Ambitions: A Lesson Plan/Review (Part 1)


This being a family blog, you”ll have to imagine a youtube vide embedded above around the theme of “naked ambition”.

I started this blog as a space to share the lesson plans that I was making for my high school classes. Since moving to university I’ve stopped making (shareable) lesson plans as the course is taught from a book. However, having got a bit frustrated with the materials on offer over the past few weeks, I felt like having a go myself again. The following lesson plan was what I came up with – please excuse any rough edges – I’m a bit out of practice.

The previous lesson we’d done some quite heavily language focused work on “going to…”, “hope to…”, “maybe…” and definite and indefinite times for plans. The problem with the book (I feel), is that it doesn’t give sufficient practice opportunities, especially for students whose productive skills are much lower than their receptive ones. I also think that many coursebooks have a tendency to just throw in a listening or reading, but then do nothing with the text except check comprehension. Seems like a wasted opportunity to me. Also, the final activity in the previous lesson was to talk about ambitions. This fell completely flat not because the students lacked the language, but because they lacked ambitions! Direct action was needed!


Some people aren’t the biggest fans, and I don’t always use them, but a class just after dinner time needs to move about a bit I feel, otherwise they all try to go to sleep. We started the lesson with a quick guessing game – make two plans, one certain and one uncertain, and write the times that you will do them ONLY on a piece of paper (ie. you will have “in 2 hours” and “sooner or later” written down). Students then mingle and have to guess each other’s plans. Encourage them to use “Are you going to…” and “Do you plan to…”.


I took the listening material from A quick search for ambitions turned up Samir from Sweden talking about some of his life goals. This turned out to be a really good text to use, because it has a nice easy to follow structure, and Samir’s speech is not too complex or quick, but his (slight) Swedish accent provides an interesting extra problem. It’s also not too rehearsed, which means that there are some false starts in there, and it doesn’t conform strictly to the rules of written grammar.

I confess to not having much of an activation stage. I just told the students they were going to hear a young guy from Sweden talking about his ambitions. I guess that we could have done some predicting here, but we didn’t, and I don’t think it made a whole lot of difference. Anyway, the first task was simple. Listen to the recording, and write down his six ambitions, then share and compare with your partner. I largely stayed out of discussions at this point, unless specifically asked to help. Students largely got most of the ambitions anyway.

I’m a big believer in multiple listenings (actually I think doing many things multiple times is a good idea), and so I set a second task, which was to listen again, and this time make notes in more detail about 3 of the ambitions, and then try to tell your partner about them using language as close to the original as possible. Sort of like a dictogloss but no quite so accuracy focused. I then threw in one further listening with the tapescript, and asked students to reflect on where their retellings had differed with their partner. At this stage I patrolled a bit more threateningly (not really) to try and pick out any misunderstandings as teaching points. The major problem seemed to be ‘exotic’, so we did some board work about what countries might be exotic (consensus, hot and weird ones!).

Tapescript for Ambitions Lesson

Thinking and Speaking

I then wanted students to do a bit more thinking, so in pairs I had them discuss what kind of categories we might be able to place the ambitions in. We worked through the first ambition together as an example (everyone was pretty unanimous on “travel”) and then they set out to categorize the others. You may need to encourage students to be specific, one group of mine had a few too many wafty categories like “experience” and “leisure”. However, the same group, with a little prompting, came up with “self-improvement” which I thought was pretty cool. I then asked them to think individually about what categories of ambition were most important to them, and rank them from most to least.

Then, of course, it was time to actually come up with ambitions in the most important categories. As a bit extra speaking practice, I had students write the top four categories on a sheet of paper, and then mingle again. When they met someone they wanted to talk to, they would ask the student about each ambition, and write down what they said on that student’s sheet.

This took us about an hour and fifteen minutes to do, and seemed to go pretty well. The students did a lot of speaking, seemed to be fairly interested and looked at a text in depth. There was also a nice diversion about native and non-native speech, and whether something Samir said was grammatically correct (answer, no it isn’t written grammar, but it is something I say all the time). There is a part two to this lesson, coming soon, in which we develop the ideas a little and conduct a final speaking assessment. Until then, if you have any comments, suggestions, questions or that sort of stuff, leave me a note below.



6 responses to “Ambitions: A Lesson Plan/Review (Part 1)

  1. Great lesson Alex, particularly like the warmer and authentic listening, haven’t used ello yet but been meaning to! I’m trying to get more out of listening/reading materials as I tend to just use them for one or two activities then move on, not really fully exploiting them so this gives me some good ideas on how to do that.
    Thanks, looking 4ward to part 2.

  2. Hey Gemma,

    Thanks a lot for the comment!

    I totally agree about the listening, I know that when I listen to Korean podcasts I get more and more out of them each time I listen. You could look at it as a form of ‘chunking’ I guess. Each time you pack away the meaning of a particular part, enabling you to focus a little more on the meaning. Good for listening fluency!

    It’s one of my major gripes with books that they seem to chuck in a text to present an example of language in context, throw in a couple of comprehension questions and then “whoosh!” we’re on to the next thing. I don’t know if you read it, but Scott Thornbury wrote a really good post on the amount that we can do with a small text – well worth a read:


    • Thanks I think I have read that post but need to re-read it! I suppose with teens I’m worried about their attention span and I feel the need to use different materials (something I’m working on!).


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  4. Pingback: Ambitions: A Lesson Plan/Review (Part 2) | The Breathy Vowel

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