A lesson on a TED Talk: Procrastination

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I have been procrastinating on writing this blog post for a while, but let’s see what goes on “Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator”!

It is a great and funny talk and fits pefectly to Unit 1 of Pearson’s Longman Exam Accelerator but it can be used independenttly when discussing ways of how we carry out our tasks – whether we are disorganised, distracted, efficient, perfectionists or procrastinators.

In any case students are supposed to know the word procrastination, and could have a discussion of their own personality type. If done together with the Longman book, the lesson works best following hte reading on page 61 (Things to do).

  1. Pre-watching:

Students match words and definitions:

1.  to bump it up a)   (before nouns) related to a government
2.  civil b)  a student’s main subject at college or university
3.  deadline c)   a piece of writing or a talk on an academic subject
4.  government d)  polite
5.  major e)   a long piece of writing that is the final part of an advanced university degree
6.  a paper f)    a way of working
7.  thesis g)   to increase the speed
8.  whole-nighter h)  a specific time or dateby which you have to do something
9.  work flow i)    a whole night that you spend studying while you are at university

2. While watching:

a) Students watch the talk from 0:00 until 2:45 to raise their interest when they summarize what they have just heard using hte words from the first activity.

b) Students watch and listen from 2:45 until 3:38 and fill in gaps in the text:

No, no, it was very, very bad. Anyway, today I’m a (1)……………………………. guy. I write the blog Wait But Why. And a couple of years ago, I decided to write about (2)……………………… My behaviour has always perplexed the non-procrastinators around me, and I wanted to explain to the non-procrastinators of the world what (3)……………………………… in the heads of procrastinators, and why we are the way we are. Now, I had a (4)…………………………………. that the brains of procrastinators were actually different than the brains of other people. And to test this, I found an MRI lab that actually let me (5)…………………….. both my brain and the brain of a proven non-procrastinator, so I could compare them. I actually brought them here to show you today. I want you to take a look carefully to see if you can notice a (6)……………………………. I know that if you’re not a trained brain expert, it’s not that obvious, but just take a look, OK? So here’s the brain of a non-procrastinator.

c) Students are put into three groups. They watch and listen to the video from 3:39 until 10:00. They have to describe how the mind of a procrastinator works but the students in one of the groups listen to and take notes about the instant gratification monkey, the students in the other one about the rational decision maker and the students in the third gourp about the panic monster. They then regroup to have one student from each group and discuss the roles of each participant in the procrastinator’s mind.

d) Finally students watch the rest of hte video and answer the following questions:

  1. What happened when he wrote about it on his blog?
  2. What jobs does he mention?
  3. What was the general answer?
  4. What is the other type of procrastination?
  5. Why is the second type dangerous?
  6. What did he find out about his audience?
  7. Why does he show the Life Calendar?

3. Post-watching:

The follow-up can be a discussion on how they solve similar problems, or writing an essay on the topic or doing a survey on types among their peers.


Matching task: 1g; 2d; 3h; 4a; 5b; 6c; 7e; 8i; 9f

Gap-fill:  (1) writer-blogger; (2) procrastination; (3) goes on; (4) hypothesis; (5) scan; (6) difference

Answer the questions: 1. He got thousands of e-mails from different people; 2. nurse, banker, painter, engineer, PhD students; 3. Everybody has the same problem; 4. When there is no deadline; 5. The panic monster doesn’t wake up; 6. That everybody is a procrastinator; 7. To be aware of what we are procrastinating on




Joey’s Room-Mate Search

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Képtalálat a következőre: „Joey's room-mate search”

This is a video-based lesson connected to the topic of ‘Home’. The level is B1+ but it can be adapted to lower levels as well.

Before wathcing

The students are in pairs and discuss the characteristics of a perfect room-mate. After a couple of minutes of discussion adjectives can be gathered (written on the board) in a plenary.

Following the above discussion the students agree on the “perfect ad” for a room-mate. They can even write the advertisement in pairs, so that the ads can be compared and the best one voted for.

The students are told that we are going to watch a segment from the series ‘Friends’, and discuss the situation why Joey is looking for a new room-mate. (Chandler is about to move out as he and Monica have decided to live together. Monica’s room-mate, Rachel is also looking for a new place to rent.

While watching

The students watch the segment and answer the following questions:

  • What 3 things does Joey offer to Rachel?
  • What does Chandler find strange in Joey’s ad?
  • Why is he advertising like that?
  • What is the misunderstanding between Joey and the girl in blue T-shirt?
  • Why did Joey take the shower curtain down? Is his explanation true?
  • Why doesn’t Rachel accept Joey’s offer for the second time, either?
  • What test does Joey give to the girl? Why?

