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.

What matters most in life?

  • Level: B1, B2, C1
  • Handout on TPT 0.99$ (task cards included)
  • Language focus: modal auxiliaries, opinions
  • Media: video

What matters most in life? A nice juicy ESL discussion question that is maybe not so easy to answer. Or is it?

The main categories

We could start by exploring the large categories: money, family, health, happiness. Or we could get introspective and think of what, specifically, matters to us. Is it our children’s happiness, staying healthy, leading a full life, paying off our mortgage? It is one of those big questions that can deep and introspective or stay superficial and vague.

Feelings…nothing more than feelings

That’s why I like Denis Prager’s, from PragerU, exploration. He grabs this question with a very pragmatic point of view that leaves everyone, the vague and the introspective, with something to think about. One disclaimer though…the views expressed by the PragerU organization may differ from those of eslconversationlesson.com. Still, Prager’s presentation is impartial and practical, thus I think it useful to prompt an intelligent debate on the subject.

So then what?

In this ESL lesson, we go from a general discussion of our values, to then take a twisty turn into social dilemmas which put our values to the test. Whether you use the handout or not, make sure you take a look at the dilemma scenarios at the end of the document.

Warm up

  • Mind Map some of the things you and your students find important
  • In this list: money, family, health and happiness, which matter most to you?

The video: What Matters Most in Life?, by PragerU

Discussion

Use the document on Teacher Pay Teachers (0.99$)to collect some of the main ideas in the video and explore some “would you rather scenarios

Or if you prefer to just go right to the questions, here they are

In your opinion are the following statements true or false?

  • Money makes you happy
  • Love makes you happy
  • Good values make you happy

Why does Prager say that what matters most in life is our values?

Would you rather

  • Would you rather lose the ability to read or lose the ability to speak?
  • Would you rather be in jail for a year or lose a year off your life?
  • Would you rather have an easy job working for someone else or work for yourself but work incredibly hard?
  • Would you rather always be 10 minutes late or always be 20 minutes early?
  • For more: Would you Rather

Thanks you to all the Facebook teachers who helped me create this lesson.

Who is an entrepreneur?

Who is an entrepreneur? As you may have noticed from its odd pronunciation, the word comes from the French–it means someone who takes something on by him or herself. In French, entreprendre means to endeavour. So perhaps its meaning could be clarified if we re-coined the term as an endeavouror.

Sounds more bold and courageous, no? It certainly takes a bit of bravado to be an entrepreneur. But what else does it take? A fantastic idea, a super talent, money, time? All of those things?

If you have business students who are endeavouring (ha) to develop their business vocabulary, this Crash Course on entrepreneurship is a great place to start. The presenter goes through all the basics: what it is, who is likely to identify as such, what are the advantages, what are the disadvantages. All this with a cheeky style that kept me entertained for the full 10 min. The narrator is a fast talker, so I would suggest turning the CC on and slowing the video down. Also, please feel free to use this note-taking handout.

Click to get handout

Warm-up

  • Do a word association Mind Map with the word ‘entrepreneur’
  • Have you ever tried to start a business or a side-gig?

The Video: Who Even In An Entrepreneur by Crash Course

Discussion Questions

  • Do another word association Mind Map and compare it with the first.
  • What are some examples of entrepreneurship? In other words, what examples of ideas, products and business does the presenter give to help illustrate what an entrepreneur is?
  • Who is not an entrepreneur?
  • What does the presenter say about failure?
  • What is the “gig-economy”?
  • Steady employment can be fulfilling because…
  • Entrepreneurship can be fulfilling because…
  • What are some of your thoughts on entrepreneurship? Do you see yourself in this description? Why or why not?

When you go to someone’s house, what do you look at?

  • Level: A2, B1, B2, C1
  • Discussion questions in the post
  • Comparative and superlative handout 0.99$ on TPT
  • Language focus: rooms in the house, household items, comparatives and superlatives
  • Media: video

When you go to someone’s house, what do you look at? Oh yes, we all do it. Maybe you like to check out the kitchen or take a peek in the bedrooms, or maybe you check how clean the toilet is.

As humans, we all have a natural curiosity about how others live. Sometimes we judge, but I think we are also just curious. Sometimes it can be as ordinary as comparing the toothpaste other people use.

Researcher Anna Rosling Rönnlund takes this curiosity to a new level. In her TED talk, Rönnlund presents her massive sociological photographic database. It contains over 40,000 photos of everyday objects, like cutlery, toys, stoves and yes, toilets. So if you wonder what a toothbrush looks like in Burkina Fasso, or you want to see what distinguishes low-income families and very high-income families, this visual database unlocks huge truths in tiny mundane objects. For a voyeur like me, it provides hours of fascinating revelations.

But Rönnlund’s intentions reach far beyond curiosity. She explains that the power of visual data is about helping us better understand the world we live in and perhaps re-align some of our misguided beliefs

And aside from a fantastic eye-opening experience, the talk and the tool makes for great ESL material to practice the language of comparisons. Take a look-see…

Pr-Discussion

  • When you go to someone’s house, what do you like to look at? Why?
  • What is the most important room in a home?

The Talk: See how the rest of the world lives, organized by income by Anna Rosling Rönnlund

Discussion Questions

  • Why did Rönnlund take pictures of peoples’ homes?
  • What can we learn about some simple like utensils?
  • Stop the video on some of the pictures and compare:
    • Is there more or less
    • Is it bigger or smaller?
    • Is it simpler or more complicated?
    • Is it tidier or messier?
    • Is it cleaner or dirtier?
    • etc…

Are you an introvert, extrovert or ambivert?

