Teaching with TED: 5 Video Lessons

TED meaghan

Meaghan Ramsey: Why thinking you’re ugly is bad for you

I’m sure you’ll agree that TED.com is a fantastic resource-bank for teachers.

There are hundreds of thought-provoking talks to choose from and the optional subtitles mean you can introduce TED at intermediate stage, or perhaps even earlier depending on the tenacity of your learners.

Here are five of my favourite TED talk lesson plans for business English students.


1. Meaghan Ramsey: Why thinking you’re ugly is bad for you

Meaghan Ramsey’s inspiring talk deals with body confidence, and the pressure on girls and women to conform to a body ideal. In her very effective presentation, Meaghan demonstrates a range of techniques that learners can adopt for their own public-speaking.

Lead-in: Show learners the image of Beyoncé which was apparently photoshopped to make her appear slimmer. In their opinion is there too much pressure on women to look a certain way? Where does this pressure come from? Are only women concerned or does this issue affect men too?

Video: Give learners a copy of the presentation techniques  worksheet and check learners understand the language. They must write an example of each technique Meaghan demonstrates during her talk.

Discussion: Review the content of the video and reflect on Meaghan’s message. According to Meaghan, what steps should we take to boost self-esteem? Do you have any other ideas to tackle this problem?

Feedback: Check through the presentation techniques activity. Discuss the effects of each and whether learners have used any of them when public-speaking.

Production: Students prepare a short presentation on a cause of their choice (for example: the environment, a conflict, the economy in their country, a change they would like to make at work/in their community). They should use some of the techniques discussed in the previous exercise.


2. Alastair Parvin: Architecture for the people by the people

Alastair Parvin presents his start-up, Wikihouse, in this talk on the power of the sharing economy.

Lead-in: Show learners this image and ask if they understand what is meant by ‘Sharing is the new buying’. Ask if they have ever participated in the sharing economy by using services like car-sharing or couch-surfing.

Video: Give students a copy of the worksheet in order to facilitate note-taking during the talk.

Discussion: Analyse Alastair’s concept for self-assembly homes. Discuss the risks and opportunities.

Production: Ask learners to think of ways that their company (or school) could benefit from the sharing economy.


3. Hamish Jolly: Shark-deterrent wetsuit

This TED talk is about product design and problem-solving. This works particularly well with my students who work in product development.

Lead-in: Ask students the question ‘How do we protect surfers from shark attacks?’. Think of as many different solutions as possible.

Video: Watch the video and then discuss the advantages and possible risks of the wetsuit.

PowerPoint Activity: Ask learners if they know of any other products inspired by nature (introduce the term biomimicry). In the PowerPoint quiz learners look at images of animals to guess the product they inspired. Afterwards, read the information sheet to learn more about the development of each product.


4. Julian Treasure: How to speak so that people want to listen

This video is about using the voice effectively during presentations. Ideally this lesson would follow a class on presentation structure and language.

Warmer: Give students a piece of paper with the classic sentence ‘I did not say you stole my red hat’. Each person must stress a different word in the sentence. Discuss how the different stresses alter the meaning of the sentence.

Lead-in: Elicit presentation dos and don’ts from learners.

Video: Learners note down the different vocal techniques demonstrated in the video. After the video, discuss the following questions: What effect do the different techniques have? Do they use these techniques in their own presentations?

Practice: Students read a short text aloud, using some of the techniques featured in the video. Newspaper comment articles are suitable for this exercise.

Production: Students prepare a presentation on a professional project using the techniques in the video.


5. Avi Reichental: What’s next in 3D printing?

3D printing is a tech buzzword at the moment. In his talk, Avi Reichental introduces us to the future possibilities of 3D printing as the technology develops. Note that Avi has quite a strong accent so some students may require the subtitles.

Lead-in: Use the technology image sheet to prompt discussion about advances in technology over the last 10 years. Weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of each device or service and ask students to rank them in order of usefulness.

Video: Learners watch the video and note down the different uses of 3D printing that Avi explores.

Discussion: Which of the uses of 3D printing did they find the most advantageous and why? How could 3D printing change their lives at home and at work?


So there you have just a few of the endless ways you can use TED talks as part of a stimulating lesson.  Do you teach with TED? Leave a comment to let me know which videos you use and how.

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