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Life Stories

“Lucky or Not? Tom’s Quest for the Perfect Apartment”

This lesson is designed to build your critical-thinking skills in English as you read, listen, and answer different types of comprehension and discussion questions.

Pre-Listening Activities for Teachers

Although these questions are related to classroom instruction, independent learners can reflect on the ideas and topic for prepare for the listening portion of the lesson.

  1. Brainstorming: Ask students to brainstorm ideas about renting an apartment in a new city. Write their ideas on the board and discuss them as a class.
  2. Vocabulary Review: Go over vocabulary words from the story, such as “furnished,” “vacancies,” and “treadmill.” Have students match the words to their definitions, or use them in sentences.
  3. Predictions: Show the students the title of the story and ask them to make predictions about what the story might be about. Have them share their predictions with a partner or small group.
  4. Discussion: Have a class discussion about moving to a new place. Ask students about their experiences, what they would look for in a new apartment, and any challenges they might face.
  5. Picture Prompts: Show students a picture of a furnished apartment or a treadmill, and ask them to describe what they see. Have them make predictions about how the picture might relate to the story.


Listen and read the story and answer the questions. Key vocabulary words are marked in bold.


There once was a young man named Tom from England who decided to rent an apartment in the bustling city of New York. He found the perfect place online and eagerly signed the lease, and when he arrived, he was excited to move in and make the place feel like home.

The apartment was fully furnished, and Tom was happy with the cozy couch and the king-sized bed. However, he noticed that there was no workout equipment, and he was concerned about maintaining his fitness routine, so he went out and bought a brand-new treadmill and set it up in the living room.

The next day, Tom decided to explore the city and enjoy his new neighborhood. As he walked around, he noticed many apartments with “vacancy” signs in the windows, and he felt lucky he had found the perfect place.

Back at his apartment, Tom hopped on his new treadmill for a quick workout. Suddenly, he heard a loud knock on the door. He paused the machine and opened the door to find his neighbor, a little old lady from the apartment across the hall.

She scowled at him and said, “Young man, you can’t be running on that thing at all hours of the day and night. It’s bothering the whole building!”

Tom was embarrassed and quickly apologized, and he promised only to use the treadmill during reasonable hours. He closed the door, feeling like he had made a cultural mistake.

Later that day, Tom walked out of the apartment building, took a deep breath of the New York City air, and smiled. He knew he had made the right decision in renting the apartment. It may not be perfect, but it was his own little piece of the city, and he couldn’t wait to make friends and make his place feel like home.

So, with this story in mind, what lessons can we learn from Tom’s experience in his new apartment, and how can we apply them in our own lives when interacting with people from different cultures and backgrounds? 

Comprehension Questions: Self-Grading Quiz

Comprehension Questions in Text Format

1. What did Tom do when he realized there was no workout equipment in his apartment?
a) He decided to skip working out altogether.
b) He went out and bought a brand-new treadmill.
c) He started jogging around the city instead.
d) He asked his neighbors to share their exercise equipment.

2. What did Tom notice when he walked around his new neighborhood?
a) There were many apartments for sale.
b) There were many apartments with “vacancy” signs in the windows.
c) The streets were always empty.
d) The neighborhood was very noisy.

3. What did Tom’s neighbor complain about?
a) Tom was always throwing loud parties.
b) Tom was running on his treadmill at all hours of the day and night.
c) Tom was cooking smelly food.
d) Tom was always blasting his music.

4. How did Tom feel after his interaction with his neighbor?
a) Embarrassed
b) Angry
c) Happy
d) Indifferent

5. Did Tom eventually feel at home in his new apartment?
a) No, he hated living in New York.
b) Yes, he settled in and even made some new friends.
c) He never felt comfortable in his new home.
d) He missed his old apartment in England.


1. b) He went out and bought a brand new treadmill
2. b) There were many apartments with “vacancies” signs in the windows
3. b) Tom was running on his treadmill at all hours of the day and night
4. a) Embarrassed
5. b) Yes, he settled in and even made some new friends

Discussion Questions

Easy (Recall and Comprehend):

  1. What is the name of the main character in the story?
  2. Where is the young man from?
  3. Why did the young man decide to rent an apartment in New York?
  4. How did the young man feel when he found out the apartment was furnished?
  5. Did the young man have any roommates in the apartment?

Intermediate (Analyze and Interpret):

  1. How did the young man solve the problem of not having workout equipment in his apartment?
  2. What did the young man notice when he walked around his new neighborhood?
  3. How did the young man’s neighbor react to him using the treadmill?
  4. How did the young man feel after his interaction with his neighbor?
  5. Besides exploring the city, what other activities did the young man engage in to feel at home?

Difficult (Analyze and Interpret):

  1. How can cultural differences impact how we interact in shared living spaces?
  2. Is bringing workout equipment into a shared living space appropriate without consulting your roommates or neighbors first? Why or why not?
  3. What strategies could Tom have used to avoid disturbing his neighbor with his treadmill use?
  4. How can tenants balance their personal needs and desires with the needs and desires of their roommates or neighbors in a shared living space?

Role-Play Situations and Class Activities

1. Two students act out a conversation between Tom and the landlord when he signs the lease for the apartment.
2. One student plays the role of Tom, and another student plays the role of the old lady neighbor who complains about the treadmill noise.
3. Students create a dialogue between Tom and a friend, discussing the pros and cons of living in a big city like New York.
4. A group of students act out a scene where Tom hosts a dinner party for his new friends and prepares a traditional English meal.
5. Students create a dialogue between Tom and his landlord, where they discuss the rules of the building and the expectations for tenants.
6. Students act out a scene where Tom helps his foreign neighbor carry her groceries up to her apartment, and they have a conversation about their cultural differences.

Here are more class ideas:

Brainstorming: Have students brainstorm a list of cultural norms that might be different in New York compared to their own hometowns.

Debate: Divide the class into groups and have them debate whether it is appropriate for Tom to run on his treadmill at any time of the day or night.

Role-Playing: Have students role-play a conversation between Tom and his neighbor, exploring the cultural misunderstandings that occurred and how they could be resolved.

Creative Writing: Ask students to write a short story from the perspective of Tom’s neighbor, exploring her feelings about living in the same building as a young man who is always running on his treadmill.

Analyzing a Text: Have students analyze the story’s title and discuss how it relates to the content of the story.

Group Discussion: Lead a group discussion on the importance of respecting cultural norms and differences, both when traveling and in everyday life.

Research Project: Assign students a research project on cultural norms and customs in a specific country, encouraging them to compare and contrast those customs with their own.

Critical-Thinking Exercise: Have students create a list of potential solutions to Tom and his neighbor’s conflict, encouraging them to think critically about how cultural misunderstandings can be resolved.

Art Project: Ask students to create a piece of art that represents a cultural norm or custom from their own culture, encouraging them to think about how different cultures can be represented through art.

Different AI technologies, including ChatGPT and an AI voice generator, were used in a collaborative way to prepare the content for this lesson.
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