Are you an introvert, extrovert or ambivert? You probably already know the answer, but wouldn’t you like to check? Organizational Psychologist Adam Grant shares his psycho-quiz on the TED site, which for us ESL practitioners can be transformed into a fantastic interactive reading exercise. I would suggest you pair up your students and ask them to quiz each other rather than simply have them do it individually.

But before jumping into the exercise I want to tell you why I snagged on this question in the first place. Yes, I like to psycho-analyze stuff with absolutely no authority to do so. And yes I love to use frameworks and patterns to help me understand the world better. But more than that, when it comes to spotting an introvert or extrovert or even knowing myself, I think I have it all wrong.

I recently watched a TED talk given by Brian Little which asks “Who are you really: the puzzle of personality,” in which he presents his framework for classifying personality traits. When he got to the extravert/introvert category, his explanation really puzzled me. According to him, I would be a total introvert. Me? I know right! Based on Little’s examples of the behaviours of each of these personalities, I would sway more on the reclusive quiet side.

Are you intrigued yet? So let me link each resource: first the TED quiz and then the TED talk. Let’s see you and your students change perspective…

Pre discussion

  • Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
  • What are some of the things you love and hate that demonstrate your personality?

The Quiz: Quiz: Are you an extrovert, introvert or ambivert? by Adam Grant

TED talk: Who are you really? The puzzle of personality?

Questions

  • What are the elements in Little’s framework?
  • Why do you think ‘kindness’ is not part of it?
  • Do you agree with his descriptions of introverts and extroverts?
  • Who do you know that fits those descriptions?
  • What are the advantages/disadvantages of introverts and extroverts?

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

Top 7 Travel Destinations 2019

If you could go anywhere on vacation, no budget, no constraints, where would you go? Erik Conover is a filmmaker and traveler and he has used social media to help him discover new and little know traveling gems.

He challenged his YouTube followers to make suggestions for the most incredible travel destinations. From this list, he charts his course and reports his adventures on his YouTube channel.

The result is a super interesting video of incredible destinations that have definitely made it to my bucket list.

Warm-Up

-What are your top 7 travel destinations and why?

The Video: Top 7 INCREDIBLE Travel Destinations of 2019 by Erik Conover

Questions

Depending on the level of your students, you can either watch the whole thing in one shot or pause it after each country and to a quick Tell Back.

For each destination say:

  • What activities can you do there?
  • What foods can you eat?
  • What discoveries did you make?

Have you been to any of the destinations in the video?

Which destination would you choose?

Which destination would you not choose?

If you could do a job a week, which would they be?

If you could do a job a week, which would they be?

Level: beginner, intermediate and advance

Ever feel like you want to re-invent yourself? Like even though you are an English teacher, you could have also been a baker, or a computer programmer.

In the spirit of practicality, we usually chose one job, study for it and then go do it. But in fact, very few people work in the field they study in and even fewer people are truly happy doing what they do.

That’s why I love this video by Sean Aiken. He finds the question of finding a profession so limiting and stressful, that instead of sitting in the dark and brooding about it, he challenged himself to a different job a week. 52 weeks 52 jobs.

In this post, I am referencing the trailer to the film as a discussion launch pad.

Pre Discussion

  • Mind Map all the different jobs and fields you know
  • If you could choose 5 jobs instead of just one, what would they be?

The Video: On Week Job Trailer

Discussion

  • What is Aiken’s response to finding his passion?
  • What do you think it will led Aiken? What job do you see him doing?
  • Why is he doing this video?
  • Which jobs would you do if you could do a job a week?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of this strategy?
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Why do humans treat their pets like human beings?

Why do humans treat their pets like human beings? Yep, I’m guilty of that sometimes. And why wouldn’t I? Sometimes my dog is nicer to me that my children are. This phenomena is called anthropomorphism and there are many reasons we do this.

Somehow the relationship with a pet is a more intuitive and perceptually deeper. Since they don’t have words to tell us what they really think , we use empathy to ‘read’ them. And since animals are very good at picking up our vibes, it feels like they understand us better than our human counter parts.

I think it is normal to appreciate this, but do you think that showering them with treats and love and affection is good for them? It is also normal to want to give our pets a good life, but what should that really look like?

Pre discussion

  • What do pets bring to our lives?
  • How would you describe a healthy pet-owner relationship?
  • Some vocabulary:
    • pampered
    • appealling
    • mischievous
    • bond and bonding
    • alleviate stress
    • Behaviour

Video and Article: New York Times Why Humans Treat Their Dogs Like People

Discussion

  • Do a Mind Map of the main points of the video
  • Who is Tinker Bell?
  • Why does Annie Grossman think anthropomorphizing animals is problematic?
  • What did B.F. Skinner do to help us understand behaviour?
  • Is anthropomorphizing animals a northern hemisphere phenomena? How do you view animals in your culture?

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Are you protected from identity theft?

Are you protected from identity theft? It’s a scary thought really because my own personal answer is: I don’t know. I change my passwords regularly, I back up my computer, I don’t open any emails that ask me to give my personal information, and I never, repeat never, give my password to anyone. But is that enough?

Pre discussion

  • Have you or someone you know had problems with having your identity compromised?
  • What do you do to protect your identity?

The Video: Pattie Lovett-Reid: Tips For Preventing Identity Theft


Discussion

  • According to Lovett-Reid, when is your personal information most vulnerable?
  • What are some of her tips?
  • What are some of the things we should be aware of?
  • What are some of the first things you should do if you think your identity is compromised?

I don’t mean to scare anyone, but the more we talk about it, the better prepared we can be.

 

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