A Spotless Mind: a conversation lesson

Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind is one of my favourite films. One of my friends has recently shared an article on Facebook that mentioned it and I thought it would lend itself really nicely to a conversation lesson. I can’t remember who shared it, though, so I apologize in advance for not giving you proper credit.


This is a lesson aimed at adults, as the main discussion point about deleting your memories is likely to be more productive with people who have more life experience.

Start the lesson by showing students these film posters and ask them what they have in common (it should be pretty obvious that they are all Jim Carrey films).

Spotless Mind

Now put students in pairs and ask them to discuss these questions:

  • Which of these films have you watched? How did you like them?
  • In general, do you like Jim Carrey’s films? Why or why not?

After a few minutes, get some feedback from your students and get them to justify whether they like his films or not.

Now tell students they are going to watch the trailer to one of the films and that they should think of these things:

  • What type of film is this? (E.g. comedy, drama, sci-fi, etc)
  • What is the story of the film about?
  • Does this kind of film strike your fancy?

I decided to introduce ‘strike your fancy‘ here. If you do so, double check if students know it. Otherwise, replace it by something similar like ‘seem interesting to you’ or ‘appeal to you’.

After watching, ask students to discuss the answers in pairs. Some of my students thought the film was a dramedy, which is another good word to introduce if they don’t come up with it by themselves.

The key thing at this point is establishing that the plot of the film revolves around the main characters having their memories erased. If students couldn’t get that from the trailer, you can use the first few paragraphs from the text to help them.

Tell students they are going to read an article that mentions the film. Tell students to read only the first three paragraphs and answer the questions:

  • What is the story of the film about?
  • Did the author like the movie? Why or why not?

The original article can be found here and my adapted version is below.

A Spotless Mind (Psychology Today)

Ask students check their answers in pairs and then check with the whole group. Afterwards, give them more time to finish reading the article and answer these questions.

  • What kind of psychological problem can propranolol help with?
  • Is using propranolol simpler or more difficult than the process in the film?
  • What does the author think of exposure therapy?
  • Would the author like to delete her bad memories? Why (not)?

Once again, let students compare answers in pairs and then check with the whole group.

As a follow-up, ask students to discuss the question at the end of the article.

  • How would you answer the author’s final question?
  • Would you consider taking a drug to erase some of your memories? Why or why not?

Finally, you can go back to the text and explore the vocabulary in bold. These are the words I chose to work with:

be wacky

to cling to

to scramble

to trigger

to bear

be torn

to treasure

to seek (the) solace (of)

Either give students definitions for them to match or ask them to guess the meaning of the words/expressions in pairs (which works better with higher levels). Either way, concept check the expressions before moving on to practice exercises. For example, wacky means strange, but it’s used in a positive way. It’s also a good idea to double check the pronunciation of bear, as students often pronounce it like beer.

For some contextualized practice, you could get students to discuss the questions below.

  • Do you have any friends who are a little wacky or who cling to you?
  • At the end of the month, do you sometimes scramble to meet deadlines or targets in your job?
  • Are there any smells or songs that trigger memories from your childhood?
  • Do you have any co-workers who don’t bear responsibility for their actions?
  • Have you been torn about any important decisions recently?
  • Do you have any possessions that you treasure because of sentimental, rather than monetary, value?
  • What or who do you seek solace in if you are having problems?

Thanks for reading.

2 thoughts on “A Spotless Mind: a conversation lesson

  1. I did this lesson with a couple of private students tonight. Teenagers. We had seen “would” and “would rather” previously and I thought this would be a nice topic to consolidate those structures. And even though you mentioned adults would have more to talk about on this particular theme (as they do), my students looooved it! By the end of the class they were “Teacher, this class was great!”, and “Yeah! I loved thinking about this. It’s so interesting”. So kudos to you on coming up with it! Thank you for sharing!


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