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“Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.”
—Malcolm Forbes (1919-1990), American entrepreneur and publisher
How can you encourage your advanced ESL students to develop their speaking skills and tap into their interest in our rapidly changing world? By creating compelling classroom assignments that respect their intelligence, engage their curiosity, and model great speaking skills. Adding a homework assignment that requires ESL students to go the “ideas worth sharing” website at TED.com accomplishes all these goals.
Ideas worth sharing
For several years now, I have asked both college and international graduate students in my advanced oral skills classes to select a short video from the site, watch it, and prepare to share their impressions in class. The more they explore the variety of available lecture topics, the more engaged they become. Often students will watch several TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) videos before choosing a favorite. Since many of the students’ English language skills are constantly evolving, they just take notes.
The next day, students discuss the video that they selected in small groups of four. Afterwards, I ask for “brave volunteers” to share their impressions – i.e., review – with the class. Usually everyone wants to present so we extend the lesson to a second class where I sometimes videotape the presentations.
These class sessions are always illuminating, engaging, and surprising as I learn more about students, their interests, our evolving world, and their English language speaking skills. This democratic speaking skills activity creates an atmosphere where “everybody is a student, and everybody is a teacher.” Result: the entire class creates compelling classroom conversations!
Try it out!
As the old American cereal commercial used to say, “try it – you’ll like it” – at least with more advanced English students. Let your students be hunters, gathers, and presenters of new information to their classmates!
For ESL teachers who want a more formal assignment, you can also use this more detailed worksheet.
TED Worksheet #1
Find a short video on a topic of particular interest to you. Although lectures can be seen as a one-way conversation, the best TED talks show us how to share specialized information in a comfortable, effective, and friendly manner. You will probably want to watch and listen to the talk two times before answering these questions. Finally, be prepared to review the TED talk for your classmates in a series of one to one online conversations. Please answer the following questions to start preparing your review:
1. What is the title of the talk?
2. Who is the speaker? What is the speaker’s background?
3. Where and when was the TED talk given?
4. How did the speaker begin the presentation?
5. What is the theme of the talk?
6. Does it match the title? How?
7. What was a memorable part of this TED talk? What made it memorable?
8. How did the speaker connect to his audience? (Humor, visual aids, etc)
9. What did the speaker want to accomplish? Do you think the speaker achieved their goals?
10. Did the speaker convince you? Why?
11. Why did you choose this TED talk?
12. How would you rate this TED talk on a scale of 1-5? Why?
Have you begun using TED Talks in your English classroom yet? What are some of your favorite video lectures from the site? Which ones did your students find the most interesting?
Ask more. Know more. Share more.
Create Compelling Conversations.