Guest blog post by Jeanmarie Mclaughlin
Have you ever watched a TED Talk? Of course you have! The great thing about TED Talks for high school English is that they are so versatile. There are so many ways to use them to engage your students in the curriculum.
The Great Thing About TED Talks for High School English
1.) TED talks are short. TED Talks by their very nature are short. Most are under 20 minutes, but it is easy to find talks that are under 10 minutes which is a perfect length of time for a single class period. You can even watch a talk more than once to do “rereading of the text.”
2.) You can access the transcripts. Talks that appear on the main ted.com site include the transcript (often in other languages, so if you have non-native speakers in your classes, this may be helpful). I have often pulled passages from the transcript to encourage students to do close reading.
3.) They are engaging. The speakers are engaging and show students what a good speaker should look like. The can help students to see the structure of a well written essay or speech and they use media and props in an effective way that doesn’t involve “reading the slides” to the audience.
4.) The variety of topics is outstanding. The variety of topics means there is a talk to accompany almost anything you are doing in class.
How to Use TED Talks for High School English
Introduce a Unit
I love to use video to introduce a new unit. Despite their constant bombardment with media, students still look (for a few minutes anyway) when you show them some video. So TED Talks are a great way to introduce a new unit especially if it is theme based. And it is relatively easy to find talks to that fit your needs.
Explore a Research Topic
When our students were required to complete a canned research project, we knew that we had to do SOMETHING to get them engaged. So, of course, we went with TED. We directed students to use the search engine on the TED site and to watch 3 talks to get them into their initial research. This allowed them to get some background and at the same time begin to ask questions that could become research questions.
We used the same method when our students were researching the ability to achieve the American Dream. This time, however, we set up a page with linked talks. So we previewed several talks to insure that they fit our needs and helped move the research along.
Write a Personal Essay
Last year, I was looking for a personal essay assignment to get us back into school and something we could do in a hybrid version of instruction. I initially started our unit thinking the students would be writing This I Believe Essays, but after finding several TED Talks on Life Lessons, students ended up writing their own life lessons TED Talks. These essays were clever, thoughtful and students were engaged throughout the unit. For a copy of this assignment, click here.
Make Text-to-Text Connections
Sometimes the thing we need to make the classic texts more relevant to our contemporary students is a good text-to-text connection. TED Talks can be just the thing to help students see how those “old texts” are still relevant.
TED Talks Perfect for Text-to-Text Connections:
- Eric Liu’s talk on “How to Understand Power” is a perfect companion to Macbeth, 1984 or Animal Farm.
- “A Brief History of Melancholy” by Courtney Stephens for Hamlet or other works that deal with depression.
- “Why do we Love: A Philosophical Inquiry” by Skye C. Cleary or The Science of Attraction by Dawn Maslar to accompany any story about romantic love including Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing, Pride and Prejudice and The Importance of Being Earnest.
Make Text-to-Self Connections
I include finding a TED Talk in my One Word Project so that students are forced to make connections between the greater world (i.e. TED Talks) and their own world through their selection of a word for the year. In my One Word Project, students choose a word in September and follow it through until the end of the school year. One of their prompts is to find a TED Talk about their word and make those text-to-self connections.
Ted Talks Work In High School English For Sub Plans Too!
I love to pull a TED Talk into my unit planning. The versatility of TED Talks means that you can pull them in at almost any time. You can even just have one or two on reserve for emergency sub plans.
I would love to know how you use TED talks in your classes. Leave your ideas in the comments below!
Jeanmarie McLaughlin is a veteran high school English teacher with more than 25 years of classroom experience. She currently teaches English 11 and AP Literature and Composition in Western New York. You can find more about her ideas for all things high school English at McLaughlinTeachesEnglish.com.