After watching:

The students are in pairs again and write questions that they find appropriate when looking for a room-mate.

They act out an “interview” situation.

Food Waste Scandal – a lesson on a TED Talk

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I find this TED Talk really inspiring and my students who are preparing for their final exam found it useful, too.

1. Some preparation on the topic is necessary but following some vocabulary work and general speaking activities, I planned a complete lesson based on the first 4 minutes of the following TED Talk by Tristram Stuart and it worked perfectly well. This is Tristram Stuart as he is delivering his speech:

2. Students looked at the title of the talk and predicted the content. Then I put them in pairs and they wrote down a list of about 10 words that they thought they would hear in the talk.

3. As they were listening to the talk, they had to pay attention to the vocabulary and tick the words that they had predicted well and had in fact been uttered. We also discussed some new vocabulary that the students had heard or had read. With TED talk you can decide if you want to watch it without or perhaps with subtitles and if you decide to use the subtitles, you can choose the language. With this particular group of students for the first listening it was good to have it subtitled in Englsih.

4. Another advantage of TED Talks is that you can use the transcripts. So I produced a gap fill task with the help of the transcript but this time only the beginning of the talk, Of course the subtitles were gone this time!

5. After the gap fill task, the students had to explain the meaning of the underlined words and expressions.

6. Finally they discussed what they find surprising in the talk and what could be done to stop the bad tendencies regarding food waste.

A fun way to practise narrative tenses: ‘Draw my life’

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I actually saw this video a couple of weeks ago on my daughter’s facebook wall. I found it just appropriate for educational purposes, especially for secondary school students as the language has nothing of the artificiality some coursebooks show, but it is genuinely present day.

I. Warmer: Hangman

We played hangman with the name: “Ryan Higa”. As some of my students are hooked on youtube videos I was hoping for at least one of them to have heard of Ryan Higa. Well, they didn’t, so I just informed them that there was a guy with that name and videos by him on youtube, one of which we were going to watch.

II. Lead-in

We discussed a bit about ‘Draw my life’ videos that some of the students have already heard of. We watched the firs 14 seconds of the video and students had to answer the questions:

1. Why didn’t he want to draw his life?

2. Why did he do it in the end?

III. Discussion

Students were discussing what they expected to see in the video. What  are the main events in a young person’s life and gave ideas how those events could be drawn. We also agreed what tenses they can use if they wanted to talk about past events.

Everybody was given about 3-4 minutes to do a quick sketch of one period of their own lives which then they shared in small groups (3 students) and talked about the drawings.

IV. Watching

They watched the video 0′:14″ – 02′:08″ – but it was muted. The students had to take notes of what they think happened in Ryan’s life. I stopped the video at some places to give my students time to write down events. They shared their notes in small groups again and completed each other’s notes.

Then we watched the same segment with sound and checked their guesses.

02′:09″ – 02′:55″: The end of the previous part of the video is about bullying which is a topic we have already discussed in class. Students had to give ideas of what a bullied person can do in such a situation. Then we watched what Ryan had done to escape it.

Finally sutdents had to predict what the next part if his life would be, how things had turned out for him later on. After this prediction activity students were curious enough to be really interested in the homework which was to watch the rest of the video and summarise it.

Possible follow-up:

I think it wouldl be a nice follow-up to encourage the students to draw their lives. Of course not everybody is willing to prepare a video but a series of drawings is just as good as a video and the objecitve would be using narrative tenses – the drawings being only bacground for that.

The Job – a short, video-based speaking activity



I used this video as a basis for a short speaking activity: not longer than 20 minutes, depending on how responsive the students are that day. We had already discussed a lot about jobs and work, the students had done lots of vocabulary tasks, one lengthy reading, so it was appropriate to shake them up a bit.

The way I used the video was mainly prediction, so grammar used for predictions can be practiced, but my aim was primarily not grammar practise but speaking and bringing a little bit of liveliness into the lesson.

I stopped the short film first at 0:45′. The students asnwered the following questions:

  • Who are the people? What are their jobs?
  • Where are they?
  • Why are they outside?
  • What are they doing?
  • What are they talking about?

Next stop at 1:18′

  • Who is this guy?
  • What is the paper in his hand?
  • What is going to happen?
  • Do they know each other?

We watched the video to the end, discussed job names, and were having a nice conversation about the whole situation. Associations to similar contexts did come up quite early and talking about findig a job, legal and illegal jobs, immigration, well and badly-paid jobs followed.

I think the video can even be used as a starting point for a whole lesson, depending on the aims and objectives of your lesson plan.