Where did you go on vacation?

Where did you go on vacation?

A simple question to start off the new eslcoversationlesson.com season. Of course, not everyone goes on vacation, but usually, the summertime presents opportunities for special visits, adventures, road trips and vacations. I love my vacations. My family and I look forward to them all year. And then, when they are over, we talk about them all year.

There is so much more that happens other than the vacation. No television (less of it anyway), we spend our days together, we eat special food, do activities we have never done before–It is a total break in the routine.

Hiking in Vermont

That’s why this week’s theme will be devoted to summer, vacations and routine-breakers.

Warm up

Do a quick Mind Map of the vocabulary associated with vacations.

The Discussion

My colleague Larry Pitts has an absolutely fabulous site chalked full of open-ended questions. I think this is the perfect place to start our vacation discussion.

Click on the image to go to the site.

The next posts will feature a video or perhaps an article, but for today, the good ol’ Q&A will do the trick.

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Do you have a job or a mission?

  • Level: B2-C1
  • Discussion questions included in the post
  • Media: Video
  • Language focus: jobs, hypotheticals, modals

Do you have a job or a mission?

Celeste Headlee, a trained opera singer turned radio show host, has some rather interesting insight to share about the difference between a job and a mission. She also has a lot to say about how we get stuck focusing on our education and job expectations. But if you think she gives the same old spiel about finding your passion, being brave and embracing your true calling, you would be wrong. She knows we all have mortgages, rent, food, and stuff to pay for. Moreover, she also knows that finding your passion is complicated, changing, and doesn’t always match the needs of the market. Thankfully, she is not going to tell you to quit your job or sit at the top of a mountain to meditate.

Practical vs. Ideal

This is the third post on this series on jobs and careers. So far we have gone through some basic vocabulary and explored what jobs are out there and then saw some fun ways to go about choosing. In this post, we will take a more analytical approach and explore the skills connected to jobs. We are going to exercise our mental flexibility and examine the components of various jobs or fields and see how they can apply to other jobs and fields.

Warm up

  • What do you think is the difference between a job and a mission?
  • How many job-related skills can you name? e.g. if you are a teacher, that means you have skills in public speaking, pedagogical design, presentation design, audience analysis, planning, leadership etc.

The Video: TED Don’t find a job, find a mission

Discussion questions

  • Do a Mind Map or recap of all the main points of the talk (see our list)
  • What do you do? What are the skills involved in your job?
  • Do you like your job? What do you like and don’t like?
  • What things do you look for when looking for work?
  • If you were to do something completely different, what would it be?
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Profession: super hero

Do you talk to strangers?

Do you talk to strangers? Maybe we should.

Did your mother tell you not to talk to strangers? Mine did. Was that really good advice? Of course, we don’t want to compromise the safety of our children and we are not all be social butterflies. We have our personalities and our boundaries and it is important to respect ourselves in that way.

But isn’t there something alarmist, maybe even cold, about stranger danger? Are we encouraging isolation, apathy, disengagement, fear, tribalism? Even though it is natural to gravitate toward people who have familiar ideas and beliefs, could we be missing something?

In Malcolm Gladwell’s new book “Talking to Strangers” he exposes how opening ourselves up to others has a lot to teach us. But it is not all touchy-feely shiny happy people communing. Talking to strangers can be very destabilizing and may even reveal or confirm that there are some twisted people out there. Not everyone is truthful and not everyone is empathetic. But some are, and by closing ourselves off for fear for landing on a bad one, we are pruning our outlook and our own empathy.

Justin Trudeau’s keynote address to the NYU graduates takes this notion to the next level. He calls us out on our hidden biases, our fears, our tribalism. He wants to inspire us to have courage and get to know those who make us uncomfortable, get to know those who don’t resemble us and get to know those who don’t think like us. For him, and perhaps for Gladwell as well, talking to strangers is the path to world peace…no less.

Warm up

  • What do you think talking to strangers can achieve?
  • Why is it so difficult for us?

The Video: Justin Trudeau Diversity doesn’t have to be a weakness!

Discussion Questions

  • What are some of the main messages that stuck with you?
  • What does Trudeau mean when he talks about ‘tribalism’?
  • What does he mean when he says “win the argument”?
  • What can we do to know the good strangers from the bad strangers? Are there tools, tricks?
  • Do you think Trudeau is being naïve? In what way?
  • What are some of the ‘juicy’ words and expressions? Make a list and see if you can put them in other sentences.

Try something new for 30 days

I recently read the book The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. In the book, the main character visits a library in a parallel dimension where each book represents one of her possible lives…should she have made different choices. The journey takes us into multiple different versions of this character, Nora Seed. She is a rock star, a mother, a glaciologist, an Olympic swimmer, a philosophy professor and the list goes on. In each life, Seed has the luxury of measuring the level of happiness and fulfillment the different paths procure her.

