Ideas for E.L.L.s | Teaching and Learning About Work and Careers is my latest post for The New York Times. I’ve also got to say I think it’s a particularly useful and expansive one. And I can vouch for all of it from recent experience since we just did all of the activities listed in our classroom!

In fact, my original version of the post was so long that a piece had to be deleted, so I’m publishing it below.

I’m adding this post to The Best Websites For Students Exploring Jobs & Careers and to All My NY Times Posts For English Language Learners – Linked With Descriptions (where you’ll see…all of my previous NY Times posts).

And since the supplemental section I’m sharing relates to self-control, I’m also adding this post to The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control.

What Other Key Qualities Do Employers Look For In Job Applicants?

The Times article headlined The Excitement Of Learning From Profit And Loss suggests that researchers have identified six qualities that are important for life and job success:

“… collaboration, communication, problem solving, innovation, grit and self-management.”

Teachers can quickly review the meaning of each of those words (the Times article links to an expanded explanation), and say that, for now, the class is going to focus on the last two — grit and self-management (self-control).

See this previous Learning Network ELL post for a lesson on grit.


Here is a downloadable cloze (gap-fill) exercise adapted from a David Brooks’ column in The New York Times related to self-control.

Additional Self-Control Teaching Ideas:

  1.  The teacher can explain that this experiment has been done many times, and has been found to be accurate. The teacher can go on to explain that it was a test of “self-control.” Ideally, students can view this short and humorous TED Talks video of a similar experiment.   The teacher can then give examples of when he/she has shown and not shown good self-control, and share what the consequences were for each.  Then, ask students to write or draw about their own experiences and consequences, which they could share in partners.

The teacher can read another quotation from the David Brooks article.  The children who waited to get the second marshmallow, he writes:

“were able to resist their appetites because they were able to distract themselves, and think about other things.”

Then, invite students to choose one situation where they find it hard to exert self-control, and draw a cartoon depicting it on one half of a piece of paper. Then, on the other half, have them draw what they can do instead, perhaps including a “thought bubble” detailing how they could distract themselves from losing control (the teacher should first show a model). They can share these posters in pairs, small groups or even with the whole class, and the posters might be hung on the wall as reminders.

  1.  To add a little fun, teachers might do their own “marshmallow experiment” during this lesson by giving students a piece of candy at its beginning and say they will get a second one at the end if they wait to eat the first piece.