally friendly practice. For example, I switched my paper napkins for cloth napkins. I also buy at least 10% of my clothes at second hand shops. Also, I collect and bring all my styrofoam to a community drop off point.

It may not be a huge contribution to reducing my environmental footprint, but it’s something. I know we should and could be doing so much more. And I know that the degradation of our planet is alarming and overwhelming. But I also have to take care of my emotional well being. Thus, carrying the responsibility of saving the planet is pretty heavy. I try to not be too hard on myself about doing more and I try not to judge what everyone else is doing.

That said, I do like to hear what other people are doing to reduce waste and be better global citizens. Sometimes, there are practical things. Things that are not drastic or super time-consuming. Sometimes all I need are some ideas. Here is where Lauren Singer’s TED talk comes in handy.

Singer is an absolute champion at transforming her daily habits into zero waste practices. You heard that right…she produces no garbage at all. How does she do it? You’ll have to listen to her talk to find out.

Warm-up

  • What do you do to reduce waste?
  • What would you like to do, but feel that it is too much energy or too time-consuming?

The Talk: Why I live a zero-waste life by Lauren Singer

Discussion Questions

  • What inspired Singer to lead a zero-waste life?
  • Make a list of all the things Singer does to eliminate waste
  • What are some of the things Singer does that you could do?
  • What are some of things Singer does that you find too time consuming or complicated?
  • Do you think we are doing enough to reduce our environmental footprint?
  • What are some of the more important things we could do to reduce waste?

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?

What is your daily routine?

  • Media: Video
  • Language focus: Routines, Verbs

What is your daily routine?

My daily routine is the backbone of my success. I am nauseatingly disciplined and predictable. Even when I’m on vacation, I still need to do some of the same tasks to start the day on the right foot. For example, whether it’s a normal week, or I’m in the woods camping, I must start the day sitting quietly with a hot latte. Even my children have learned not to disturb me during that time.

Making Peace with my Limits

Clearly, somewhere down the road of my life, I have made my peace with the fact that if I don’t eat well, I feel like crap. If I don’t do enough exercise, my jeans get tighter. If I don’t make lists and prioritize, I feel overwhelmed and stressed. And if I don’t get a good night’s sleep, it all goes to hell.

Discipline and Repetition

Undoubtedly, the secret for me is doing the same things, in the same order, every day. It may sound boring, but it works. I don’t even have to think about it. And if I get that evil voice that says “forget the push-ups, just for this morning”, I really try to ignore it. It’s not that I am overly rigid, but in the grand scheme of things, I know what I need to feel good even if that means that while doing it, I feel like I’m dying.

Lesson Notes

For this lesson on daily routines, I found a great animated short that really sparks the good vs the bad habits. So not only can you generate the vocabulary of habits, you might get into a debate about why we need our habits and why it is difficult to maintain the good ones and push the bad ones aside.

You can use the accompanying handout ($1.99 on TPT). It includes key vocabulary and answer key. Or you can just watch the video and discuss with the questions included in this post.

Handout on TPT

Pre discussion

  • What do you do every day?
  • What do you do every week?
  • What do you do every year?
  • What routines make you feel good?
  • What routines make you feel not so good?

The Video: THE CHOICE by Project Better Self

Discussion

  • Make a good and bad list
  • What are some of the choices you make every day that contribute to your health?
  • What happens when you make good choices (mentally, physically)?
  • What are some of your “guilty pleasures”?
  • Is it possible to be too disciplined?
  • Do you agree with everything in the video?
  • If you were to change one thing in the good example, what would it be?

Why do we believe weird things?

  • Level: B1, B2, C1
  • Handout on TPT
  • Media: Video
  • Language focus: beliefs, superstitions, conspiracy theories, fake news, disinformation.

Why do we believe weird things?

Fake news, misinformation, disinformation, these concepts are all over the media. We all know it’s out there, but how can we tell what is true and what is fake? First, let’s play a game…

True or False

  • Salt makes water boil quicker.
  • You should never swim right after you eat
  • Some people are more right-brain thinkers and others more left-brain thinkers.
  • Toilets flush differently in the southern hemisphere than the northern hemisphere.
  • Einstein failed math.
  • Humans and dinosaurs co-existed
  • Vaccines cause autism.
  • You need to wait 24 hours to file a missing person’s report.
  • We use only 10% of our brain.
  • Most of our body heat leaves through our heads.
  • You should never wake a sleepwalker.
  • Bats are blind.
  • Alcohol keeps you warm.
  • Sugar creates hyper children.
  • Your hair and nails keep growing after you die.
  • Slaves built the pyramids in Egypt.

In case you use this to generate discussion with your class, I won’t give you the answers. You could invite your students to check for themselves at Readers Digest.

