skip to main content

Leading adult education through support for and the effective application of technology.

This I Believe: Failure is a Good Thing


Main Website:

Activity Description

If you listen to NPR radio, you may hear both famous and unknowns discussing their core values and beliefs on weekly broadcasts of the radio spot “This I Believe,” a take-off on Edward R. Murrow’s original 1950s radio show. The site is an archive of all the modern broadcasts accompanied by the original print essays and contains a searchable database of thousands of other essays on numerous topics ranging from patriotism, to family, to sports. Each short essay that has been broadcast on NPR has a “listen now” link to hear the authors read their essays, which provides a listening component for the ABE student. The audio can be the basis for exercises on note-taking, listening for main ideas, supporting details, and cloze (listening for missing words).


  1. Be sure you have all the necessary equipment.
  2. Preview site.
  3. Listen to/read essay on failure (see Web Site Example above).
  4. Print assignment sheet (see example document above).


  1. Introduce the "This I Believe" series.
  2. Discuss 'personal values' as a class.
  3. Read/listen to the Web Site Example URL (above), "Failure is a Good Thing." You will need a computer connected to the Internet and a projector with speakers to do this as a class.
  4. Open the Example Document 1 (above) and go through the vocabulary.
  5. Writing Assignment: Have students write about a time they felt they failed or made a mistake.

More Ways

For a one time donation, the site provides downloadable (.pdf) Educators’ Guides new window for use with Middle/High School and College students, both of which are applicable to and easily modified for use with adult literacy students or older adult programs. The guides’ curricula include discussion guides, pre-writing activities and prompts, and sample essays. The purpose of the guides is to assist instructors in planning lessons with the objective of students writing their own “This I Believe” essays. The curricula “help students understand the concept of belief, explore their own values, and craft them into a well-written essay.” Students can submit their essays to the site for online publication.

Program Areas

  • ABE: Adult Basic Education


  • Low
  • Intermediate
  • High
  • All Levels



  • Reading
    • Critical Thinking/Decision Making
    • Vocabulary
  • Reasoning Through Language Arts
    • Essays


reading, writing, audio assist, audio-assisted reading, cloze activity, critical thinking, failure, I Believe, listen and read, main idea, pre-writing, prompt, publish, supporting details, text reader, thisibelieve, United States, values, values, word processing, writing, writing, writing on computer, writing process

Creative Commons License

CC BY-ND:This license allows reusers to copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in unadapted form only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. The license allows for commercial use.


You may copy, download one copy on a single device, and print a limited amount of content for your personal, non-commercial use only, provided that (a) you include without modification all copyright and other proprietary notices contained in the content, (b) you do not modify the content, (c) you do not use the content in a manner that suggests NPR promotes or endorses your, or any third party's, causes, ideas, products, sites, applications, platforms or services, and (d) you do not use the content in any way that is unlawful or harmful. Subject to the conditions in the preceding sentence, you may use widgets and tools on the NPR Services that allow selected User Materials to appear on your personal, noncommercial blog, site, application, platform or service. You may use the content feeds, APIs, podcasts, media players, and other features of the NPR Services, and content accessed therefrom, only as expressly permitted in these Terms of Use, including the "Use of Content: Conditions and Acknowledgments".
Scroll To Top

OTAN activities are funded by contract CN220124 from the Adult Education Office, in the Career & College Transition Division, California Department of Education, with funds provided through Federal P.L., 105-220, Section 223. However, OTAN content does not necessarily reflect the position of that department or the U.S. Department of Education.