Leigh Davidson Leigh Davidson

The Secret of Success
Intermediate to Upper-Intermediate, Prep Speaking level


In this lesson, Ss will discuss 'success'--what it means to them, what characteristics must a successful person have, and how one can become 'successful' and achieve in something. The final activity will include a Ted Talk lecture on our traditional understanding of 'success' and how that needs to adapt and be redefined to benefit today's society.


Abc Kinder Success Questions
Abc Successful People
Abc Successful Situations

Main Aims

  • To provide Ss with an opportunity for freer speaking practice on the topic of success--how to define it, within what situation(s) does the definition apply, and how can an individual improve and 'become successful' in something

Subsidiary Aims

  • To provide Ss with an opportunity to practice their detailed listening skills, listening for specific information on the subject of 'success'


Warmer/Lead-in (14-16 minutes) • To set lesson context and engage students

Show a series of pictures, of commonly-defined successful people, to the WC. This should include both celebrities and successful business people. Elicit from the WC: --"Why are these people considered successful? What are the achievements of these people?" --"How did these people become successful?" --"Would you call these people lucky, or do you think that they have a special talent?" Write on the WB SUCCESS IS....? Divide the WC into groups and instruct them to define what 'success' is in their own terms. Following GW discussion, bring the WC together for FB. Write some of the group's answers on the WB.

Exposure (16-18 minutes) • To provide a model of production expected in coming tasks through reading

Inform the Ss that you have a series of quotes, from famous and 'successful' people, on what 'success' means to them. Instruct the groups to read their quote and determine the following: 1) "What does the quote mean? What is the famous person's thoughts on 'success'?" 2) "Do you agree or disagree with the meaning of the quote?" Distribute the "Quotes on Success" HO (one quote should be given per group). IF TIME: Following GW discussion, lead the Ss in a WC FB session. Elicit both the quote and the Ss' answers to the 2 activity questions.

Productive Task: How to Define Success (30-32 minutes) • To provide an opportunity to practice target productive skills

Write on the WB: "One person's success is another person's failure?" Try to elicit from the WC what they think this saying means. Inform the WC that you are going to provide them with some situations where a person experienced both failure and success. Instruct the groups to decide which of the situations--and the failures-turned-'achievements' in those situations--are true examples of 'success.' Distribute the HO on 'Successful Situations.' Following GW discussion, bring the WC together for FB. Inform the WC that they are going to analyze 4 specific people (Mr. Dosh, the businessman; Miss Adversity, the single mother; Ronald-O, the professional football player; and Professor Woodpecker, the Oxbridge University academic). "Each person described in this HO considers themself 'successful.' Based on the individual's description, why does each person consider themself 'successful'? What is their 'success' and their 'achievements'? Do you agree that this person is 'successful'?" Distribute the HO on "Successful People." Following GW discussion, bring the WC together for FB. With the WC, revisit the question presented at the beginning of the lesson. "Now that we have read about and discussed some specific real-life situations, and individuals, that we would define and consider as 'successful,' how would we change our previous definition(s) of 'success'? What characteristics/qualities/traits should we add, or remove?"

Receptive Task: A Kinder Success Ted Talk (32-35 minutes) • To provide an opportunity to practice target productive and receptive skills

Write on the WB YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS. Applying what is discussed in the previous HO activities, elicit from the WC any 'successes' and 'achievements' that they have experienced in their lives. Write the Ss' answers on the WB. Elicit from the WC who, if anyone, feels pressure to be successful in life. Inform the Ss that they are going to watch a Ted Talk on success and how the traditional definition of 'success' is causing severe problems for society. Provide the Ss with a list of 'while listening' questions and instruct the Ss to listen to Alain de Botton's lecture and try to answer the associated questions. 'A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success,' Alain de Botton (14:40) https://www.ted.com/talks/alain_de_botton_a_kinder_gentler_philosophy_of_success Following a viewing of the lecture, provide the Ss time to share their notes with their group members and try to answer the 'while listening' questions. Following group discussion, elicit from the WC their answers to the 'while listening' questions. Elicit from the WC their thoughts and response to de Botton's concluding suggestion. "Should we redefine what 'success' is and be open to a diverse understanding of what a 'successful life' might be?"

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