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Be Happy

Posted on March 20, 2013 by kierandonaghy

be happyThis EFL lesson plan is designed around a short video which was inspired by Be Happy: A Little Book to Help You Live a Happy Life by Monica Sheehan. Students speak and write about happiness, and watch a short video.



I would ask all teachers who use Film English to consider buying my book Film in Action as the royalties which I receive from sales help to keep the website completely free.



Language level: Pre-intermediate (A2) – Intermediate (B1)

Learner type: All ages

Time: 60 minutes

Activity: Speaking, writing and watching a short video

Topic: Happiness and being happy

Language: Gerund as subject of sentence and imperatives

Materials: Short video

Downloadable materials: be happy lesson instructions


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Step 1

Write “Things that make me happy” on the board. Then write up 5 things that make you happy. In my case I wrote:

Swimming in the sea.

Being with my daughters.

Drinking coffee in a terrace.

Reading a novel in bed at night.

Waking up late at the weekend.

Explain to your students why each thing makes you happy.


Step 2

Tell your students that you would like them to write 5 sentences about things that make them happy; they should use the gerund as the subject in each sentence.


Step 3

Put your students into pairs and tell them to show their sentences to their partner. They should explain why each thing makes them happy.


Step 4

Put your students into groups of 3 or 4 students. Show them the photo of the cover of Be Happy: A Little Book to Help You Live a Happy Life. Tell them that they should imagine that they are going to write this book. They should write 10 sentences of things you should do and 10 things you shouldn’t do to live a happy life. Give them some examples such as:

Be kind to other people.

Believe in yourself.

Don’t be selfish.

Don’t give up.

Tell them that they should use the imperative in all the sentences. Give them 10 minutes to come up with their sentences.


Step 5

Pair up students with a partner from another group. They should explain their group’s sentences with their new partner. Get feedback from the whole class.


Step 6

Tell students they are going to watch a short video inspired by sentences and images from the book Be Happy. Ask they watch the film they should compare the advice in the video with their own sentences.




Step 7

Get feedback from your students ask them what sentences and images they can remember.


Step 8

Show the video again; this time pause at each new sentence and image, and ask students to talk about them.



Ask students to write a short composition titled:

What I do to live a happy life.


I hope you enjoy this English English language lesson.

Support Film English

Film English remains ad-free and takes many hours a month to research and write, and hundreds of dollars to sustain. If you find any joy or value in it, please consider supporting Film English with a monthly subscription, or by contributing a one-off payment.

Monthly subscription

One-off payment


66 thoughts on “Be Happy

  1. Pingback: Inspiring Writing: A reminder of the important things in life « Chestnut ESL

  2. This lesson plan makes me very happy! Perfect for my students. Thank you for sharing so many great ideas.

  3. Dear Kieran,
    I LOVE IT!
    Thank you for sharing it. I am proceeding to use it in class as of tomorrow. 😉

  4. I think this lesson plan is really important for young people as it is easy for them to lose their direction and make mistakes. Thanks a lot for sharing it.

  5. Oh, thanks Kieran, this is a great lesson!
    I find it very useful to get to know our students better, thanks.

    • Hi John,
      Thanks a lot for taking the time to comment and for your kind words. I’m really glad you like the lesson. if you use it with your students, please let me know how it goes.
      All the best,

  6. I can see this working with my B1 group, I’ll try it out tonight and let you know how it goes: thanks for this website!

      • it went really well at B1 and pre-B1 level…Thanks!
        I was amazed by how many of the phrases the students remebered…just shows what can happen when students are engaged with the topic and format.

        • Hi Mick,
          Thanks a lot for taking the time to comment. I’m really happy your students were so engaged and that they remembered so many of the phrases.
          All the best,

  7. Hi again!
    I used your lesson ” Educating the heart ” with a group of Spanish teachers learning ESL, and it has been great.
    Sometimes the resources that we use, even do they are thought to be appealing and interesting, are far from real language for the students, but your lessons help them to see English from a different perspective, from their perspective, thanks again.

