Success and Failure

In thinking about our lessons, teachers should always try to be unconventional in the topics they cover in their ESL classes.  Students study English for years and therefore should be exposed to a variety of topics that will hopefully also be meaningful to them.  I often have come across topics in course books on super heroes or interior design which are not practical for students.  Animals are a common topic in course books as well, but often lack the practicality that students are seeking when learning a language.

With that said, it is important to think out of the box and challenge your students to think about stuff they might not have expected a language lesson would cover.  Remember that as an ESL teacher you are not only offering language lessons but an opportunity to learn something more.  Soft skills, effective communication between coworkers, emails, presentation techniques etc.  Additionally, you should think about intercultural competence.  What does that mean?

Speaking a language involves many elements that are not always taken into consideration by teachers because typically, a course book published somewhere in Britain is suggesting that learning English means being English!  So focus is subtly put on British manners, politeness, interests, cultural values, and traditions…. Suffice to say that we should be adding more intercultural elements then that to our lessons! 🙂

My point is to get away from this (course book teaching) whenever you can and be creative and original.  Try to fuse together different cultural perspectives into your ESL class.  One of my main goals when teaching, is to try and do this as often as possible.  It gets you out of familiar territory and is refreshing to students.

So here we go.  This week the topic is: Success and Failure

                This is a fantastic topic, that offers plenty of vocabulary, that can be reinforced with reading and listening practice and followed by discussion.  So right from the start you have all these areas covered, now you just need to piece them together.  Let’s start with the reading and listening.  Here’s an article I came across recently regarding failure and when you had to deal with it. That article also offers a link to this lesson idea on the same subject, which also provides lots of great questions you could incorporate in your lesson.  Pay particular attention to the “key questions” section for the discussion part of your lesson.

If you prefer to focus on success that should be easy with a simple google search, since writing about that is much more common.  You can do a jigsaw reading with both articles.  Divide students into two groups, one of which will read the “failure” article, while the other will read the “success” article.  Break those groups into subgroups and cut the articles into appropriate parts so that afterwards students will work with a partner and put them together.  Once that is done students summarize what they’ve read, by writing down the main ideas, and then sit with someone from the other group so that they share the ideas of their article with their partner who read the other one.  That’s one way to go.

Another option could be that you just come up with lead in/ warm up questions followed by comprehension questions after students have read it (choose one article, or both).  Afterwards focus on vocabulary from the article and introduce any words you think are relevant.  Finally, hold a discussion on the topic.  One aspect of vocabulary always worth introducing is phrasal verbs.  Frequently, I have students ask me to practice phrasal verbs and common idioms because natives use them so much, and consequently they have problems with understanding the exact meaning.  Anytime you can introduce a little bit of this kind of vocabulary is great.  There is a great book “Phrasal verbs in use” that has a whole chapter on this topic.  Here are some phrasal verbs from it:

fail to catch on, company brings off $5million deal, Britney takes over as number 1 , downfall, attempt comes off.., plan falls through,

build on what you learn, to muddle through, to catch up, to stay ahead of the competition, to keep up with the competition etc.

The Cambridge Idioms in use book offers a whole chapter on the topic as well, here are some idioms:

works like magic, does the trick, blessing in disguise (a favorite of mine), is a victim of their own success, someone lives their mark, sb would go places, to hit the big time etc.

With regards to the listening you have a galore of options on the internet to choose from.  Here are some ted talks that you could use depending on the class and level you teach.  You can also watch a great tedtalk for your own benefit here, by the Eat, Pray and Love author, short and sweet.

One final avenue can be to go TECH!  Creating a Nearpod lesson or a padlet where your students at home have to post a phrasal or idiom from class with an accompanying image, a definition and an example sentence.  Here is an example I did with my class on random phrasal verbs.  In doing this, you reinforce the vocabulary work done in class and students have a familiar place to look over what has been learned when you quiz them on it in the future… You can even ask them to write a short composition on what we can learn from both success and failure and how we can grow from each experience we have related to this. BOOM!

This is not only language learning but life learning stuff, that has an enormous benefit to young learners as they grow and learn valuable lessons in life.  Lessons don’t have to always be generic, boring and predictable content but original, interesting, practical and most importantly meaningful and valuable.  Enough said peeps, hope you find the ideas here helpful.

Please do comment on this if you have additional materials or ideas worth sharing.  Criticism is welcome, there’s always room for improvement! 🙂

2 Comments. Leave new

  • Ellen Dubois
    June 24, 2018 06:38

    Excellent food for thought. I agree totally with your lesson content strategy. I was a business English teacher and focused on soft skills and interculltural subjects and always did flash cards game with new vocabulary and phrasal verbs. So glad you shared the idea of Nearpod. And loved all the links! Very good work.

    • Thanks Ellen, so glad to hear that you found the idea useful. I’ll be posting more of these very soon because I believe that the resources we have don’t focus on intercultural or soft skills enough and these are so beneficial to students. Flash cards always work so well don’t they? Stay tuned for more and share with anyone you know might find it useful as well. Cheers!


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