What if

It is the classic “what if”, question. Of course, it got me thinking of my own life. Then, instead of delving into regretted choices or getting depressed about what could have been, I thought of this TED talk by Matt Cutts: Try something new for 30 days. Since we cannot travel into parallel universes to see what could have been, Cutts’ idea is the next best thing.

Parallel Lives for 30 Days

We have all heard it before, we must step out of our comfort zone to grow…right? Cutt’s takes this to the next level with his self-imposed 30-day challenge. What I like about Cutt’s talk, is it gives a more tangible objective to this idea of trying new things. It may not be as profound as the Midnight Library, but it’s a start. After all, what’s 30 days?

Warm-up

  • What new thing would you like to try but haven’t yet?
  • What does it mean to “step out of your comfort zone”?
  • What are the benefits of doing new things? Any disadvantages?
  • What are the benefits of sticking with what you know? Any disadvantages?

The Video: Try something new for 30 days

Discussion Questions

  • Why does Matt think this is a good idea?
  • What did it change in his life?
  • What areas of our lives could we apply this to? Make a Mind Map
  • Do you have any spontaneous ideas that you might like to try for 30 days?



What have I learned from soap operas?

What have I learned from soap operas? Honestly, nothing. Except, there was one particularly boring summer, I was a teenager, no friends close by, and no motivation to get off the basement sofa. I got sucked into the soap opera vortex. There I learnt that I could spend an entire summer on a 5-foot sofa. I was addicted to the brain-numbing entertainment–the very thing I warn my children against. The whole summer…in the basement…me, the cycling, camping, hiking outdoor enthusiast that I am. Yep, that was one teenage phase that I am not really proud of.

Beyond the frivolous entertainment

But Kate Adams, assistant casting director at the Emmy-winning soap opera “As the World Turns,” puts a different spin on things. Funny, thought-provoking and vulnerable, she relates some of the crazier themes in soaps to her own life. In fact, I felt rather touched by her story (and a little less judgmental of my summer in the basement).

Give us something to talk about

Whether you are or were a soap opera aficionado, Adams’ “life lessons” will give you an interesting angle to reflect and discuss how these lessons could relate to your life. Warning: I don’t think your students will understand the references Adams makes. Still, I’m sure they will get the gist of the lessons and may even have some soap opera/telenovela memories of their own to share. You may even be surprised to find that many of us had a “soap opera” phase in our lives.

I made a handout for the lesson on TPT for $0.99 (teachers pay teachers), but I have also put the main discussion questions in this post.

Warm-up

  • Do you follow some sort of soap opera or series on television?
  • What do you like about it?

The video: Kate Adams 4 Larger than Life Lessons from Soap Operas

Discussion Questions

  • What are the 4 lessons?
  • Which of Kate Adams’ lessons do you think is the most important? Why?
  • What are some of the life lessons you carry with you when times get tough?
  • Do you have any life stories that show how you applied these lessons?

Oh…and this is too fun not to share: soap operas from around the world.

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!

Would you rather text than talk?

Would you rather text or email than talk?

It’s just so easy. I don’t have to interrupt anyone, I can write while I’m in the moment, I don’t have to hold anything in my memory, I don’t even have to wait my turn to talk. When the thought appears, I can just shoot a message off and my counterpart can react when it is convenient for them. In some case, with my more talkative friends (and family members) a digital message is the only way I can get a word in edgewise.

Plus, I can re-read, check my tone or make sure I didn’t word anything in an insensitive way. I can edit. Digital communication allows me to put forth my best self. Great stuff…right?

Sherry Turkle is not so sure. Her TED talk Connected but Alone? takes a good hard look at what digital communication may be doing to us. We have all heard that technology may be making us more isolated, so beyond this statement, just how it is doing that? Turkle gets right under the hood of our communication habits and puts forth some thought provoking concepts that definitely gave me pause.

This lesson is definitely for more advanced students. I did this with a mixed class of high level and lower level students and the lower level were a bit lost. However, I still recommend using first language material as much as you can to get their ears and minds used to native speaking. Once they get over focusing on what they don’t understand and focus on what they do, they will increase their ability to get into the English speaking community.

Pre discussion

  • Let’s hypothesize…Why do you think Turkle thinks texting and emailing is making us more isolated?
  • Make a pros and cons list for digital communication
  • What is the difference between isolation and solitude?
  • What is the difference between friendship and companionship?
You can change the play back speed
And add subtitles

The Video: TED Sherry Turkle: Connected but Alone?

