In this lesson, students watch a TED Talk by Mandy Len Catron, answer comprehension questions, practice asking and answering questions, and discuss the topic of falling in love, dating, and relationships. It is suitable for levels intermediate and higher. Before deciding to teach this lesson, take a look at this article and consider your students’ cultural sensitivity.
Step 1: Introduction
Put the following on the board:
4 MINUTES, ROMANTIC, LABORATORY, 36, PERSONAL
Tell your students these words describe the content of the video they are about to watch. Ask them to figure out what the video might be about using these keywords.
These are some words taken from the first part of Mandy’s talk:
I published this article in the New York Times Modern Love column in January of this year. “To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This.” And the article is about a psychological study designed to create romantic love in the laboratory, and my own experience trying the study myself one night last summer.
So the procedure is fairly simple: two strangers take turns asking each other 36 increasingly personal questions and then they stare into each other’s eyes without speaking for four minutes.
Step 2: Watching the Talk, part 1
Students watch the first part of the video (until 6.06, see the transcript) and fill in the missing information. Watch the video twice if necessary. Check the answers. Ask your students whether they think Mandy and her boyfriend are still together (were still together at the time the Talk was published)
Step 3: Making questions
Your students heard 3 sample questions (out of 36) in the Talk. First, ask them to narrow down the definition of a “personal question”. What kinds of questions do they think were asked during the study (bearing in mind these questions were supposed to let people get to know each other and possibly fall in love in the process)?
Distribute the questions handout and tell your students these are 5 actual questions asked in the study but they need to finish each of them. Students work in pairs or individually.
When they finish, ask your students to interview each other using the questions they had written. Emphasise that anybody has the right to refuse to answer the question if they find it too personal/ uncomfortable.
Once your students finish, ask them whether any questions they heard were difficult to answer. Why? Have they refused to answer any questions? Why?
At this point, you might show your students the original 36 questions used in this study. For the purposes of this activity, I used questions 1, 4, 10, 17/18, and 29. Compare your students’ ideas with the original, decide which ones are easier to answer / give more information about the person who is answering.
Ask your students some questions about the premise of the study:
- Is it possible to make strangers fall in love during a scientific study?
- Why would some people fall in love during this experiment?
- Are such relationships long-lasting? Why?
- Would you agree to participate in such a study? Why?
Step 4: Watching the Talk, part 2
Continue watching the Talk until the end. They should answer 6 questions from the Step 4 worksheet (video part 2).
Step 5: Discussion
In her talk Mandy states that the question “Are you still together” is the easiest and the least informative question to ask about love. In turn, she proposes several other questions that would shed more light on the issue of “loving somebody”.
Start the discussion with a quote from the Talk and ask your students whether they agree and why:
But falling in love is not the same thing as staying in love. Falling in love is the easy part.
Next, distribute the Step 5: Discussion worksheets. Students need to fill in the gaps in the question with the verbs in red (all questions come from the Talk). Students need to pay attention to the verb forms and meaning.
Finally, you might try to discuss questions 2,3, and 4 with your students.
I have used this TED Talk several times with adult and teenage students when discussing the topics of love, dating, and relationships. Since it is longer than the Talks I usually choose, I decided to break it up into two parts and I think it works better than having students watch the whole video first.
My students have generally been interested in the idea of interviewing potential romantic interests and “manufacturing” romantic love. I have been relieved to see my students come up with very interesting questions in Step 3 and I have been lucky as they took answering them seriously. Nevertheless, I am aware that not every group of students might be comfortable (or mature enough) to participate in this class.