The English Learners' Blog

A blog for English learners and their teachers everywhere, initiated in 2010 with the contribution of students from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. More about me on the On-line Profile below. Welcome!

Conversation Topics: Success + Extra Bonus: the World Sm:)le Day


Yesterday, on the World Smile Day – details below 🙂 , I had my very first “sandwich” conversation class: a class with a given topic (Success), attended by both advanced and beginner English learners.

The fact that, at the end of the class, the students filed “today” and “our conversation class” in the Examples of Success category is, in my opinion, a great achievement I can only congratulate myself for. 🙂

Here is how we started. Step 1, I wrote on the whiteboard useful vocabulary to use, especially as a handy reference for the brave beginners who took on the challenge of showing up for a non-compulsory class on Friday evening aaand mingle with the fierce… advanced. 🙂

Verb (achieve, enjoy, have) + Noun (success) collocations 

Adjectives in the same word family (successful, unsuccessful)

Adjectives and other determiners qualifying success (from lack of success, little success to extraordinary/ remarkable/ enormous success)

Step 2, I used a quote to spark up discussion.

It’s more important to grow your income than cut your expenses.

It’s more important to grow your spirit than cut your dreams

As with any good quote, I recommend turning it into a fill-in type of exercise, in which you ask the students to get creative or more meditative, why shouldn’t they?, and add more valid options to income and spirit, on the one hand, and to expenses and dreams, on the other. 

Step 3, I initiated a discussion starting from that (you could, of course, use any other meaningful) quote, and as the conversation flowed, I sprinkled it with questions like:

– Can  you think of a successful man or woman? What is the source of his/ her success?

– Can you think of examples of successful days? (Here I was given wonderful responses – one of my students shared with us the story of her 50th birthday that turned into an example of great personal success, despite the fact that it had started as a sad day; for two other students becoming a mother and becoming a grandfather reigned in the top of the category.)

– Is success linked with happiness? and the like.

And so, you could gear up to the conclusions of the discussion, trying to pull up at every stop, if time allows you to. My piece de resistance was another quote I jotted down recently after watching the last 2 minutes of what must have been a very interesting documentary about a man who successfully escaped from prison. Alright, I didn’t know the facts of his story, but let’s presume he had been wrongly imprisoned and escaped after 10 horrible years in a very dark place, to be reunited with his lady, and spend the rest of his life in the simplest, and possibly poorest, but, most importantly, 🙂 in the most meaningful of ways. Here is what he says at the end of it all, and you could use it as a challenge for your students to either predict the man’s words or make inferences on the man’s background (he mentions riches, so maybe he was involved in a robbery…). In either case, invite them to read what he says and analyse the deeper meaning(s) behind his words:

A meaningful life is worth much more than (here they can be prompted, again, to add their own points of view) quick riches.

Quite a huge step to take from “What does … mean?” to a discussion on the meaning of life, isn’t it? But what can I do? I just  LOVE taking huge steps. And I’ve got a sneaky suspicion my students love that too… even in a “sandwich” conversation class. 🙂 Hilarious!


Here’s another reason, if we ever needed one, to smile and have a… ball every day, not only on every first Friday of every muggy October:) :


As is well known by now throughout the world, Harvey Ball, a commercial artist from Worcester, Massachusetts created the smiley face in 1963. That image went on to become the most recognizable symbol of good will and good cheer on the planet.

Harvey Ball

As the years passed, Harvey Ball became concerned about the over-commercialization of his symbol, and how its original meaning and intent had become lost due to its constant repetition in the marketplace.  Out of that concern came his idea for World Smile Day®. He thought that we, all of us, should devote one day each year to smiles and kind acts throughout the world.  The smiley face knows no politics, no geography and no religion.  Harvey’s idea was that, for at least one day each year, neither should we.  He declared that the first Friday in October each year would henceforth be World Smile Day®. Ever since that first World Smile Day® held in 1999, it has continued every year in Smiley’s hometown of Worcester, MA and around the world.

After Harvey died in 2001, the Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation was created to honor his name and memory.  The Foundation continues as the official sponsor of World Smile Day® each year. (Source: theworldsmileday)


Filed under: 1►TO DO, 3►SPEAK▼, ■ Ha, ha, ha!, ■ Success, ■ World Smile Day, TOPICS▼

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