Posted in Conversation Classes, Video Classes

TED talks lesson: The happy secret to better work by Shawn Achor

This is a lesson plan for higher levels (C1+) based around Shawn Achor’s TED talk “The happy secret to better work” about ways to apply positive psychology in our day to day lives.

Shawn speaks very quickly, so some students may have trouble keeping up. I suggest setting the video as homework and giving students the link to the transcript as well (you can find it on the TED website); in this way they can watch and rewatch to ensure they understand it fully.

Or download the transcript here.

Video:

Or alternatively you could watch it in class.

Vocabulary and Comprehension questions:

Before watching give out the handout and read through the vocabulary and comprehension questions.

Vocabulary:

  • Boarding school – school where the students live on campus
  • Bunk bed – two single beds one above the other
  • Tailor st towards sb – to make something specifically to fit somebody
  • Glean information – to gather/collect
  • To be at the vanguard of something – to be leading st (This laboratory is at the vanguard of cancer research)
  • Advil – a painkilling drug

Comprehension Questions:

  1. What happens in the anecdote Shawn tells at the start of the talk? His sister falls off the bed and he uses positive psychology to stop her from crying and waking up their parents.
  2. Why does he tell the anecdote? To introduce the topic of positive psychology
  3. What is the purpose of the graph he shows? To introduce the idea of “the cult of the average” and his cynicism about modern psychological studies.
  4. What example of “the cult of the average” does he give? The speed at which children learn to read.
  5. What effect does watching the news have on Shawn’s brain? It changes his perspective of the ratio between positive and negative things.
  6. What is “medical school syndrome”? When medical students start studying symptoms of different disease, they start to think they have them all.
  7. What do Shawn’s friends assume about Harvard students? That they will all be happy just because they go to Harvard
  8. What does Shawn think of the boarding school’s “wellness week”? That it is actually a “sickness week” because it focuses too much on negative things
  9. What problems with the way happiness and success are related in society does Shawn highlight? That happiness is always on the other side of success
  10. How can we rewire our brains to be more positive? Through techniques such as: documenting our gratitude for 3 things a day, by journaling a positive experience every day, doing more exercise, meditating, and random or conscious act of kindness.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Which of these activities do you do?
  2. Which of these activities would you consider doing?
  3. Do you keep a diary/journal? Did you use to when you were younger?
  4. What is the message of the video?
  5. In which fields do you think this theory would be helpful?
  6. How could they be implemented?
  7. Tell the class a similar anecdote about your childhood to the one Shawn tells at the start of the video.
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Author:

Barcelona based English Teacher, blogger and sometime actor and director.

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