LESSON PLAN: Absurd Reality and Artistic Vision in Selfies

/ B2, C1, Grammar training, Speaking and Conversation, Teachers

January 2021 – In this lesson plan, you can discuss selfies from an artistic and a humorous point of view. The lesson aims at B2-C1 level students and is based on a TEDTalk (available on YouTube, not on the official TED site) and a scene from a late night TV show. It gives opportunity to revise narrative tenses and/or reported speech with your students. The exercises are suitable for online lessons.


Ask your students to make a ‘duckface‘. After a great laugh, ask them to show you their last selfies taken. Otherwise, you can check on their WhatsApp or any social media accounts, these are usually filled with selfies. Ask them to tell you why they took and publish one or the other particular selfie.


Tell your students that they are going to watch a TEDTalk about selfies. Before doing that, ask them what the following vocabulary items mean: uncomfortable, narcissism, see something through the lens of/as somebody, flip around, accomplish, cave paintings, look with keen observation, unconscious activity, flooded, ROI (return on investment), the pure pleasure of doing something.

Ask them to categorize the words into parts of speech, whether they are positive or negative, etc. Explain the meaning where necessary.

Follow-up questions:
– Can you see your city/town through the lens of a foreign tourist?
– Can you flip around the camera on your laptop?
– What have you accomplished so far that you are really proud of?
– Are there any famous cave paintings in your area?
– Do you feel sometimes flooded with news from the social media?
– Does your English course have a good ROI?
– Why do you study English: because you need it or just for the pure pleasure of learning something new?



What positive and what negative things can you say about the selfies? Elicit as many ideas as you can (for example, selfies are a quick way to show people that we are ok or where we are, selfies are a way to express ourselves artistically, selfies are a way to show off, selfies communicate to the world: I am important, etc.).

Tell your students that they are going to watch a TEDx talk Exposing “the selfie” | Linda Hudson | TEDxManhattanBeach (2014), in two parts:
– until 7:07: students are asked to answer open and multiple-choice questions;
– 7:08-12:32: students are asked to tick off ideas mentioned in the talk.

After each part ask for feedback:

Video: Exposing “the selfie” by Linda Hudson

Follow-up questions: Your view on selfies

Do you think that selfies make people see the world differently?
– Are selfie-takers real artists?
– Do you know any particularly well-made selfies?
– Do you think that people shift their attention to the outside world after having taken enough selfies of themselves?
– What messages do most selfies send out into the world in your opinion?
– LH finishes her talk with the idea: ‘Learning doesn’t only happens in my classroom.’ Do you agree to this statement?


Grammar: narrative tenses or reported speech

You can consider two grammar points while dealing with this topic:

Narrative tenses: past continuous, past perfect (simple and continuous)

You can ask your students to describe their favourite selfies and explain to you: why they took the photo, what they were doing while taking the selfie and what had they been doing before?

If you need some grammar revision, use the British Council – Learn English pages: past perfect, talking about the past

For example: When I took this selfie, I was trying to give a bath to my dog. He hadn’t had a bath for more than a month by then and he had been smelling really bad for some time. So we couldn’t put it off any more, etc.

Reported speech: narrative tenses ‘at work’

When discussing past tenses, you are a step away from reported speech. You can ask your students to retell what the speaker in the TEDTalk discussed using reported speech: She said that she hadn’t imagine getting so many selfies from her students for this talk. She expressed her conviction that cell phones were tools to make people actually slow down, etc.

If you need some grammar revision, visit the British Council – Learn English website: reported speech 1

You can also browse through your and your students’ social media account and read some comments on published selfies. Students are asked to report some appropriate comments to the rest of the class. Monitor that your students use the correct reported speech form when commenting on the comments.


In the next part, your students will watch a short scene (4:27) from The Late Late Show with James Corden. Ask your students if they know the show or the showman James Corden? Tell them that he has a British accent. They are going to watch the video twice. While watching the first time, ask them to listen to James Corden’s opinion about selfies:

VIDEO: Stop Taking Selfies by James Corden (2015)

Possible answers are: he finds it ridiculous how many selfies people take, he is also sarcastic about sport commentators discussing selfie-taking girls instead of the game or articles about the dangers of taking selfies.

Now, ask your students to watch the same video the second time and while watching, answer the following questions:

What comparison does James Garden make between
1) selfies and landing on the Moon?
2) the number of photos already taken in 2015 and money?
3) selfies today and photos of 20 years ago?
4) the old lady and the others at a film premier?
5) selfies and shark attacks?
6) selfies and suicide?
7) selfies and drinking?

Answers & Follow-up questions:
1) The girls in the short scene from the game took 20 selfies in 10 seconds, the ‘guy on the Moon’ took ‘like’ 3 in total. (Follow-up question: What do you know about the Moon landing and rumors about its famous photos? – Free answers.)
2) One trillion photos had already been taken in 2015 and that’s how many dollars people should pay to James C. to sit through a baseball game. (Follow-up question: Why do you think he doesn’t like baseball games? – Free answers.)
3) You would have not been able to take 300 pictures of yourself to the 1-hour photo service to print out. (Follow-up question: What is ‘1-hour photo service’? – Answer: A maybe still existing service of some photo-shops to print out digital or traditionally taken photos within one hour.)
4) The old lady was the only one not holding a cellphone but living in the moment. (Follow-up question: How do kids react to it? Answer: Poor lady cannot afford a cell phone, we should help her with a ‘kick-start’.)
5) More people have died by taking selfies than by shark attacks that year. (Follow-up question: Why are selfie-accidents tragic? – Answer: 1) Because you die, 2) Because you don’t see how many ‘likes’ your selfie got on social media.)
6) It’s easier for family and friends to accept someone’s death if it’s a suicide and not due to a selfie. (Follow-up question: What scenarios can you imagine when people really die while taking selfies? – Free answers.)
7) They have the same 3 rules. (Follow-up question: What are these three rules? – Answer: 1) Try not to do it alone, 2) Definitely don’t do it while driving. 3) If you take more than three a day, you should seek help.)


Invite your students to take a look at the comments on YouTube: both videos have both, positive and negative comments. Just check the first 20 for each (they are really short). Discuss whether they are positive or negative about the video itself, the speakers and the ideas expressed.

Consider analyzing the language use: comments are written chats, they are short, often lack grammatical accuracy and are full of collocations, phrasal verbs and often also slang. Depending who your students are, you might want to take some useful expressions from the comments: be sick of something, soothing voice, widely and negatively criticized, bring something out of somebody, see no point in something, etc.

You can also assign for homework to post their own comments to these (or other videos) in English or they can write an essay about the topic.



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