It’s your brain’s fault

Famous debunker and Skeptic.com’s editor-in-chief  Michael Shermer gives us a bit of insight into how our brain is wired to makes us believe weird things.  He explains and demonstrates how things like priming and cognitive bias are natural neurological predispositions that lead us to faulty conclusions. This discussion utilizes vocabulary in both pure science and psychology to demonstrate, in very cool ways, how media can create what I will term “information blind spots.”

Lesson Notes

***Caution! I did this lesson with a high intermediate student and they were overwhelmed with Shermer’s speed. I would recommend slowing the video down and using this True/False handout to explain and explore some of the vocabulary and concepts in the video. Have your students read through the statements and make predictions about the possible answers. Then have your students watch the video to confirm or correct their original impressions.

Pre discussion

Go through the handout and predict which statements are true or false.

The Video: Why People Believe Weird Things

Discussion

  • What makes us believe weird things…make a Mind Map of all the elements you hear?
  • Are you a skeptic?
  • Why don’t we listen to science?

Enjoy!

Mel

What’s the weather today?

I love talking about the weather. It is the single most easy way to initiate a conversation with a stranger or acquaintance if you need to break the silence. Great for elevator rides, spontaneous waiting time and warm repartee.

This particular discussion lesson goes from general to scientific to silly. The objective is to elicit the vocabulary around a familiar topic and add a level of complexity with either the science behind weather or weather-related expressions. I just couldn’t choose, so I put both.

Pre discussion

  • What are the different types of weather or climate you can name?
  • What affects the weather?
  • Do you use the weather forecast to plan activities?
  • What activities do you do in spring, summer, fall and winter?
  • What are the seasons like in your country?

Option 1: The Video: The Science of Weather

  • Divide the video into 2 or 3 segments and do a Tell Back  of the main themes and words
  • How do meteorologists sort through information, identify trends, and make predictions?
  • Why do they often get it wrong?
  • Why is it important to predict the weather?

Option 2: Weather idioms

For this, I made a handout and some flashcards. They are on Teachers Pay Teachers TPT. Click to go see.

handout
flashcards

Do you believe in luck?

  • Level: A1, A2, B1, B2
  • Handout: Free on TPT
  • Media: Video
  • Language focus: emotions, actions, comparisons

Do you believe in luck?

I once introduced one of my girlfriend’s to a boy that seemed to be a good match for her. When I asked if things had worked out, she said no. She said he was nice, but he did not seem to have luck. She said it as if ‘luck’ was something you could be born with.

Is luck something you are born with?

That was such a strange way of looking at luck. It made me realize that this idea can be seen in so many different ways depending on your culture, your beliefs and perhaps your superstitions.

On the one hand, it can open up discussions on gratefulness, positivity and recognizing all the things in our lives that make us feel lucky…our children, our health, various aspects of our lives that make us happy.

Luck and Culture

But luck can also be explored culturally. For instance, in Japanese mythology, the Seven Gods of Luck are believed to have the power to grant luck. Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism, also have gods or figures that are believed to bestow luck. I suppose this means that you can believe in luck like you would believe in god. Or that if you are unlucky, it may be because you don’t deserve luck.

In this wordless animated short by Mike Bidinger & Michelle Kwon called Jinxy Jenkins & Lucky Lou, yet another facet of luck is explored. Jinxy is a walking disaster. Every step he takes is laced with misfortune. He is nervous and unhappy all the time. Conversely, Lou is so lucky she seems bored and unchallenged. I will let you watch to see what happens when the two meet.

Lesson Notes

Warm up

Free on TPT

When I taught this lesson, I used this template to collect the answers. Feel free to use it too. It is a free handout on Teacher Pay Teachers. I included the results of our discussion in case you need some ideas to prime your discussion.

  • Do you think you are lucky?
  • What makes you feel lucky?
  • Does your culture have any beliefs or superstitions about luck?

The Video: Jinxy Jenkins & Lucky Lou by Mike Bidinger & Michelle Kwon

Discussion Questions

  • What actions or events in the movie make the girl (Lou) lucky?
  • What actions or events make the boy (Jinxy) unlucky?
  • Why do you think Jinxy is so unlucky? Is there anything in his attitude?
  • Why do you think Lou is so lucky?
  • What happens when they meet?
  • Why does Lou seem unhappy about being lucky?
  • Do you have any examples in your life where luck was important?
  • Would you be happy if you were as lucky as Lou?

What movie do you want to see?

Feel like going to the movies? As art imitates life, movies are a great way to take you out of your reality and plunge you into someone else’s. Let’s go take a look at the Rotten Tomatoes reviews to see what picks our fancy.

The site features both trailers and written reviews. It’s up to you how you want to fuel the vocabulary for this lesson.

Pre discussion 

  • What are some of your favourite movies?
  • What genre do you like most?

