Responding to Disappointments - Intermediate High

Positive Psychology Learning Outcomes: Students will identify what disappointment is, recognize their own challenges, and learn strategies for responding to disappointment. Language Learning Outcomes: Students will understand and use key vocabulary about the topic, narrate in the past tense, actively participate in a conversation through proper responses, and listen for minor details.

Lesson Information

Positive Psychology Learning Outcomes

Students will...

  1. identify what disappointment is.  
  2. recognize their own challenges.
  3. learn strategies for responding to disappointment.

Language Learning Outcomes

Students will...

  1. Understand and use key vocabulary about the topic.
  2. Narrate in the past tense.
  3. actively participate in a conversation through proper responses. 
  4. listen for minor details.

Materials Needed

Additional Listening Materials:


Grief is often associated with deep loss or sorrow, and often loss through death.  This is a strong emotion and can be difficult to manage, but it is not a frequent experience for most people.  We may feel similar but less strong feelings of grief when faced with disappointments or goals that weren’t achieved.  This lesson focuses on dealing with disappointment that comes from setbacks.

Activate Background Knowledge

Help students understand words associated with grief by presenting the following definitions and examples.  

  • cope: to succeed in dealing with a difficult problem or situation
    • She had to learn how to cope after her fiance broke up with her. 
  • letdown: a disappointment or a feeling of disappointment that doesn’t match expectations.
    • After all I'd heard about the movie, it turned out to be somewhat of a letdown.
  • dishearted/downhearted: having lost determination or confidence; dispirited.
    •  Sarah remembered how disheartened she felt when she saw the doctor’s findings.
  • resilience: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
    • The rescue workers showed remarkable resilience in dealing with the difficult conditions.
  • setback: something that happens that delays or prevents a process from developing
    • There has been a slight/temporary setback in our plans.

Activity 1: Vocabulary 

Help students understand words associated with grief by presenting the following definitions and examples.  

  • cope: to succeed in dealing with a difficult problem or situation
    • She had to learn how to cope after her fiance broke up with her. 
  • sorrow: a feeling of great sadness, usually because someone has died or because something terrible has happened to you
    • He felt great sorrow after the death of his father. 
  • manage: to succeed in doing something difficult, especially after trying very hard
    • The boy managed to finish school despite being very poor. 
  • loss: the fact of no longer having something, or of having less of it than you used to have, or the process by which this happens
    • After his accident, he suffered a loss of hearing. 
  • grief: deep sadness caused by the loss of something or someone important to you
    • The death of her friend caused her much grief. 

Retrieved from: Longman Dictionary 

Activity 2: Listening

Pre-Listening activity:

Watch the following video about overcoming obstacles.  Ask the students to listen to what the man talks about with dealing with challenges.  

Overcoming obstacles - Steven Claunch

After watching the video you may ask you students the following questions:

  • What challenges/obstacles did this man face in his life?
  • How was he able to deal with his difficulties?
  • What does it mean to “overcome obstacles instead of letting our obstacles overcome us?”

Activity 3: Listening/Speaking

Have students think of a time when they have faced disappointment.

  • For example, you may not have scored very high on the TOEFL test, or you didn’t get the grade on the test that you wanted to even though you studied very hard.  You may have applied for an exciting job but you didn’t get it, or you didn’t reach a goal in time.

Ask the students to think about a personal experience related to disappointment.  Take a minute to think about how you felt in that moment and how you feel now.

Share with a partner and describe how you felt in that moment and how you feel about it now. 

Activity 4: Reading/Speaking  

Present the following short paragraph and picture:

Michael Jordan is without a doubt the greatest basketball player of all time, but we only see the success. He missed 9,000 shots in professional matches during his lifetime. And that was necessary to eventually become the best basketball player ever. Are those 9,000 missed shots making him a failure? No. We all ‘fail’. It’s okay.

Retrieved from:

Ask students to think of other famous and successful people.  (EX: Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, Oprah Winfrey).  Explain that many people become successful after many “failures” and setbacks.  

Jigsaw activity:

Jigsaw activity worksheet

  • Arrange your class into groups of 3 or 4 (depending on class size).  Assign each group to research a famous and successful person.  You may give them someone to research, or they may choose someone themselves.  
  • Pass out worksheets to each student.  Explain that they will work together as a group to list successes and failures that these famous people experienced. 
  • Create new groups with one member from each of the original coming together in a new group.  Each student will present what they talked about in their first group -- what can we learn from this person’s example?.  All other students should be taking notes on the speaker’s information.


There might be students who are currently experiencing disappointments, so you can ask them to think about that situation and how they could possibly respond to it mindfully and constructively. Some ideas presented in this class that they could use are changing their perspective, sharing their experience with others, or even allowing themselves to feel the pain, feel sad and then move on. If students are not currently experiencing disappointments, invite them to make a list of things they can do next time they feel grief.



Ask students to share the list they made for homework with a partner. Have them focus on the things they can do to respond to disappointments mindfully.  You can also invite students to think of someone they know who might be currently experiencing disappointment. Based on the ideas they wrote down in their lists, how could they help that person? 


Discuss the following question: 

  • Why is it important to feel the pain of disappointment? 

Help students understand that by allowing ourselves to feel the pain we are able to consciously accept what happened to us and move on to find happiness and well-being in our lives again. 


Review the vocabulary words learned in the vocabulary activity.  To review you can:

  • Ask students to think of their own example sentence using each word
  • Think of antonyms or synonyms for each word
  • Identify in which contexts the words could be used

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