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 believe in luck?

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.

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.

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 facette 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.

Warm up

  • 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 event in the movie make the girl (Lou) luck?
  • What actions or event 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?

When I taught this lesson, I used this template to collect the answers. Feel free to use it too. I included the results of our discussion in case you need some ideas to prime your discussion.

Let me know in the comments section how it turns out for you.

Can you live a zero-waste life?

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 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?

Can my body language affect my mood?

Can my body language affect my mood? Your body language may not only affect how people perceive you, but it may also have an impact on your brain chemistry. Watch Amy Cuddy’s famous TED talk (I suggest you break it down into smaller parts and do short Tell Backs) to find out just how profound the way we carry ourselves changes our outlook.

Teachers note: 

Cuddy speaks fast, but the vocabulary is relatively repetitive and she uses a lot of non-visuals. I would encourage you to preface this video with a bit about the Whole Language Approach. Tell them that they don’t have to understand everything. Review some of the meta-tools they have to achieve comprehension: non-verbal language, guessing from context. It may be frustrating for adults not to understand everything, but I feel it is important to expose them to first language material to prepare them for real life conversations with native speakers. Thus the more they get used to (by that I mean get used to not understanding everything) quick talking native speakers the more they will likely take their English out and use it.

Also you can add subtitles and slow the video down a bit with these features:

Pre discussion

  • Some vocabulary:
    • posture
    • body language
    • non verbal behaviour
    • power dynamics
    • power and dominance
    • assertive
    • optimistic
    • hormone
    • fake it t’ill you make it
  • What kind of body language makes a good impression? 
  • How important do you think body language is in communication

*You could cut the video at about 14:00 where Cuddy describes the study that supports her findings. Unless you find that interesting (which it is) it might be a little detached from the general point.

The Video: TED Amy Cudy Your body language may shape who you are

 

What is the most important element that Cuddy is highlighting?

Why is it important to be “body aware”?

What will happen if you change your body language the way Cuddy suggests?

What can you conclude about the impacts of posture on our outlook on life?

For more on this topic see Body Language Mistakes

 

Bitmoji Image

What do you worry…? Preposition Practice

Prepositions can be a bit nebulous to second language learners. Yet they do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to meaning. So in many cases, it’s important to get it right. Here is a very short activity that requires the participants to complete the questions with the correct preposition. BUT after the exercise is complete, you can use the questions for a general discussion…double whammy.

Also, if as a teacher you need to get your head around explaining prepositions, this Khan academy presentation breaks it down a little. This is not material I would use with a student, but I thought it was interesting to freshen up my grammar knowledge and get a bit of the method behind the preposition madness. So to speak.

Meet the Preposition

 

What picture speaks to you?

In my opinion, photography is one of the most important inventions of the last century. The ability to record our past, slices of life, memories. Its impact on history and culture is so vast, it goes way beyond our little discussion circle.

ESL with pictures is probably one of my most powerful lessons. It doesn’t matter what level you students are at, a picture is bound to conjure some vocabulary

National Geographic is one of my “go to’s” when it comes to esl picture prompts. So many of their pictures give me pause. Either because of their beauty or what they tell.

Let’s dive right into this lesson and visit National Geographic’s Photo of the Day Archive…

  • Let the students pick a photo that they find interesting.
  • Have them describe it
  • Have the other student do a Power Listing exercise and ask the speaker at least one question or provide one comment about what was said.
  • You could also do a Q&A exercise where the student pick a picture in their minds and the others ask questions to try to discover which picture it is.

Let me know how it goes…

 

What would be different if I knew then what I know now?

Experience is a funny thing. When we don’t have it, we don’t always know it. We are in a state of  “blissful ignorance.” What is blissful about ignorance you ask? Well mainly that we can go around judging things with a feeling of superiority and mastery.

Let’s consider a concrete example…

Ever stroll through the aisles of the supermarket, quietly contemplating dinner plans and peacefully reading labels only to be violently yanked out of  your reverie by a screaming child? You know what I am talking about: the epic supermarket toddler meltdown. Oh yes, they cry they scream, either they want out, they want in. For goodness sake, what do they want?

I admit it, I judged the parents of those children. But now that I am a mother, I too have been the mother of a screaming toddler. Sometimes I reflect on how my perspective has changed and I feel guilty about my un-empathetic superior thoughts I had about those parents.

This lesson features a funny video about how non-parents see parents. I like the video because it is repetitive enough that students may be able to get the humour.  As you may know, understanding humour in a foreign language is rather challenging, so any time I find something that can make people laugh, I like to use it.

But I feel the discussion lies beyond the video. I think it’s about how experience changes us. And how sometimes that very experience can have us looking as crazy as the people on the video.

Rather than have a pre-discussion as a warm up, I would use the video to get prime the participants’ thoughts.

The Video: What Parenting Sounds Like to Non-Parents

Discussion

  • Can you think of a ‘before and after’ situation where experience made you change your perspective?
  • What events in your life (e.g. becoming a parent, changing jobs, moving to a foreign country) have changed the way you think about things?
  • Can you remember a scene in your life that made you look as crazy and the people in the video?
  • If you were going to make a video like this one, what would the topic be?