Procrastination – an ESL Lesson

Today’s lesson is based upon a TED talk. I mostly post my TED lessons over www.ted-ielts.com, which is – as the name suggests – a place to study IELTS by watching TED videos. However, that site is mostly for IELTS students, and I thought this would work pretty well for teachers. So here goes…

Discuss

First off, I like to start with a discussion. There are various ways to kick off a good lesson, but I often start with a discussion and it works well. It really sets the tone for a communicative lesson. Here are three questions I use to begin this class:

  1. When you have a big deadline looming (ie an essay or exam), how do you prepare for it? Do you do a little work each day, or wait until the last minute?
  2. Do you work well under pressure? Give an example to justify your answer.
  3. Why do some people find it so difficult to organize their time effectively?

You can have your students work in pairs to answer those, and either get them to report back or else walk around and listen in, giving feedback. This is just a lead-in activity, so there’s no need to give too much feedback. The main thing is to get them into the topic.

Planning

Next up, I move closer to the actual topic (procrastination) by introducing some graphs that illustrate the main idea. These are useful because they’re so visual and help the students wrap their heads around the concept of procrastination. I give them this task:

Imagine that you have a big exam in one week. What do you think is the best way to study for it? Look at the bar charts and choose the most suitable one for you. Discuss with a partner and then report on your choice. Give reasons why.

Then I show them these images:

*Note: this wasn’t a writing class, but you could definitely use these images for a writing activity. For example, ask your students to highlight and explain the differences in the bar charts as though it were an IELTS writing task 1 question.

Vocabulary

Next up, teach some blocking vocabulary for the listening exercise. I use this PPT that I made:

I think give them this instruction and the following activity:

Look at the PPT to learn some words from a listening exercise we will do later, and then fill in the black spaces on the test below. You may need to change the tense for the verbs.

  • Procrastination (noun); Procrastinator (noun); Procrastinate (verb)
  • Thesis (noun)
  • All-nighter (noun)
  • Visualize (verb)
  • Epiphany (noun)

 

  • Thanks for asking, but I can’t go out tonight because my ____1____ is due in two weeks. I’m planning to get as much work done as possible today because I don’t want to have to pull an ______2______ closer to the deadline. I can be a bit of a _______3______, to be honest, but I’m trying to improve myself and get more done.
  • _____4_____ is a difficult problem to overcome, but it’s not impossible. I had an ____7____ lately, and it’s really helped me get my life in order. Maybe it will work for you, too. If you often find yourself _____5_____, then you might want to try this: _____6_____ your goal, and then make a list of realistic steps towards achieving it.

Listen

You students can now watch the video and make notes. They will answer questions and do some discussion afterwards.

 

 

Discuss

Here’s another good discussion activity. I have students work in groups to answer the following questions, and then report their answers to the class.

Work in small groups and answer the following questions. You can use your own ideas and evidence from the video to answer them.

  1. Is procrastination a problem that affects all people equally? Why?
  2. Is it easy to overcome procrastination?
  3. How can someone procrastinate less and increase their productivity?
  4. Can chronic procrastinators become successful people?

Writing

Finally, a short writing task. This can be done in class or as homework, depending on time:

Imagine your best friend has a major assignment due for her studies. However, the deadline is looming and she has done hardly any work. You know that she always waits until the last minute to begin, and you don’t think this is very wise.

What would you say to her? Write a short e-mail that outlines your ideas.

Head Teacher
I'm the founder and editor of Beatdom Literary Journal, author of Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the 'Weird Cult' and World Citizen: Allen Ginsberg as Traveller. I'm also a teacher and operate the popular website, TED-IELTS.

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