The paradox of choice

Lesson plan overview

This upper-intermediate to advanced ESL lesson plan is dedicated to the topic of choice overload, and how it affects decision-making and how satisfied we are with the choices we make. Students will talk about their shopping habits and decision-making processes, as well as concepts like FOMO and decision fatigue, will learn collocations with the words choice and decision, and phrases to express hesitation. You can combine it with the video-based lesson “Black Friday”, as well as the worksheets “Idioms: decision-making”, “Phrasal verbs: shopping”, and “Idioms: Black Friday (shopping)“.
Speaking: The lesson starts with a general discussion about choices and decisions. Then, students take a look at different situations in which they need to make a choice (e.g. choosing a restaurant for dinner, selecting a streaming service, shopping for jeans).
Vocabulary and speaking: Next, students look at 5 statements which contain target vocabulary for this lesson (hesitate, second-guess, weigh the pros and cons, procrastinate, narrow down). Students match the verbs to their definitions and then discuss the statements, saying whether they are true for them. After that, they answer 3 questions.
Vocabulary: collocations. Students learn common adjective+noun collocations with the words choice and decision (e.g. bold choice/decision, tough/decision choice, wise choice/decision, random choice, hasty decision). To practise, students choose the correct adjective to complete 9 sentences.
Listening: Students watch a video called “The paradox of choice – why less is more for true happiness”, which is broken down into 3 parts, and complete 3 activities. After that they engage in a post-listening discussion.
Functional language: expressing hesitation. Students take a look at 11 sentences, each one including a different way to express hesitation (e.g. I’m torn between…, I can’t make up my mind, I’m in two minds about…). Their task is to underlie the part of the sentences that expresses hesitation.
Speaking: The last activity is focused on speaking and will encourage students to use the expressions from the previous activity. They are given 4 situations to role-play. In each one, one of the participants needs to make a choice, and the other person needs to help them.
For further speaking practice and to revise the target vocabulary from this lesson. You can use the set of conversation cards.

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Teacher’s lesson plan

Student’s worksheet

Student’s interactive PDF

Conversation cards PDF

Pre-class activities

To send the pre-class activities to your students, copy the link below.

Vocabulary matching


The first time you watch the video, pay special attention to the correct pronunciation of the following words:

Most people who live in developed democratic societies have taken it for granted that the more choice people have, the better off they are in any domain at all.
She and her research assistants posed as representatives from a jam supplier and set up a display of samples at the front of the store.
They’ve also developed subconscious strategies to help them deal with the often overwhelming abundance of choice.

Comprehension questions

In-class activities

Teacher’s lesson plan
Student’s worksheet

Conversation cards PDF

Student’s interactive PDF

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