  8. I was just waiting for a film-english new post and this one seems perfect to my students who are learning the IMPERATIVE form at this moment.It’s also an interesting one because it’s an activity for basic learners and I find it difficult to find material for beginners. Thank you indeed and keep doing this great job.

    • Hi Lucila,
      Thanks a lot for taking the time to comment and for your kind words. It’s great to know the site is useful to you.
      All the best,

  9. Great film and brilliant way of using it in class. Simple but effective. Thank you.

    • Hi Jean,
      Thanks a lot for taking the time to comment and for your kind words about the lesson. I,m really happy you like it so much 🙂
      All the best,

  10. Hi, Kieran! Your lesson about happiness is so lovely! Can I load a video on a disk to show it in the classroom? Or perhaps it’s impossible? Thanks a lot!

    • Hi Vika,
      Thanks a lot for taking the time to comment. I think you could download the video and show it in class. Please let me know how it goes.
      All the best,

  11. Great job.! very inspiring for teachers and food for thought for students. I’m using ‘Be happy’ in my next class. Thank you for everything.

  12. Hi there!
    Just want to let you know that I used this lesson for my assessed teaching practice. I was told off for introducing the input, in this case the video, so late in the lesson. The video about being happy has a great potential but perhaps it would be useful to introduce it earlier, in the second stage, so that the students can actually understand (in a bigger context than just a phrase with a picture) and use some of the words themselves. As for the students’ enjoyment, I felt that more creative ones were indeed engaged, but some other students looked as if they thought it was a waste of time as it wasn’t very practical for them. Nevertheless, I really like your ideas and appreciate you’re post them here for free. Your lesson are something completely different from what I’ve experienced as a language learner myself, which was a very traditional (and boring) approach. Thanks!

    • Hi Jagoda,
      Thanks a lot for commenting and letting me know how the lesson went. I think your tutor’s comments about the structure of the lesson are very strange, but I’m not totally surprised. On lots of teacher training course the tutors teach very rigid lesson plan structure which trainees have to adhere to, this allows very little room for creativity and innovation on the part of the teacher. There’s absolutely no pedagogic reason why you can’t introduce a video at the beginning, middle or end of a session; it all depends on the material and your objectives. The students use language actively and in a very engaged manner before watching the film. Frankly I wouldn’t pay too much attention to your tutor’s comments as they don’t seem to have much idea of how to use film in the classroom.
      All the best,

      • Well, yes, it’s true that we have to follow PPP approach (presentation, practice, and production). My tutor says it’s the most effective way as students in the first part of the lesson are given the language they would need for free communication in the final stage, and that in the middle the language needed for that last stage is practised in a more less controlled way. Personally, I don’t see the reason why I wouldn’t depart from this PPP approach once in a while, and do something different. I feel a little bit that perhaps my tutor doesn’t appreciate fluency practice as a good enough objective, which basically this lesson was about. I’m only starting to teach, so probably that’s why I’m a bit lost, and also because every tutor is saying something different. It’s a very subjective thing, this teaching.

        • No teacher should have to rigidly follow the PPP model; it may be useful for trainee teachers but it’s very restrictive. You’ll find your own style of teaching which suits you and your students.

  13. I used this yesterday for my students here in Boston. It was perfect for helping us all cope with the recent tragedy.My students were able to express their feelings through your wonderful lesson. Thank you so much! Meg

    • Hi Meg,
      Thanks a lot for commenting and for your kind words about the lesson; it’s great to know that the lesson helped you to deal in some way with your recent tragedy in Boston.
      All the best,

  14. This lesson idea has completely changed my otherwise dreary afternoon. Can’t wait to get to class and do this with my students. THANK YOU!

  15. Hi Kieran,

    As I’m developping some workshops for my students I came across your work. I plan to use these lessons for my workshops.
    Will let you know what they thought about it.


  16. I delivered this lesson yesterday to a group of six students. The lesson was lively and joyful. The 13-year-olds laughed and smiled a lot. The group and pair works were just the job. Thanks a lot for the website. 🙂 Ms. Ekaterine Berianidze, Tbilisi, Georgia.

