How to Live Your Childhood Dreams: Viewing Randy Pausch's "The Last Lecture"

12 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


Students will identify and share their childhood dreams and learn how to make dreams come true as they embark on their post-high school adventures.

Big Idea

"The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show us how badly we want something." --Randy Pausch, "The Last Lecture"

Teacher to Teacher: Lesson Context and Time Frame

Today's lesson is #2 of 3 in the final unit: The Last Three Days of the Year. 

The senior year is challenging both for students and for teachers. Many kids claim a chronic case of "senioritis" plagues them, and they often use this to justify and rationalize behaviors. Life's and school's challenges can be overwhelming. Maintaining a positive tone throughout the year can be difficult. 

Despite the year's struggles, I try to end the year with seniors on a positive note and leave them feeling rejuvenated about their high school experience and feeling hopeful about the future. 

Just as I begin the year with the intent of setting the right tone for the school year, I also end it with an attempt to set the right tone for the end of the year and subsequent years. One way I do this is by using Randy Pausch's "The Last Lecture. 

In 2007 Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, delivered his now famous "The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams."  Subsequently, the lecture was published in book form, which is how I first experienced it, and is now available as a DVD and on YouTube. The DVD version has an edited version for school use. 

In today's lesson, I ask students to 

  • Share their childhood dreams with the class,
  • Watch and consider Randy Pausch's "The Last Lecture."
  • Share their responses to "The Last Lecture," including the big idea they'll take away and use as a guiding principle in their futures. 



What's Your Childhood Dream: Students Share Their Dreams

10 minutes

I begin the period by asking students to share their childhood dreams with the class. Immediately, a student says, "I wanted to play professional basketball and be married to Jessica Alba." The student shared that this was his dream until he was 12. Other boys say they wanted to be firefighters and still others share that they wanted to live outdoors all the time when they were little. 

One of the girls said, "I wanted to be Britney Spears." Another students said he wanted to "have super powers." 

My favorite response: "I wanted to be Batman" came from a student whose answer parallels some of Randy Pausch's childhood dreams so I use it as a segue into the lecture. 

I asked the students to put their dreams on a post-it, which I collected. 

Randy Pausch Tells Us How to Live Our Childhood Dreams: Watching the Last Lecture

1 minutes

Then I introduced "The Last Lecture." I tell students a little about Randy Pausch: "He was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. He became ill w/ cancer and delivered a speech now known as "The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams." 

I askstudents to really pay attention to what Professor Pausch says about how we can achieve our childhood dreams and his personal philosophy that led him to achieve his dreams. 

Then we watch the lecture. I have the DVD and typically use the student version, but this year we watched the full lecture, which I have embedded below:

Head Fakes: Responding to the Last Lecture

15 minutes

After the students watch the lecture, I ask them some questions:

  • What idea really speaks to you?
  • What are the brick walls in your way?
  • What are your "revised" dreams? 
  • What are you doing to make your dreams come true and what will you do to make your dreams come true?
  • What else do you have to say about "The Last Lecture"?

I ask students to share their responses and to put their responses in writing in the form of a "letter to myself." 

I had hoped my students would latch on to Randy Pausch's metaphor about "brick walls," but they didn't. Here's why it's so important to me: Brick Walls.mp4 and here's a nifty image w/ the quote: Brick Walls Image and Quote.

After we talked about the lecture, I spoke privately with a couple of students about whether or not I should use "The Last Lecture" at the beginning of the school year. All agreed that it's an excellent way to end the year and told me not to move it to the beginning of the year. They like the inspirational message as one that they can think about as they move into their adult worlds, whether those worlds be in college, in the military, on a LDS mission, or in the workplace.