The site: Rotten Tomatoes 

Discussion Questions

  • Scan the titles and have participants pick one and say why (other than “it looks interesting”)
  • Go to the description, at the bottom, and do a quick Tell Back of the summary, pulling out key vocabulary.
  • Watch the trailer. Make a list of actions you see.
  • Describe the characters. What makes them interesting.

Do you want to climb a mountain?

I am an amateur rock climber…very amateur. It’s not for everyone, I know. But what is interesting about rock climbing is it puts you smack in the middle of a discussion between your “afraid-self” and your “courageous-self”.  Alex Honnold, famed for climbing Yosemite’s El Capitan without ropes, candidly talks about this discussion and how he talked his “afraid-self” into trusting his abilities.

Is fear always something to conquer?

There is a fine line between fear as the voice of a wise consultant and the voice of an insecure mother. In other words, sometimes fear is something you should conquer and sometimes it’s something you should heed.  Sadly, some fantastic athletes have died by choosing wrong.

Alex Honnold the Humble Hero

I am sharing this TED talk more because I am fascinated by Honnold’s composure, discipline and wisdom. What’s more, I think his experience creates an interesting context for a very different type of discussion about fear.

Pre discussion

  • Have you ever done anything that made you afraid?
  • How did you overcome your fear?
  • What are risks worth taking?

The Video: TED with Alex Honnold

  • What are all the elements that Honnold does to prepare for this feat (do a Mind Map)?
  • What did he do to overcome his fears?
  • Why was he not satisfied after he completed his climb?
  • What are the elements that go into “mastery”?
  • Do you master anything?

Are you a “multipotentialite”? Wait? What

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Personally, I wanted to be a teacher, a veterinarian, a filmmaker, a programmer, a social worker and then a teacher again. The prospect of choosing one single thing was super hard for me. But choose I did, and I never felt entirely happy doing what I was doing.

Is it possible that we don’t have one true calling? That we have more than one talent? One gift? That is the question that Emilie Wapnick asks her TED audience. She is a self-proclaimed “multipotentialite” which is to say, she has many potential careers and gifts.

I must say I got a little emotional watching this talk. I too am someone who has been constantly looking for my one true thing. Wapnick’s premise of the multipotentialite is a very freeing concept that really got my students thinking and talking (and using lots of job and skills related vocabulary).

Today I am a teacher who programs games, uses film and the web to build materials. Many of my students have alternative learning profiles like dyslexia and executive processing issues. I am considered an informal dog whisperer and on the weekends, I go horseback riding with my two daughters. So, somehow my multi-potentials came to fruition. How about you? When you compare what you wanted to do to and what you chose, did you find room for everything or did you concentrate on a few of your interests?

Pre discussion

  • What did you want to be when you were growing up?
  • If it changed, why did it change?
  • Have you changed your areas of interest as you grew older?
  • Why is it ok for children to have many career paths, but adults must choose one?

The Video: Ted why some of us don’t have one true calling by Emilie Wapnick

Post Video Discussion

You can use this handout to help the students focus their attention on certain areas of the talk. Remember, you can slow the video down and add subtitles if it helps. First, do a Tell Back.

  • Do you see yourself in Emilie’s concept of mulitipotentialite?
  • What is the problem of the “narrowly focused life”?
  • What are some of the problems Emilie encountered (4:00)?
  • What are the multipotentialite’s “superpowers” (6:30)?
  • What are the advantages of exploring all our interests?
  • How are those skills relevant in today’s job market?

Have a good discussion!

Do you follow anyone on YouTube or Instagram?

Do you follow anyone on any social media channels?

One of the newest trends in social marketing  is using”influencers” to promote new products. Influencers, as described by the CBC podcast included in this post, are people who have an ‘organic’ following on social media channels like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook or Linkedin. They are people, like you and me, who have gathered an audience of followers because of their ideas.

I guess you could say that it’s not unlike having a hero or a mentor or a model, but I think it is slightly different because they can be anyone and everyone and have complete strangers follow them.

I would like to preface this lesson by saying that the podcast is geared toward a more business English discussion on marketing and sales. But I think it can also feed a more general discussion about the place of social media in our lives as well as critical media literacy. It’s up to you to angle it the way it can work best for you.

Pre discussion

  • Do you have an “influencer”? In other words, someone you trust for wisdom and advice.
  • Do you follow any social media groups or people?

The Podcast

The podcast uses a lot of business vocabulary, so if you are using this post for a more general discussion, you could skip the listen portion an go right to the questions.  Otherwise listen to the podcast (11 min.) to flesh out some of the main ideas and key vocabulary.

  • What are some of the features of an influencer?
  • What are some of the dangers of using an influencer to endorse a product?
  • Why use an influencer instead of traditional advertising?
  • How do you know that a source or influencer is reliable?