7. Bucket List

Sometimes going through major life changes can make you look back over your life, and forward to the future. Perhaps, with the lifting of restrictions in late spring, the appearance of a chink of light between the doors of confinement has turned students’ thoughts to future possibility? This task focuses on students’ life ambitions that they would still, realistically, like to fulfil – a bucket list. The origin of the term, when students ask, is actually the idiom kick the bucket and, more specifically, the 2007 movie starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. 


  1. After opening the lesson with a chat (in open class) about achievements and memorable days, students read through the following popular options for bucket lists (don’t introduce the term yet.), asking which of these things have you done and which would you still like to do?
  • ride an elephant 
    • visit the Grand Canyon 
    • see the pyramids in Egypt 
    • go skydiving
    • write a book
    • swim with dolphins
    • go on a cruise
    • learn to surf
  • In feedback, ask the students if they know what a bucket list is, or whether they have seen the film. Explain the idea in a way that is appealing. (You needn’t relate it to lifetime goals – note that the website above has “summer bucket lists”.) You can elicit from students what kind of things would tend to be on people’s bucket lists: travel tends to be right up there, along with ambitions that are to do with sport and hobbies.
  • As an alternative to step 4, if you want to set homework before the task itself, you could introduce students to this site, where they can read about people’s ideas. https://www.bucketlist.net/ideas/ Various people have posted short articles – sometimes only a line – about their suggestions and insights.  
  • The students now listen to Sze’s three ideas – see audio file below – with this task: 
    • What are her choices?
    • Would your list include any of these? 
    • Are there any choices that  surprise you?
Sze’s bucket list

Main Task  

  1. Now it’s the turn of the students to write their own lists. They should restrict themselves to things that are realistic, given their age and stage of life, but there is no limit to the number of items. It’s possible that some students may have no unachieved ambitions at all, in which case you caould ask these students to think of more extreme or fantastical ideas. Tell students they’ll be presenting some of the items to the group, so they may wish to add extra notes.
  2. The task is for the students to talk about items from their own lists, and say why they have chosen each one. If there is time, they can also ask each other questions to find which other student(s) in the group have similar ideas. Who is most similar to you? You could even get them to see if there is anything they could, in theory, do together. (See below for alternative goals for the task.)
  3. Be careful with setting the time-limit; there should be a clear time for each student’s turn in the breakout group. 2-5 minutes each is a rough guide, depending on their level, and how you frame the goal.
  4. In feedback, you can, introduce other personalised questions such as, “is this something you’ve wanted to do for a long time?” or “what prevented you from doing this up till now?” 

NB Here are three alternative ways to make the task communicative:

  • The students could discuss in their groups and say whose list is most / least achievable, or expensive.
  • In face to face classes, students can write their lists and display them for others to guess who wrote each list – before the main discussion in groups. This can also be done online by having students type their list, take a screenshot, and post it on the chat for the host to download – if your platform has this feature.
  • For younger (teenage) or more competitive students, you could tell them to include one lie on their list i.e. something that is a plausible bucket list wish, but not one they would personally include. After they tell each other about their bucket list ideas, the listeners should try to guess which is the lie.

Ideas for Language Focus: 


Language for wishes / desires / likes and dislikes: I chose this because I really like X; I’d love to…. I never had the chance to do X when I was younger; 

Present perfect It’s just something I’ve never done / always wanted to do;  I’ve been building up to –ing / training for the London Marathon; I’ve always thought about / dreamed of -ing

Conditionals / modals – if I had the chance, I’d definitely do X; it might be possible if I save enough money; I’m sure I could; I don’t know if I’ll be able to; You can do this at any age / You don’t have to be young to do this

Verb patterns (colloiation) e.g. It looks/ seems easy, as though + clause / like + NP


Wishes / desires: a lifelong ambition, a secret wish, a bit of a challenge; set myself a new challengeI want to get out of my comfort zone / try something new; fear of failure

To describe the items on the list: It’s (un)realistic, achievable, rewarding, disappointing, out of my reach, well within / beyond my abilities (to…)

Variations / task repetition

  • The task can be focused on areas of particular interest e.g. sports, travel, a reading list, music/arts, or career achievements.
  • If you feel the bucket list idea is inappropriate, you can feed in the language “to be in your comfort zone”, “to go beyond your comfort zone”, clarifying these, and go on to ask students: When are you in your comfort zone? What are some things you would like to try that are beyond your comfort zone?
  • You could add a homework task from the website above or https://bucketlistjourney.net/my-bucket-list/  Students read and choose 5 of their favourites to report back on.