How to teach with TED Talks: A practical course for English teachers

Learn how to use TED Talks to teach engaging and motivating lessons at any level (even if you've never used video in class before).

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This course is currently closed for enrolment.

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What are you going to learn?

After taking this course, you will be able to:

  • select TED Talks that are appropriate for your teen, young adult or adult learners so that they can access TED’s big ideas while improving their English.
  • run level-appropriate TED-talk-based classes without hours of prep so that you can spend more time doing other things.
  • engage your learners (and yourself!) with real-world content so that language learning – and teaching – is interesting and relevant to real life.
  • provide brilliant role models of L2 English users talking about things they care about so that your learners can understand that their own accent and way of speaking is an important part of their identity and voice in English.
  • use TED talks to address specialist or technical topics so that you can deal with ESP classes even without specialist content knowledge.
  • teach learners what they need to know about language and culture in the 21st century so that they can become the linguistically and culturally agile world citizens that the workplace demands.

Cover image under CC by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Your Instructor

Lewis Lansford
Lewis Lansford

Lewis is an award-winning coursebook writer, materials developer and teacher trainer. He has co-written two course book series featuring TED Talks for National Geographic Learning: Perspectives (upper secondary) and Keynote (young adult and adult).

This course is currently closed for enrolment.

However, you can join the waiting list and get a chance to win FREE access to the course when it launches!

Click on the button below to join the giveaway

Course Programme

The course is still in development. These are the modules currently planned, but as the course develops, based participant feedback, some of the content may be modified.

Module 1: How to choose a TED Talk that’s perfect for your students

Overview: We tend to think that TED Talks are hard, especially for lower-level learners. But research in educational psychology shows us that not all authentic video is created equal when it comes to classroom usability. This module will give you just enough science to help you choose videos that unlock language in a variety of topic areas and make them accessible to your students.

Module 2: How to make the most of TED Talk visuals in the classroom

Overview: We often think of video as listening that happens to have pictures. But what happens when you turn off the sound? Can you still teach English with a silent video? Absolutely! Even when input has no spoken words, it’s full of language. This session gives practical tips on how to unlock the language in moving images, engage learners, and help them learn English.

Module 3: How to make the most of TED Talk audio in the classroom

Overview: The visuals are part of what make some TED Talks brilliant teaching materials, but sometimes focusing first on what we can hear is the easiest way to activate language. And while we think of classroom listening input as being spoken words, there’s a lot of non-linguistic sound in TED Talks that can be incredibly useful to teachers and language learners. This session makes some practical suggestions on how a focus on sound can turn on your students’ learning.

Module 4: How to use L2 English in TED Talks as great speaking models for your students

Overview: What accent do you expect your learners to have in English? What accent do they hope to speak with? British? American? Or another “native” accent? And if your learners speak English with a non-native accent, does that mean they haven’t yet completely succeeded as English learners? This session is about the reality of accents, and about how L2 English speakers can be excellent models for our learners – showing that the target accent doesn't have to be ‘native-like.’ The session includes practical suggestions on how we can help our learners speak confidently and make themselves understood in English.

Module 5: How to use TED Talks to teach ESP – You don’t need to be an expert when you bring a TED Talk into the classroom

Overview: One of the biggest fears ESP teachers have is that they don’t know enough about the topic area to deliver good lessons. I know, because I taught in a manufacturing company for two years. This same fear can put us off using TED Talks that have a lot of technical information in them. But it doesn’t have to be that way. This session will explore practical ways that teachers can feel confident working with technical material that they themselves don’t completely understand.

Module 6: How to use TED Talks to teach about culture in the Twenty-first Century – try it!

Overview: We talk a lot about culture in ELT, but how much does it really matter to learners? In today’s global world, it matters a lot – but not necessarily in the ways that you might think. This session explores what we mean by culture, and the importance of culture to learners in situations where there are no L1 English speakers, and L2 speakers from a variety of countries. The session includes practical tips on how to explore culture in the classroom.

Module 7: How to use TED Talks to get learners thinking and talking about their ‘English’ identity

Overview: Who am I when I speak English? We often hear people say that they have a “different personality” when they speak a second language. It seems that for many people, using a second language allows them to express aspects of themselves that seem absent in their first language. This is an incredibly important concept in language learning, but one that isn’t often addressed directly in the classroom, or in materials. This session will look at practical ways to help learners understand the concept of linguistic identity.

Module 8: How to use TED Talks to help learners find their own voice in English

Overview: Novelists and poets often speak of “finding their voice” – discovering how to use language in a way that is identifiably theirs. But it isn’t only novelists and poets who do this. Everyone develops their own personal way of using language, and this includes people who learn a second language. In this session, we’ll consider the importance of helping learners find their voice, and look at practical ways teachers can assist them.

Frequently Asked Questions

When does the course start and finish?
The course starts now and never ends! It is a completely self-paced online course - you decide when you start and when you finish.
How long do I have access to the course?
How does lifetime access sound? After enrolling, you have unlimited access to this course for as long as you like - across any and all devices you own.
What if I am unhappy with the course?
We would never want you to be unhappy! If you are unsatisfied with your purchase, contact us in the first 30 days and we will give you a full refund.

This course is currently closed for enrolment.

However, you can join the waiting list and get a chance to win FREE access to the course when it launches!

Click on the button below to join the giveaway

How I got hooked on TED Talks

I became aware of TED Talks around 2010, when someone shared Derek Sivers’s talk Weird, or just different? on social media. After that, various talks were recommended by friends and colleagues – Ken Robinson’s Do schools kill creativity?, Hans Rosling’s The best stats you’ve ever seen, Vijay Kumar’s Robots that fly like birds – and many others.

Though I could see that they might have use as teaching tools, my main interest in them was my own entertainment and engagement with fascinating ideas and great speakers. So when, in 2014, I was invited to join the team at National Geographic Learning to write for the Keynote series, I knew I was in for the most enjoyable and intellectually stimulating writing job of my life. And it was.

One of my first tasks on the project was to watch dozens – if not hundreds – of TED Talks and choose which ones to include in the coursebook I was writing. Through this process, I began to develop some rules of thumb for what makes a TED Talk classroom ready: the speaker’s pace and intelligibility; the length (not too long!); the amount of visual support; the interest level of the topic. I also began to think a lot about what teachers – and students – could do in the classroom to work with TED Talks. It was the most fun I’ve ever had writing a course.

When the opportunity to write a second course came along, I jumped at the chance, feeling happy to return to the process of searching through the TED archive and discovering hundreds of new talks that I hadn’t seen before. During this time, I was also given the opportunity to speak at a lot of conferences, and TED Talks featured in varying degrees in most of the talks I gave. I also wrote a series of blog posts with practical ideas for using TED Talks.

Through talking with teachers all over the world, I began to appreciate how much teachers love TED Talks but also that they often were unsure how to use them. Then I realized that after all the talks and blogging, I had enough material to put together an online course about how to teach with TED Talks. And these modules is the result. I hope you like it!

This course is currently closed for enrolment.

However, you can join the waiting list and get a chance to win FREE access to the course when it launches!

Click on the button below to join the giveaway