“Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon”
Winnie the Pooh


If your learners are happy and they know it, they learn better, approach tasks with more enthusiasm and are, ultimately, more successful. Shall we check?    


Step 1.

Before you start, tell your students that you’re running an experiment in happiness. Ask them to note down how happy they are on a scale from 1 to 4, where 1 is the lowest level of happiness and 4 is the highest level.


(Source: http://cliparts.co/gif-emoticons)

Step 2.

Opinion poll. Hand out questions of the opinion poll (one per student) and ask students to approach as many students as possible within 7 minutes [set your time limit depending on the number of students] to get answers to their questions. When the time is up, ask students to present a brief summary of the answers given.

Opinion Poll

Students present generalized answers to their questions. Write key findings on the board to make a common profile of happiness of the group.

Step 3.

Put students into small groups and ask them to come up with ‘3 things to be happy about today’. Ask each student to put down things to be happy about on post-it notes and then get them to make a common list, study the things that make them happy, and pick 3 things that make them all happy about today.

Have students compare their lists with ‘Things to be Happy about Today’ at http://www.thingstobehappyabout.com/


Step 4.

Tell students that they are going to watch a short video on the experiment in happiness versus success. Pause the video at 2.45 and ask students to predict whether the participants will manage to solve the puzzle or not.

Get feedback. Ask students if they perform better when they are in a good mood. Encourage them to come up with some particular examples.

Step 5.

Tell students that you will try the same experiment. To do that, you may refer to the happiness profile and pick out “listening to music” or “jokes” as things that cheer them up. Ask students to sing along with the song repeating the words happy, happy, joy, joy and snapping their fingers to keep rhythm.

Split students into small teams and ask them to come up with words that make them feel happier. Make a list of words for the whole group and compare it with the top 25 “happy” words identified by the research team from the University of Vermont (the words are shown alongside their rankings):

159 – easier
172 – interesting
205 – honest
211 – forests
234 – Saturday
239 – dinner
290 – comfortable
320 – gently
344 – fresh
371 – pal
375 – warmth
433 – rest
449 – welcome
491 – dearest
504 – useful
548 – cherry
558 – safe
584 – better
665 – piano
721 – silk
741 – relief
878 – rhyme
892 – hi
947 – agree
969 – water

Your favorite word— ________________

See more here.

Step 6.

Betting game. At this stage, you can have students brush up on grammar or vocabulary. The principle of the game is simple – students do an exercise – gap fill, correction, etc. and place bets on their answers. Tell students that they place a bet of Euro 10 on the sentences they think are correct. If they are right, the bet will double. If they are wrong, they lose the money. The winner is the one who manages to make more money. See a sample worksheet below.


Step 7.

Now, when your students are ‘happy and wealthy’, measure the level of their happiness again.


Is there any difference in the level of happiness of your students? If yes, congrats, you’ve done a good job and your classroom is a happy place to be in; or else, add a touch of humour and try some other activities WOW ME; FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT; COMPLIMENTING & VALIDATION.

* * *

Extra materials/activities: Oxford Happiness Questionnaire

Further reading: http://teaching-the-teacher.weebly.com/blog/how-happy-are-your-students

More activities to boost your learners’ happiness: check out ELTandHappiness


  1. Hi Svetlana,

    This is a great lesson plan with strong materials. With my business English students conversation often turns to job satisfaction so I think they would relate to this lesson on success and happiness.

    Liked by 1 person

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