  17. Thank you for sharing this. I love all your lessons, but this one is by far my most favorite. More power to you!

  18. I used ‘Be Happy’ with an A2 – B1 class in a summer school today and they really loved it. It got them talking and seemed to make them happy! I introduced the lesson by playing Bob Marley’s ‘Be happy, don’t worry’ and that really set the scene. Any excuse to play Bob Marley! Thanks for your wonderful website.

  19. Hello 🙂 this is cathy who is an english teacher in korea.
    I am always eager to be an teacher who can teach language at the same time, reflecting their life on learning process..^_^

    I was so happy and touch when I watched ur video 🙂
    and suddenly felt that I also want to write or make a short story for childern to learn english and get beautiful image for their childhood 🙂

    ^_^ God bless U

  20. Beautiful Kieran! Will try it out with my students and let you know how it works. Would you mind giving me the title of the great piece of music that accompanies?


    • Hi Maria,
      You’re welcome. Thanks a lot for the kind words. I’m really happy the lesson so much and I hope your students like it too.I’m sorry but I don’t know the name of the piece of music. Maybe one of the readers knows and could let us know.
      All the best,

  21. Hello.How are you.Excuse me for bother you.I had a problem with the system of my Learning.Excuse me that I have many problems in my writing.I want to know that what Books are good for each reading,writng,speaking and listning.I don’t know how to start.But I can speak english a little but I have many problem in reading.
    I mean that I read a story for 3 times but I can’n tell the summary of story easily.I request me that help me.thanks alot.I am Iranian.The system of learning in Iran is very bad.

  22. Thank you so so much for your lessons! They are PERFECT and a real inspiration for me – a beginner teacher:)

  23. Nice lesson (AGAIN), Kieron.

    Maybe teachers could add this great “We are happy from Budapest” vid, to the proceedings, too.

    Could add an element of how do people in different parts of the find happiness? Are the simple pleasures the same everywhere you go…. kind of cultural diversity aspect.

    Hell, why not even make your own “We are happy” vid with your class. Singing along in English is learning English, right? Way better than a boring textbook, too! 🙂

  24. Thank you very much for sharing this material!!! It’s not only useful to work with my sts but also very comforting to share with my daughters!! The different sentences mean what I’m always trying to transmit to them about what life and being happy are!!!

  25. Pingback: Be happy | linguasblog

  26. Hi there Kieran, I was just wondering if the videos have subtitles in English? I am considering subscribing and just wanted to find out..


  27. Hi Kieran,
    I’m a TESOL student teacher here in Australia. I used your Be Happy lesson today for one of the last lessons of my practicum. The students are all adults from a number of different countries (nine students). The material was very engaging and I think, playing the film towards the end of the lesson, worked really well. It gave students time to reflect and work together as they wrote their ideas for what does and doesn’t make for a happy life. Also having a film like this to play in the afternoon helped keep energy and concentration levels up, after a full day of learning English. Thank you for such inspiring material. Debra

  28. Hello there, dear Kieran!

    I would like to say thanks to you!Your page is such a great discovery,the lessons are unique and thoughtful.What is more everyone can feel this invisible positive energy which comes out from your genuine approach and smooth lesson plans.

    As an English teacher I am glad to use some of your sources,students usually reflect very vigorously.I wish i could have arranged someting similar by myself,but i’m just in the beginning of my teaching practice and carrier.

    I wish you plenty of inspiration and many more amazing film-lessons =)

  29. Pingback: How to Be Happy | Joanne´s Developing Teacher Blog

  30. I’ve been using this lesson as the end lesson of my course for 10 months now! I love it. I’ve had students cry because they were so touched by the meaning and flow of the lesson. Thank you for an amazing website and creative materials.
    Greetings from Egypt.


    • Hi Sarah,
      Thanks a lot for commenting and the kind words. I’m very happy that you and your students have got so much from the lessons 🙂
      All the best,