Bad Habits to Break to Improve Your Life (Upper-Intermediate Lesson Plan)

ESL Level: Upper-Intermediate
Lesson Topic: breaking bad habits
Skill Focus
: Reading, Vocabulary, Speaking
Lesson Plan Download: bad-habits-lesson-upper-intermediate26092020.docx
Approximate Class Time: Two hours

Note: This lesson was designed for English teachers. Students, feel free to read the lesson and leave your answers to the questions in the comment area below.

Break your bad habits!

UPPER-INTERMEDIATE Bad Habits ESL Lesson Plan: Warm-Up

  1. What are some things that you like to do every day?
  2. What are some things that you should do every day that you don’t always?
  3. You are about to read an article about bad habits. With a partner, try to predict the content by writing down a list of common bad habits.
  4. What’s the best way to break a bad habit?

Reading: Bad Habits to Break to Improve Our Lives

1. When things don’t turn out as planned, excuses arise. We find convenient ways to rationalize why we couldn’t or wouldn’t do something. These excuses waste time and prevent us from moving forward. This can create cycles. Stubbornly, we procrastinate, believing that tomorrow is more convenient than today.

2. Interconnectivity distracts us from completing tasks efficiently. The internet is full of shallow content meant to temporarily grab our attention. After a distraction, research by professor Gloria Mark has shown it takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to completely return to a task. By putting away our smartphones, we can engage in the kind of deep work needed for productivity. Furthermore, though people may claim they are great at multitasking, research shows that 98% of us cannot do it well.

3. We often believe that saying `No’ is impolite or unfriendly. As a result, we say `Yes’ to everything, often at the expense of our own personal time and schedule.

4. With the rise of social media, it has become much easier to compare ourselves to others. What’s worse, we often compare ourselves to empty projections of someone’s outward appearance that may not even reflect a lived reality. This can make us insecure and discontent.

5. Our minds are full of trivial commentary, doubts, and criticisms. We let these inner voices consume our existence. Lost in mental noise, we neglect the beauty of the present moment.

[Sources:,, some original content]

Bad Habits Lesson Plan: Comprehension & Follow-up Questions

  1. Each of the five points above does not have a heading. Take a minute to write down one noun that best summarizes each point from #1 to 5.
  2. What `cycle’ is the author trying to describe in the fourth sentence of point #1?
  3. In point #4, what does the author mean when he writes that we compare ourselves to “empty projections of someone’s outward appearance”?
  4. Review the list again. In the margin beside each point, write ‘That’s me / Somewhat me / Not me’ based on how much the bad habit relates to your life. Afterward, discuss your answers with a partner or classmates.
  5. Do you agree with the points of the article? What points do you think are missing from the list?

Bad Habits (ESL) Lesson Plan: Vocabulary Matching

Match the words with their meaning as used in the article.

  1. turn out (phrasal v)
  2. rationalize (v)
  3. move forward (phrasal v)
  4. procrastinate (v)
  5. at the expense of (expression)
  6. projection (n)
  7. insecure (adj)
  8. trivial (adj)
  9. neglect (v)
  1. in a way that harms someone or something else
  2. fail to care for properly
  3. develop or end in a particular way
  4. justify, account for
  5. unimportant, of little value
  6. delay or postpone action, put off
  7. advance, make progress
  8. the presentation or promotion of something in a particular way
  9. not confident or assured

1C, 2D, 3G, 4F, 5A, 6H, 7I, 8E, 9B

Vocabulary Homework

Circle the words that were new for you. Add them to your vocabulary notebook and make sentences for homework.

Habits Lesson Plan: Five Good Habits (Group Work)

The article does not mention good habits. Consider the following categories:

  • good habits for academic success
  • good habits for career success
  • good habits for physical and mental health
  • good habits for happiness in life

Option 1: Each group should pick one category above and spend five minutes creating a list of five good habits together. When finished, students should present their list to the class. —or–

Option 2: Each group can create a general list of five good habits related to any category. When finished, students present their list to the class.

ESL Lesson Plan on Habits: Famous Quotes on Habits (Group Work)

Discuss the below quotes. When finished, add your own quote.

  • “Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits” — Mark Twain
  • “Good habits formed at youth make all the difference.” — Aristotle
  • “Some rules are nothing but old habits that people are afraid to change.” — Therese Fowler
  • “Happiness is a habit–cultivate it.” — Elbert Hubbard
  • “Feeling sorry for yourself, and your present condition, is not only a waste of energy but the worse habit you could possibly have.” — Dale Carnegie

Bad Habits Lesson Plan: Discussion Questions

  1. The article argues that smartphones kill productivity. Is this true for personal life? What about the workplace?
  2. What are some strategies or expressions we can use to `say no’ politely?
  3. Does social media really make us discontent? Do you get benefits from its use?
  4. Many `good’ and `bad’ habits are about increasing our productivity. Is productivity the most important goal for people?
  5. Cultural Relativism: How does our culture influence our perceptions of good or bad habits? If you have experience living in another culture, what `good’ or `bad’ behaviours are viewed differently there?

Bad Habits (ESL) Lesson Plan copyright Matthew Barton of 

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2 comments on “Bad Habits to Break to Improve Your Life (Upper-Intermediate Lesson Plan)

  1. Ming (Posted on 7-14-2021 at 21:58) Reply

    In the first warm-up question, there is an error. It should be “you like to do,” not “you do like to do”.

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 7-14-2021 at 23:27) Reply


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