There is a ton of stuff to talk about here. And rather than try to Tell Back everything Turkle says (although you are free to do that), I would jump right into the discussion with some of the following key ideas:

  • “We want to customize our lives and control where we put our attention”
  • “We are getting used to being alone…together”
  • “We are compromising companionship for friendship”
  • “We have an illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship”
  • “We can’t get enough of each other, at a distance, in amounts we can control”
  • “We use technology to manage our relationships in ways we can comfortably control”
  • Technology is satisfying 3 basic fantasies:
    • We can put our attention where we want it to be
    • We will always be hear
    • We will never be alone
  • “Being alone feels like a problem that needs to be solved”
  • “I share therefore I am”
  • “Connection is creating isolation”
  • “We need to cultivate the capacity for solitude”
  • “We need to build a self-aware relationship with technology”

And I could go on and on pulling quotes from this video. Turkle is articulate, astute and a fantastic social analyst.

I am ready to admit that I am getting caught in the fray of convenience, but short of stopping (which is not going to happen) Turkle has helped me see where I might be more self-aware.

I hope you enjoy talking about this as much as me and my students.

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What are the top 5 vacations…just for you?

Are you ready for a vacation, but don’t know where to go? Have I got a fantastic tool for you. The Washington Post offers this wild vacation planner tool. All you have to do is answer their questions and the computer will generate the top vacation spots based on your answers.

Is that not an awesome ESL exercise! I was beyond tickled when I stumbled on this gem of a website. Not only is it super useful for the common mortal, but it is also a fantastic speaking, reading and conversation exercise.

The questions are interesting and the options are funny. You may need to help the students with some of the jokes and figurative language, but once they understand that they don’t really have to understand everything verbatim, they should have a good time.

The articles are well written, perhaps a little challenging at times, but include many pictures.

How I would Teach This

  1. Get students in pairs. One person asks the questions and the other answers
  2. Let the computer generate the results
  3. Ask each student to choose an article, even if they are not the traveller. Each read and then do a Tell Back on the content.
  4. Switch roles and repeat steps 1 to 3.

The article: Washing Post Vacation Finder

Washington Post Vacation Finder

Let me know how it turns out.

Bon voyage

What do your hobbies do for you?

What do your hobbies do for you?

Do you knit, run, read, eat, garden? Hobbies are acticities that we do for the sheer pleasure of doing them. They help us take time for ourselves. Whether they are sports related or a more relaxing activity, a hobby is something to enjoy. In other words, when you have given them a bit of time, you feel recharged and happy–as opposed to guilty or tired.

Personnally, I have more hobbies than I probably should. I love relaxing. I knit, paint, garden, cook, take long walks with my dog, read and write blogs. In fact, my hobbies help me channel a lot of creative energy. My husband on the other hand uses hobbies like obsesive video game playing to expell his stress. I’m not sure that it works though.

Moreover, not everybody nutures hobbies. In fact, in many cultures hobbies can be viewed as lazy or a waste of time–something you do when you are children or you want to avoid ‘real’ work. What do you think? Are hobbies healthy or a waste of time? In this Huffington Post article, the author develops the idea that there are good and not so good hobbies.

Warm up

Do a Mind Map of the different hobbies.

The Artcle: Healthy Hobbies That Will Improve Your Life

  • Scan for words that describe the benefits of hobbies.
  • What hobbies do you have?
  • Out of the 11 hobbies listed in the article, which would you like to try?
  • What is it about that activities that sparks your interest?

Do you eat…environmentally?

Being environmentally mindful can mean much more than composting your food scraps and recycling packaging. There are hundreds of little gestures that can contribute to making the planet healthier.

How many try to pack litterless lunches? Do you use plastic produce bags for your fruits and vegetables? Do you use reusable shopping bags? And more importantly, do you think that any of this makes a difference in the planet’s health?

And what about the way we buy food. Do you try to buy local? Can you tell which is local from the imported stuff? What do you know about how your food is produced? If you are like me, probably not enough.

If we look at food buying trends, it would appear that we are trying to shop and eat smarter. So what do you think that means? In this PBS Hot Mess feature, they take a look at global food production and why it is so hard to change methods that are depleting the planet of its resources.

About the video: the information is not always easy to follow. It is full of government references (I guess it must be interesting for someone) and they bring up many questions but don’t really get to the answers. Still, I suggest you get through to the end. The conclusion carries many of the main messages and leaves a few concrete things to think about.

Warm-up

  • How have you changed the way you buy food in the last 10 years?

The Video: PBS Hot Mess Food vs. Climate Change

Discussion

  • First, do a global Tell Back of the video…broad strokes.
  • What do they mean by a universal food reference?
  • Does eating more fruit and vegetables help the environment?
  • Why is it hard to change our food habits?

Agree or disagree

  • Adopting a universal reference diet is easy
  • To reduce carbon emissions, all we have to do is eat less meat
  • If people knew more about how food is produced we could change damaging food production practices
  • There is nothing we can to do change food production