Life is no bed of roses, disappointment as an EFL lesson

bed of rosesIf you and your students have been following the Susan Boyle saga (and did the lesson plan) then you'll know that she didn't win the Britain's Got Talent contest last week.

It's disappointing to fail, however, in many respects perhaps it was for the best. Susan's suffering from exhaustion and the pressure may well have been too much if she'd won.

And I'm still very much looking forward to buying her CD!

Have your students ever failed at anything?

Have your students ever been horribly disappointed?

Do they know other people who've tried to do something, who put their whole hearts in but didn't reach their objective?

No doubt.

rosebedLife is not a bed of roses and we don't always achieve the goals we set for ourselves. In many respects, this might the reason the world loves Susan Boyle so much.

About 4 years ago I decided that I would finally get on with living my dream, since I was a kid, of being a movie-maker.

I told my bosses that I needed 3 months off work and went to live in a friend's cottage in Virginia, where I sat and typed 'til my fingers bled - from the crack of dawn to very, very late in the evenings.

Life on Purpose was the final product: a 120 page screenplay, action adventure - Matrix meets Von Trier - and was about a 40 year old man who was dissatisfied with life, wife and family. He ended up in a labyrinth World of the Gods and had to make his way out through a convoluted karmic untangling, ultimately discovering his destiny.

Despite interest, it didn't sell, sigh, so nowadays I teach dogme-style instead and write teaching materials and blogs, LOL!

Would you like to turn this theme of disappointment into a lesson with your students?

Ensure they've kept up2date on the Susan B saga - multiple links here. Send this link via email.

1. Write the word disappointment on the board. On 4 brainstorming branches, write
  • ways we express disappointment and regret
  • things that people fail at
  • phrases of sympathy & empathy
  • phrases of encouragement and motivation
Elicit as much as possible, supplying a few of your own.

2. Go into story-telling mode, sharing a personal story of your own failure at doing something important - don't supply too many details or wrap it up with the positive outcome. Stop short, perhaps 85% of the story and then let them ask you questions.

3. Accept your students' natural oh, I'm sorries, other empathy noises and their encouragements to fall down 7 times, get up 8.

Answer back naturally as if with a group of friends. You can occasionally glance at the board encouraging through your body language that they should be using some of the phrases and expressions there.

Don't overly correct their English at this stage.

4. Now ask your students what grammar structures you used to tell the story, list these on the board.

5. Then ask them to write the following lists:
  • 3 personal, professional or academic disappointments
  • 2 disappointments of someone in their friendship circle or families
  • 2 disappointments of anyone famous (entertainer, movie star etc)

6. Divide your students into small intimate groups, 3 - 6 members each.

7. Encourage them to work in turns, choosing a disappointment they feel comfortable sharing with each other - they'll have ones that are private and others not connected directly to themselves so if you have students who'd, for personal or cultural reasons, prefer to talk in the 3rd person, they won't be left out.

In my own experience, however, students can easily fill a lesson just talking about themselves ;-).

8. Make sure they are using the phrases you brainstormed at the beginning of the lesson in natural context. Circulate, correcting language. Feedback.

susan boyleTo keep a copy of this lesson tip, simply click on the title (so that only this page is open) then go down to the green eco-safe badge and click to email or print it.

But before you dash off, now I've told you my terrible disappointment of not being an award winning screenwriter, want to share any of your own as-of-yet non achievements?

Useful links related to this posting:
The price of water in airports, anger in the EFL classroom
The role of pride in the classroom

p.s. hat tip to woodcutter for prompting me to get on with writing a follow-up posting dealing with Susan B's loss.

3 Responses to “Life is no bed of roses, disappointment as an EFL lesson”

  • Shelly says:
    June 09, 2009

    Hello Karenne,
    Congrats on the blog of the month!
    I've been meaning to post a comment in much of the same way I guess that I've been meaning to complete an entire novel. At least, I finally posted the comment.
    I joined the NANOWRIMO writing contest to help motivate me and have won the contest twice which requires you to complete 50,000 words in one month. However, a good novel length is about 150,000 words. Instead of completing a novel, I start a new one each year. Eventually I'll get there!
    Very touching blog that I am sure ELLs would enjoy. There is also a script writing contest by the same people Script Frenzy. When you win they sometimes offer free POD services. Unfortunately, I never have anything completed in enough time for this fantastic prize.

  • Anne Hodgson says:
    May 25, 2010

    Lovely lesson, Karenne. I like your focus on storytelling, small groups and empathy.

    One could update it: Though dissapointment is taboo in our success-oriented world, when van Gaal brought Bayern München home on Sunday after their defeat by Inter Milan in Madrid, he thanked the fans for their support, saying "You were stronger than I was, mentally". He's not afraid to express his sense of disappointment, and that makes him stronger, gives him a real following. A good lesson for managers.

    May 25, 2010

    Golly, it is a bit weird reading through old posts - and noticing I didn't respond to Shelly's comment and there are several things I'd tidy up and edit above - still it was terribly nice reflecting on my story... wow, I do tell people a lot about my self :-)

    Yes - I think that here in Germany that would be a great example and indeed managers really enjoy this sort of lesson.

    Sorry for not responding and all your great tips - much appreciated!



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