TED Talks in the EFL Classroom

It was such an honor and pleasure to present at the Instituto Guatemalteco Americano’s 31st National Conference for Teachers of English. I hope this is the start of an annual tradition for me! In my concurrent session, I presented on how to incorporate TED Talks in the English as an Additional Language (EAL) classroom. Here is a briefover view of the talk.

Here is the e-handout for the presentation.

Abstract: Teachers of English as a Foreign or Second Language have an opportunity to be the catalyst for change in the classroom, the community and the world! Given the increasingly interdependent and connected world we live in, teachers are charged with empowering their learners with the skills needed to communicate and act as global citizens in a world shaped by fluid borders and challenges to social justice. In this session, the presenter will involve the participants in a discussion about TED Talks as a tool for promoting learner awareness of global issues, engaging learners in global discourse and empowering learners to share their voice in the global context. Participants will explore approaches to using TED Talks in the EFL classroom, discuss the impact of these videos on developing global citizenship and develop lesson plan frameworks for use with these compelling presentations. Participants will be given a handout with a list of suggested TED Talks and sample activities.

What is TED.com?

TED: Technology, Entertainment and Design.
Mission: Spreading Ideas

We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we’re building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other. (retrieved from TED.com)

In brief, TED is an open forum for big ideas. They invite inspired speakers from around the world to talk for 3 to 20 minutes on all topics possible! Then, these talks are made available to everyone – with these videos and this knowledge, viewers are compelled to share, teach, organize and act – locally and globally.

Navigating TED

Go to TED.com.  On the top of the homepage, you see many links. Here’s a description of what you’ll find under each:

  1. Talks: The best place for new TED users to start looking for videos is ‘Talks’.  When you click the ‘Talks’ link, you get a left-hand sidebar with some filtering options. You can choose talks based on the following criteria: a) available subtitles; b) TED Event (e.g., location); c) talk length (e.g., 3 minutes, 6 minutes, 9 minutes, etc.) d) descriptive criteria (e.g., most viewed, date filmed); e) talks by rating (e.g., jaw-dropping, persuasive, funny); f) by topic (e.g., technology, business, global issues)
  2. Speakers: You can search for talks by Speaker if you know someone who gave a talk, but you don’t know the topic. Or if you become a fan of a popular speaker – you can make sure to watch all his/her talks. You can also read more about the speakers, see what other talks they’ve given, find them through their Social Media outlets and more!
  3. Themes: Searching by theme will help you categorize talks that may not speak to the same topic, but fall under the same theme. This promotes interdisciplinary considerations of similar issues. For example, within the theme of A Greener Future, you will find talks related to food, energy, and recycling – each unique, each compelling.
  4. Translations: TED Talks are translated into 90+ languages! When you are watching a TED Talk through the TED website, you can click on ‘Show Transcript’ and choose from all the languages available for that talk. For some videos, when you hover your mouse over the video, you’ll see a button that says something like ‘4 Languages [Off]’. Click this button to choose a language for subtitles.

TED Ed – Lessons Worth Sharing

Go to TED.com and click on TED Ed or go directly to ed.ted.com. On the home page, you will see some options: Series, Subject, Best Flips, YouTube and You. I’ll explain each below, but first – make sure to watch the tutorial when you go to this homepage.

In a nutshell, TED Ed videos are concise, often animated talks on various educational topics. On the side of each video are 3 links: Watch, Think and Dig Deeper. Watch – is to watch the video; Think – serves as assessment (multiple choice, short answer); and, Dig Deeper – provides additional resources.

TED Ed videos can also be flipped, which means that you can take videos you like from TED Ed, TED.com, YouTube or even your own videos and create your own assessments (Think) and resources (Dig Deeper) sections. You can also have students sign in so that you can track their success with questions and read their ideas. Exciting!

Here’s a brief overview of what you’ll find under each link within TED Ed:

  1. Series – Choose from a collection of videos that build on one another. Series titles include: Inventions that Shape History, Ecofying Cities, Playing with Language and Awesome Nature.
  2. Subject – Select based on academic subject areas, such as The Arts, Health and Mathematics.
  3. Best Flips – User-nominated flips that you can use in your class. These are innovative, original lessons developed by others.
  4. YouTube – Choose your own YouTube videos to flip. TED even recommends several in various topic areas.
  5. You – This tracks your progress (e.g., videos you watch, lessons you complete, flips in progress, etc.).

Select TED Ed Talks

Teaching metaphor
Making sense of spelling
How breathing works
Rethinking thinking

Select Talks by Children

Child App Developer
What’s wrong with our food system

Select Talks less than 6 Minutes

You can Browse Talks that are shorter than 6 Minutes. Here are some suggested talks and lesson ideas:

Recommended Talks from Select Blogs

Here are a series of links that already list and/or categorize TED Videos for use in EAL (ESL/EFL) classrooms. There are some overlaps in recommendations, which just confirms the potential educational value of the videos. Following this list, I’ll make some of my own suggestions, which may or may not be duplicate suggestions.

Talks for Teachers: This is a blog entry that categorizes several TED Talks by subject area (e.g., art, education, history) and length for a quick collection of potential teaching videos. The blog entry is actually entitled TED Talks Demystified for Teachers. The site provides prepared lesson plans for use with the videos – they are good starting points or assessments, but should be padded with more opportunities for discussion and critical thinking.

Great TED Videos for Teaching English

Top TEN for Teaching ESL: David Deubelbeiss keeps a blog entitled EFL 2.0. He lists his Top 10 Ted Talks for teaching EFL with a brief description of the video.

Wiki on Teaching with TED

My page with ideas for teaching with TED to promote Global Citizenship


1 thought on “TED Talks in the EFL Classroom

  1. Pingback: TED talks | marcomorin07

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