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Talking About Failure
Ian Kime
July 29, 2021

Talking About Failure


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Sometimes my lessons fail, and it leaves me feeling a bit low afterwards. Here are some reasons:

  • I wasn’t fully prepared;
  • My students were not engaged because they had a hard day or aren’t motivated;
  • The lesson I chose didn’t fit my students’ level or interests;
  • I had a bad day and it showed in my presentation of the material;
  • The lesson plan was bad;
  • etc.

The longer I teach, the less often I encounter failure, but not just because of my level of experience. Every time something doesn’t work out, I try to learn from it. I tweak the resource, I find strategies to work through the difficult situations, or I simply try not to get down on myself. Other times it’s good to remember that I’m not the only one to encounter failure in their professional or personal life.

This activity reminds us of just that. Download this resource and follow the instructions if you want to talk about failure with your students. It’s an important topic and comes with its own set of vocabulary and grammar.

Use this resource to…

  • have a discussion about success and failure;
  • review or practice the passive form;
  • complete a lesson plan based on celebrities, success, failure, or the passive form.

How to use this resource:

  1. Warm-up. Before you begin the sequence, ask your students to each take 2 minutes to define the word “success” by writing it down on a piece of paper or writing it in the chat. Compare everyone’s definition. Then, have your students talk about the most successful person they know personally. What’s their relationship to this person? How are they successful? Etc.
  2. Display page 1 of the resource. Have students take turns talking about what they know about each individual. How are they successful?
  3. Display page 2 of the resource. Students match the names of the successful people with their failures before they found success. You can do this as a group, individually, or in pairs. Check answers. Ask if there were any surprises.
  4. Next, have students highlight the failures mentioned in the text. Here, they will discover the vocabulary of failure along with the use of the passive form to describe it. Make a list of vocabulary words related to failure. Answer any questions about the vocabulary they might have.
  5. Have students think back to the successful person they mentioned during the warm-up. Did they have any failures in their life? Explain.
  6. Finally, move on to page 3 of the resource. Here are some quotes about failure from some successful people. Ask even student to choose their favorite and explain what it means to them and why it is important. Here, you can prolong the discussion as far as you want. Which do they not agree with? Which can they relate to? etc.
  7. If you want to go further, and your group is comfortable enough with one another, put your students in pairs to discuss a time they failed. What happened? Did they learn anything? How did they feel? Etc. Then, come back to the group and have students explain the failures of their partners. This activity allows for a varied use of the passive form and vocabulary through different subjects (I was fired… Were you ever cut from a team? He got rejected by… etc.)

The corrections for page 2 are found on page 4 of the resource.

I hope this activity will be a success for you 🙂


Ian Kime

Ian Kime

I have been teaching English abroad since receiving my CELTA certificate in Poland in 2018. I enjoy tracking my individual students’ development but love having lessons with big groups! Now that I teach online, I am accompanied by my sidekicks Olaf, Mała, Pirate and Bandit on a regular basis.


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