challenges, student in front of computer

TED Talk # 2 – Challenges

English Skype Lessons

Challenges BY Matt Cutts

Target Audience: Upper-Intermediate Students (CEFR B2 – C1)


Matt Cutts of Google talks about setting up 30-day challenges.

In the lesson, students will learn:

  • Vocabulary for describing challenges;
  • To critically discuss the worksheet topic.

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girl, asia, people, challenges

1. Warm-up activity

Talk about something you have always wanted to do or a country you have always wanted to visit.


Matt Cutts is an engineer at Google. You are going to watch him talk about setting and achieving goals.

Watch the talk and mention the  goals he achieved during his 30-day challenges:

Take a picture a day

Go to the gym

Cycle to work

Climb Mt Kilimanjaro

Write a novel

Give up alcohol

Run a marathon

Lose weight

Give up sugar

Stop watching the news

3. Vocabulary in context

Match the word/idiom with its correct meaning.

1. nerd (n.)

a. able to continue for a long time

2. give it a shot (idiom)

b. a socially awkward person

3. sleep-deprived (adj.)

c. bored

4. sustainable (adj.)

d. not having enough sleep

5. stuck in a rut (idiom)

e. try to do it

Now complete the script below with the words/phrases:

A few years ago, I felt like I was ______________, so I decided to follow in the footsteps of the great American philosopher, Morgan Spurlock, and try something new for 30 days.The idea is actually pretty simple. Think about something you’ve always wanted to add to your life and try it for the next 30 days.

It turns out, 30 days is just about the right amount of time to add a new habit or subtract a habit — like watching the news — from your life.

There’s a few things I learned while doing these 30-day challenges. The first was, instead of the months flying by, forgotten, the time was much more memorable. This was part of a challenge I did to take a picture every day for a month. And I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing that day.

I also noticed that as I started to do more and harder 30-day challenges, my self-confidence grew. I went from desk-dwelling computer ________________ to the kind of guy who bikes to work — for fun.

Even last year, I ended up hiking up Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. I would never have been that adventurous before I started my 30-day challenges. I also figured out that if you really want something badly enough, you can do anything for 30 days.

Have you ever wanted to write a novel? Every November, tens of thousands of people try to write their own 50,000-word novel from scratch in 30 days. It turns out, all you have to do is write 1,667 words a day for a month. So I did. By the way, the
secret is not to go to sleep until you’ve written your words for the day.

You might be ___________, but you’ll finish your novel. Now is my book the next great American novel? No. I wrote it in a month. It’s awful. But for the rest of my life, if I meet John Hodgman at a TED party, I don’t have to say, “I’m a computer scientist.” No, no, if I want to, I can say, “I’m a novelist.”

So here’s one last thing I’d like to mention. I learned that when I made small, _________ changes, things I could keep doing, they were more likely to stick. There’s nothing wrong with big, crazy challenges. In fact, they’re a ton of fun. But they’re
less likely to stick. When I gave up sugar for 30 days, day 31 looked like this.

So here’s my question to you: What are you waiting for? I guarantee you the next 30 days are going to pass whether you like it or not, so why not think about something you have always wanted to try and __________ for the next 30 days.


Study the words below and fill in the gaps with the words from Jay’s talk. Check your answer by watching the video again or reading the transcript.






1. Manias can be good. Manias can be ______________. Or manias can be deadly.

2. 80 million high school students have already taken this ____________ test.

3. The intensity to learn English is almost _______________.

4. Is English a _________, washing away other languages?

5. Like the ___________ of electricity in our cities or the fall of the Berlin Wall, English represents hope for a better future.


Age range

British English

American English

2 – 5

nursery school / kindergarten


5 – 11

primary school

kindergarten (5 – 6)
elementary school (5 – 11)

11 – 18

secondary school

junior high school (11 – 14)
high school (14 – 18)



college / university

a. Describe the education system in your country using the above table.

b. What else do you know about the British and American education systems? Please complete the sentences below:

A levels








1. The term ‘__________ school’ has opposite meaning in the UK and US. In the UK, it refers to a private independent school. In the US, it means a school that is funded by the state.

2. In the UK, a ___________ school refers to a typical state school secondary school.

3. In the UK, the school-leaving exams are known as __________.

4. In the US, the person in charge of a high school is a ___________. In the UK, it is a headteacher or headmaster/headmistress.

5. At an American university, a student studies or __________ in a subject.

6. When preparing for an exam, students in the UK __________ what they have studied. In the US, they review for an exam.

7. In the UK and US, students take exams. However, in the UK, they can also __________ exams.

8. In the US, Americans can use the expression ‘go to ____________’ even if they are at university.


1. What do you think of the English learning methods shown in the presentation?

2. How important is learning English in your country?

3. How would you describe the quality of your country’s education system?

4. Has ‘English mania’ influenced your native tongue?


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