• Stimulating Small-Group Discussion Activity 6: Happiness Is Not the Same in the East and West

Cover read for discussion SHOT

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)*

Some reasons why students seemed stimulated by this discussion:

  • Many of the Asian students were surprised at how much Westerners think about happiness.
  • They enjoyed comparing with their classmates what made them feel good, and they realized that they were often quite different.
  • Some students were surprised that some of their classmates actually were uncomfortable with the idea of feeling happy.

This and future discussion activities include four parts:

1) A one-page article usually including a brief summary of a high-interest research study.
2) Ten true-false comprehension questions.
3) Pre-Discussion Exercise in which students read and think about several questions about their own experiences about the topic.
4) Small-group discussions of the article in which each student is given a paper with different questions in the form of Student A, B or C.

About Discussion Activity 6: Happiness Is Not the Same in the East and West (and the handout).

Here is an excerpt from paragraphs 2 and 7 of the article

2 Recent studies have shown that people in the West and East describe happiness differently and have different ideas about how to get it. In many ways, our culture determines what we do to get happiness.

7 Americans think that they have control of happiness, so if someone is not happy, they need to do something to make themselves happy.  They believe that people can get happiness if they try hard enough.  On the other hand, many Easterners believe that people need to accept their fate instead of trying to control situations to make themselves happy.

Here are some of the personal experience discussion questions that students will discuss.

Pre-discussion Exercise 2

Think about these discussion questions.  You don’t have to write anything.

  1. Is feeling happy an important goal for you?
  2. In paragraphs 5 and 6, it talks about Americans Jason and Lucy and Aki, an Asian girl. Do you think you get happiness more like how Jason and Lucy do or more like how Aki does?
  3. Do you think that you can be happy if your family or friends don’t have harmony?
  4. What is something good that has happened to you recently?
  5. Do you think that you caused that good thing to happen or do you think that it was fate?
  6. Do you sometimes think, “I prefer not to be joyful because usually joy is followed by sadness” and “I am frightened to let myself become too happy”?

Here is the link to the complete activity:

Happiness article and exercises HO

To make group discussion most successful, see these postings for activities

. Conversation magic: Two most important conversation techniques (Part 1)
Conversation magic: Two most important techniques. (Part 2)
Discussion Technique to Get Quiet Students Involved (Part 1)
Discussion Technique to Get Quiet Students Involved (Part 2

Also see this posting Want Your Students to Seem More Likeable? Research Says: Teach Them Follow-up Questions

David Kehe

*About the free-download materials. During my 40 years of teaching ESL, I have had many colleagues who were very generous with their time, advice and materials. These downloads are my way of paying it forward.  

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