Teaching the Last Lecture: 25 High School Lessons & Activities

The Last Lecture is a great book.

 

(The speech also can be watched.) It teaches so many life lessons. I have been using this book for the last few years in a senior elective course. My students read independently in class for 20 – 30 minutes. I find this method to be most effective for my classes, you may choose to use the book as an outside reading.

For the silent sustained reading, the students fill out a journal entry at the end of the reading session. (If any teacher would like a copy of my Silent Sustained Reading Chart, please email me, mark@mytowntutors.com.)

For a more detailed Click on the link to see a more detailed account of the lesson. (I will be adding future posts for many of the activities.)

Randy Pausch: The Last Lecture

25 Activities

1. Life list – 25 – 50 items that you hope to accomplish in your life. (Make it an IMPORTANT part of your life. Look at it regularly!)

2. Family Stories - “All parents want to teach their children right from wrong, what we think is important, and how to deal with the challenges life will bring. We also want them to know some stories from our lives.” (page ix)

3. “If I were a painter, I would have painted for them. If I were a musician, I would have composed music. But I am a lecturer. So I lectured.” – use your talents.

A. Explain & Describe 1 – 3 talents you have.

B. Explain how you developed these or are developing these talents.

C. Explain how you use them or can use them to help others.

4. “What makes me unique?” (page 9) –  Essay question 500 words

5. ROLES – “I thought about how I defined myself: as a teacher, a computer scientist, a husband, a father, a son, a friend, a brother, a mentor to my students. Those are all the roles I value.” (page 10) Explain THREE of “the roles (you) value.” Explain why you value each of these roles. Why are these roles important to you?

6. “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” (page 17) Explain a “tough hand” in life you have been dealt and how you “played the hand.” This hand could be something out of your control – a birth defect, divorce, accident, moving – or something you controlled – an arrest, a bad grade, a bad decision. In your answer

A. Explain the “hand”

B. Explain “how you played it”

C. Describe how you feel about how you played it

7. Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams – Select a CURRENT dream of yours. Something you are very passionate and enthusiastic about. Write about what it is. Why it is important? How will you progress toward that dream?

8. Parent Lottery - All humans have flaws and our parents are no exceptions. We all have different relationships with our parents, however, as young adults you can understand some of the good qualities in others. You will present this to you parent(s). Some ideas for this activity include:

A. “I had a father and a mother who got so many things right.”(page 22) Make a list of the things your parents got right.

B. “My dad gave me advice on how to negotiate my way through life.

“Never make a decision until you have to.”

“Just because you’re in the driver’s seat does not mean you have to fun people over.” (page 23)

Explain the valuable advice you have received from your parents.

C. “Kids more than anything else – need to know their parents love them.” (page 26) So do parents – Let your parents know that you love them.  In this letter / activity be sure that your parents completely understand how important they are in your life

9. “I want to paint things on my wall. Things that matter to me. Things I think will be cool.” (page 27)

A. POSTER – Create a poster of your dream wall. It should include things that matter to you. You will be graded on effort and creativity. Some of us are artistically challenged. You will not be marked down for lack of artistic talent.

B. Explanation of the objects on the wall and their significance to you. Pages 28 – 30  are an explanation of Randy’s choices – please follow this model.

10. “It [football] helped make me who I am today.” (page 35) – What is the “it” in your life. Describe your “IT.”

A. What is the history of “it’? How long has “it” been in your life? How was “it” introduced?

B. Describe your commitment to “it”? How does “it” impact your life?

C. What are the sacrifices you have made for “it”? What rewards have you received form “it”?

 

11.“Giving kids self-esteem. It’s not something you can give. It’s something they have to build. .. He knew there was only one way to teach kids how to develop it: You give them something they can’t do, they work hard until they find they can do it, and you just keep repeating the process… He made me realize that if I work hard enough, there will be things I can do tomorrow that I can’t do today.” (page 37) Describe something in your life that raised your self-esteem because you could not do it, but with hard work you accomplished it.

