Can you describe what emotions you are experiencing right now? This is the question Tiffany Watt Smith asks her TED audience to sensitize them on how easy or how hard it is to put words on our emotions. This is a fantastic presentation to conjure the vocabulary of emotions and an esl psychology lesson.
Do you think words can really describe how we feel? If you watched the movie Inside Out, or are knowledgeable about the scientific litterature on emotions, you may have heard that emotions have been broken down into 6 basic forms: anger, fear, disgust, happiness, sadness and surprise. The first time I read this, I found it hugely oversimplified. I just couldn’t relate my own personal experience with this. Yet, these basic emotions seem to be the baseline for emotional researchers.
Smith challenges this simple view of emotional language. She looks across different languages and cultures to show the complexity and diversity of the words used to describe how we are feeling. She even suggests that the very existence of these words may allow us to feel things that people in other cultures don’t. She exposes a compelling and thought provoking-idea that words can shape how we feel. Before you start, be sure to download the Google docs included in this post. It has a preliminary list of emotions vocabulary words.
What emotion words do you know?
Do you think you are good at talking about how you feel?
The Video: TED The History of Human Emotion Discussion by Tiffany Watt Smith
I would break this presentation down into a series of snippets and begin by doing Tell Backs of each segment. In fact, if you have more basic students, I would stop at the 6 min mark and center a discussion on the vocabulary of emotions. However, for more advanced learners, I would go through the presentation as it digs much deeper into the topic of the history of emotions and may be very engaging for higher-level discussions.
What emotions does Smith talk about?
Can you give some examples of the emotional language of other cultures?
What stuck with you in Smith’s presentation?
Do you have words in your native language that describe feelings that don’t exist in English?
How are emotions viewed in your culture? Do you talk about them, or not?
What, according to you, is emotional intelligence?
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.
How have you changed the way you buy food in the last 10 years?
The Video: PBS Hot Mess Food vs. Climate Change
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
How do you poach an egg? Yes, that is my discussion question for today. Easy right? In my humble experience, poaching an egg is one of the harder cooking skills I have ever had to master.
But aside from the culinary anecdotes, the mmmEnglish YouTube channel prepares cooking lessons with the goal of teaching English. Now I know it goes against the Whole Language Approach to use adapted materials, but I think this video has got all the authenticity features of first language material and is a great resource for beginner ESL material, of which I don’t have a whole lot.
So if you are looking for a good launchpad to teach food words or cooking verbs or just a good listening exercise that focuses on process, this is a short, slow, clear and useful video. Especially if you are trying, as I am, to make the perfect poached egg. Bon appétit!
Do a quick Mind Map of all the food words your students know. Perhaps you could also prompt a few cooking verbs.
The Video: How to Poach an Egg by mmmEnglish
What are the ingredients?
What tools are needed?
What are the steps?
Complete these sentences:
The water is perfect when it has small________ but it is not boiling.
The yoke must be _______but not hard.
Toast is just a ________that has be toasted in the ______
______butter on the toast.
Make a list of all the cooking verbs. Can you put them in another sentence?
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.
-What are your top 7 travel destinations and why?
The Video: Top 7 INCREDIBLE Travel Destinations of 2019 by Erik Conover
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?
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.
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
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?
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?
What do pets bring to our lives?
How would you describe a healthy pet-owner relationship?
bond and bonding
Video and Article: New York Times Why Humans Treat Their Dogs Like People
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?
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
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.
When you speak, do you think people listen to you? Do you think they understand–that they hear you? Ever watch a speech by former President Barak Obama? I just can’t stop listening. However, when my husband gives me the run down of the daily news, most times I totally tune out.
Why is that? According to Julian Treasure, there are many different aspects to a successful speaker ranging from tone of voice to subject matter. His TED talk presents some of the communication approaches that shut people down and those that open people up.
It is a talk that explores both the behavioural and mechanical aspects of speaking that I find rather interesting. Perhaps you and your students will too.
Name some of the people you love to listen to
Why do you like them?
Name some people you tend to tune out of.
The Video: TED Julian Treasure: How to speak so that people want to listen
What are some of the behaviours or approaches that make listeners tune out?
What are some of the tools in Treasure’s tool box?
Do a little analysis of yourself. Which behaviours do you have that may put your listeners off?
Do you use/have some of Treasure’s tools already?
What could you adopt that may enhance your speaking without making yourself seem unnatural?
Do you have any anecdotes of good and bad speakers (e.g. teachers, parents, bosses, etc…)
What makes good art? If you have a few art lovers in your class, I think they will enjoy this lesson.
Does an artist have to suffer to make good art? Is it the amount of time one spends on the piece? The complexity, the skill of the artist, the message, the feeling it creates…what?
I am always fascinated when I watch my children draw or make crafts. They dive in with their whole being–fearless. They never doubt their ability to produce or that the result will be great. On the other hand, I am not submitting every piece to the Smithsonian…
So between the fearless child, to the tortured soul, what makes a piece of art great? In this PBS series the Art Assignment, they explore many of the stereotypes we attach to the “true” artist and they challenge some of the values we attach to quality. But better still, they talk about how, regardless of the process, art can make us feel less alone in the complex journey of being human.
Do you go to museums or buy books to look at art?
What kind of art do you like?
What are some artist you know
The Video: PBS The Truth of the Tortured Artist
If you find this video a little fast or vocabulary dense, don’t forget that you can add CC (close captions) to help comprehension and you can slow the video down in the YouTube settings
I would cut the video into parts and do Tell Backs on each. I would take notes on key vocabulary.
Part 1 from 0 to 1:07
Part 2 from 1:07 to 2:10
Part 3 from 2:10 to 3:45
Part 4 from 3:45 to 4:30 (on Picasso)
Part 5 from 4:30 to 4:45 (on Frida Kahlo)
Part 6 from 4:45 to 6:45 (on art as an outlet for pain)
Part 7 from 6:45 to end (what are some of the purposes of art?)
Do you think an artist has to anguish over a piece for it to be good. Or is it more a question of skill and craft (in the other words being very good at what they do)?
What are some of the states of mind art can come from?
If I could grant you all the skills you need to be an artist, why would you make art?
Are you a procrastinator or a planner? That is the question. Personally I am a planner. I get a sense of what needs to be done, break it down into task and plan it out so that I can do it before the deadline. I think that is largely due to the fact that being dyslexic, I need time to review. But that is certainly not true for everyone. In fact, Miles Bess exposes that up to 95% of people consider themselves to be procrastinators. That’s huge! I had no idea.
So let’s talk about this…
Do you wait t’ill the late minute to do things or do you plan ahead?
What benefits do you get out of being one or the other?
The Video: PBS Above the Noise: Can Procrastination Be a Good Thing?
Why do you think so many people procrastinate?
What are the pros and cons of procrastination?
What famous people or documents were made last minute?
Can you explain ‘task-driven’ and ‘deadline driven’
What are some of your procrastination ‘go-to’s’ (e.g. video games, eating, shopping, etc.)