You Win or You Learn
It’s a fundamental pillar of a Growth Mindset that mistakes are best used as lessons for the future, rather than proof of innate shortcomings or a stick to beat yourself with (more student and teacher ideas on Mindset Theory see the Mindset section).
‘You win or you learn’ is a maxim I live by. Coronavirus has been (I wrote ‘was’ then edited it – it’s far from over yet!) a defeat for all of us in one way or another, so what can we learn to be a little wiser than we were? Dominick Cruz’s attitude – speaking after losing his UFC world title – is what we’re aiming for:
“Loss is part of life. If you don’t have loss, you don’t grow.” Growth Mindset personified.
The Two Lessons
Lesson 1 revolves around an article by a New York resident who was recovering from the Coronavirus. One of my core teaching values is to give reality a key role in my lessons, and this is very real at the moment. As this is also an ELT blog, I’ll provide a worksheet to work on the text, particularly focusing on the rich tapestry of grammar.
Lesson 2 challenges learners to use this grammar to assess their own quarantine experience. What have they learned? What did they wish they had known? What will they learn from it to take into the post-quarantine world? Any habits to change (for more on habit destruction and creation, see ‘The Power of Habit’ and ‘Post-Quarantine? Kick (Start) Your Habits’ posts from this blog)?
If they followed Sam Harris’ Google Doc recommendation, as my students did throughout the lockdown here in Rome, this will be a little more authentic! Memories are revised narratives of reality, but get them while they’re still warm for the maximum chance of accuracy i.e. don’t wait to do this lesson in October – we will have already dreamed up a more fabricated narrative by then.
There is a wealth of information and language (both vocabulary and grammar) ripe to be plucked from this article and studied under a microscope with your learners. I’ve gone for reading skills (skimming and reading for specific information) and the grammatical functions to express past regret in the following suggestion, but make your own choices based on your students, of course:
This could be part of a lesson or a lesson alone – as usual, pick and mix to adapt to the wants and needs of your particular learner or group of learners.
1. Lead-in. How did you spend your time during the strictest version of quarantine? (I’m hoping I don’t jinx this and we can write this in the past simple for the rest of the year at least!) What did you learn about yourself?
2. Discussion. Look at the examples from the ‘9 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Got Coronavirus’ article expressing past regret. How would you rank them (1-5) from the least to the most important lessons? Why?
- If only I had opted to work from home (at minimum) one week sooner
- Had I just had a typical headache, my medicine drawer would have been equipped with everything
- If I were able to go back in time, I would have made sure I had allergy medicine
- I wish I would’ve known their hours of operation
- A can of store-bought soup still wasn’t as satisfying as a batch of homemade soup would have been
3. Elicit or give the forms and run through/clarify necessary MUFP – Meaning/Use, Form, Pronunciation – features (depending on a. if you did Lesson One and b. students’ level)
- If only + subject + past perfect (had + past participle/3rd form
- 3rd conditional (inversion): Had + subject + past participle/3rd form*, subject + would + have + past participle/3rd form. *Uninverted: If + subject + past perfect (had + past participle/3rd form)
- Mixed conditional – cause in present, consequence in past: If + subject + past simple, subject + would + have + past participle/3rd form
- Subject + wish + subject + would + have + past participle/3rd form. Side note: This is American English. The British English version would be: subject + wish + subject + past perfect (had + past participle/3rd form)
- was(n’t) + as + adjective + as + article (a/the) + noun + would + have + past participle/3rd form
4. Using these grammar constructions, how would you have changed your quarantine period?
Or (hopefully not if common sense is common enough!) how will you behave differently next time?
This is freer practice. If you think your learners need a controlled practice before this, find a gap fill by Googling any of the grammar points above or make your own.
For more quarantine/Coronavirus/Zoom-specific lessons, see the Zoom Teaching section.