12. “So that was my setback. But I kept my mantra in mind: The brick walls are there for a reason. They’re not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.” (page 51-52) Describe a brick wall you encountered and the steps you took to show how badly you wanted something.

13. “Wow, this is the epitome of a person appreciating this day and this moment.” (page 64) Identify a person who you know who “appreciates” life the most.

14. “Like many people, I had strengths that were also flaws.” (page 67) Do a little self-reflection and evaluate yourself analyzing a strength that also might be considered a weakness. This is a great question to answer well. A common interview question is what is your greatest weakness?

15. “The number one goal of teachers should be to help students learn how to learn. I always saw value in that, sure. But in my mind, a better number one goal was this: I wanted to help students learn how to judge themselves… educators best serve students by helping them be more self-reflective.” (page 112) Reflect on yourself.

16. “I’m a scientist who sees inspiration as that ultimate tool for doing good…. When you’re putting people on the moon, you’re inspiring all of us to achieve the maximum human potential, which is how the greatest problems will be solved.” (page 132-133) What inspires you? What is your inspiration?

17. “Too many people go through life complaining about there problems…Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won’t make us happier.” (page 138-139) Evaluate your level of complaining. Do you complain often or do you look on the bright side? What do you complain about? Do you think if you complain less you would be happier?

18. “If nobody ever worried about what was in other people’s heads, we’d all be 33 percent more effective in our lives and our jobs.” (page 141) Are you overly concerned with what others think?

19. “Being able to work well in a group is a vital and necessary skill in both the work world and in families. As a way to teach this, I’d always put my students into teams to work on projects.” (page 142) How well do you work with others? Do you enjoy group work? Why or why not?

20. “Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you wanted. And experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer.” (page 149) Describe an experience where you gained experience. Be detailed in your narrative. What was the event and the lesson that was learned?

21. “Because hand-written notes have gotten so rare, they will remember you… My advice was more about helping them recognize that there are respectful, considerate things that can be done in life that will be appreciated by the recipient, and that only good things can result.” (page 152) We have completed many of these types of activities so far. Describe the process and reaction.

22. There is No Job Beneath You – “There is a growing sense of entitlement among young people today.”  (page 168) He is calling you out? Is he right?

23. “There are a few key moments in anyone’s life.” (page 173) Select a few and describe the moment and the significance in your life.

24. “All of us have a responsibility to the community…When we’re connected to others, we become better people.” (page 175 – 176) Comment on this quote and apply it to your personal experiences with community service.

25. Create a Last Lecture to present to the class. A variation could be a slide show or a video production.

I would love feedback from teachers if you try any of these activities. If you have any additional questions, please email mark@mytowntutors.com.


7 Responses to Teaching the Last Lecture: 25 High School Lessons & Activities

  1. Jessica Troftgruben says:

    Thanks for posting this information. I am a first year 8th Grade English Teacher and am going to start off with The Last Lecture. I love the “cards we’ve been dealt” writing assignment. I will let you know how the unit goes!

  2. Shannon Gray says:

    I have listened to this book three times and will likely listen to it again. What an amazing message and a from a perspective that I hope I never find myself in today, tomorrow, or in the future. It is a legacy that I feel lucky to be a part of through words. I had not thought about using it with students, I teach little people, but thought it would be a great professional development piece. Thanks for sharing!

    • mmolloy says:

      Thanks so much for you comment. I find it to be a great book to reflect about your priorities in life. I am glad you enjoyed. Perhaps you could try a few of the activities.

      Thanks again!

  3. I really like this leason that inspired my aspirations and atimes made me forget of the bad,hard and miserable life i went through all along.

  4. Tonya Fowler says:

    I have wanted to read this book in my Senior English class for a while now, and so our Librarian agreed to buy a class set for our school. I was thrilled to find such meaningful activities to go with it! Thank you for sharing!!!

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