The inspiration

This idea for the lesson came to me from the book written by Jordan Peterson that has become quite a hit recently. I thought that the title alone could be a basis for some discussion on the topic of ‘Life’ and what it means to students and how they approach it. Feel free to adapt this lesson idea as you wish.

Teacher Notes

It’s important to point out that this lesson requires Upper-Intermediate to Proficiency level students of English. They need to be able to express concrete and abstract ideas and use at times more advanced language to articulate their thoughts. This lesson can also be a nice break in an English for Academic Purposes (EAP) lesson since it requires some critical thinking. Please note that you should be familiar with the rules to some extent in order to provide feedback to students when having a discussion on the ‘rules’. This lesson can be adapted in many ways. Hope it’s valuable to you.


You can use the words for describing problems or tackling issues which are in the links below. These are language areas I have covered in my Youtube videos and lesson ideas page. Any words in italics  might need explaining and also you can take some of the ideas from the rules and put them on the board to introduce the topic and get students to discuss their relevance to life. Here are some ideas: Sincerity, Body language, insecurity and self-confidence, sense of worthiness, active listening, relationships real vs superficial, order.

For some of these words you can have questions ready, such as:

  • What are real and what are superficial relationships?
  • What does “order” mean to you? How important is it in your life?
  • How often do you take an interest in what others have to say?
  • Are you genuinely interested in other people? provide examples when you did this.
  • How important is body language in your opinion? In which situations does it have an impact on communication? give examples.

These questions can provide a solid foundation for the rules when introduced so students feel more comfortable discussing them.

The lesson

What makes life challenging?

Depending on the age of your students you will get different ideas, perspectives and opinions. Write some of the ideas on the board in a spidergram with the word ‘Life’ written in the middle.

What are some rules/solutions/ideas that can help deal with these challenges? Brainstorm.

If you want to introduce vocabulary on the topic of describing problems Here’s a video with all the vocabulary related to this.

You can also introduce some synonyms and collocations I posted in this lesson idea on tackling problems.

Those two links will provide and allow you to choose the language you want to focus on around this lesson for your students. You can be flexible with the amount of language/vocabulary you want to introduce.

Here is a great animated video that summarizes the 12 rules of life from the book. You can use this video as a listening activity in your class with some basic concept questions. Or use it for explanations into some of the rules after students have had time to discuss them and their meaning. Obviously if you just give them the rules straight away on the projector or photocopy ask them to

  • a) discuss, their meaning,
  • b) whether they agree with them or not, and
  • c) to come up with some of their own rules.


For the final part(c above) you can put students in groups and ask them to present to the class what they decided on. This allows each group to share their ideas and conclusions and get some reactions from their classmates (open class discussion).

Get feedback. Again, use parts of the video to shine light on which rules students might have misinterpreted or understood in a different way. I’d advise familiarizing yourself with the rules in order to give proper feedback and explain certain concepts to your students.

Follow-up questions:

Which of the rules would you consider adapting? why?

Do the ‘rules for life’ depend on your sex, nationality, culture, age, social class? Are they universal? Explain

The author of the book has been controversial and there is an interview where some of the topics he discusses in today’s society are brought up. You can watch it here. If you have time to watch the whole thing you could take excerpts and share them with your students.

The rules

  1. Stand up straight with your shoulders back.
  2. Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.
  3. Make friends with people who want the best for you.
  4. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday not to who someone else is today.
  5. Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.
  6. Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.
  7. Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient).
  8. Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie.
  9. Assume the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.
  10. Be precise in your speech.
  11. Do not bother children when they are skateboarding.
  12. Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street.

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