The surprising truth about what motivates us – ESL lesson plan – TED talk

mule1. A traditional way of motivating people at school and at work is a carrot and stick approach.

The “carrot and stick” approach is an idiom that refers to a policy of offering a combination of rewards and punishment to induce behavior. It is named in reference to a cart driver dangling a carrot in front of a mule and holding a stick behind it. The mule would move towards the carrot because it wants the reward of food, while also moving away from the stick behind it, since it does not want the punishment of pain, thus drawing the cart.

Does your company use this method to motivate its employees?

What serves as “a carrot” and as “a stick”?

Is it efficient enough?

Can you think of any drawbacks or limitations of this approach?


2. I’ve selected some key words that are essential to be able to discuss the TED talk you are about to watch. Watch a short presentation of the active vocabulary.


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3. In the talk you’ll hear many sentences similar to this one: “The higher you rise, the lower you fall”.

If you’re not too familiar with this grammar pattern, please watch the video tutorial and do the following tasks.



Dear students, you’re welcome to post your examples in the comments. 

Task 1. Finish the sentences.

1. The older you get,…

2. The more money you have,…

3. The bigger the problem, …

4. The bigger the dream,…


Task 2. In what situations would you use these expressions?

The sooner, the better.

The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The more you know, the less you understand.

The more you get, the more you want.


4. Watch the talk once for the general meaning.



Find the transcript here


5. Now watch the talk again and answer the questions (make notes).



6. When preparing to discuss the ideas of the speech, study the verbs we use to report what others say. It doesn’t sound good to always say: “he said that…”

Make yourself familiar with a number of verbs to report others’ ideas.


I hope you enjoyed the lesson. I welcome any comments or questions.