By Kevin Fabris

June 17, 2015

45 Minutes - 1 Hour, Adult, Advanced, Complete Lesson, Discussion, EFL, ESL, Learn It, Materials Required, TED, Vocabulary

Ted Talks are a great lesson idea for adult learners. ESL lessons aren’t always about games but they should always be interesting.

I absolutely love using TED Talks in my adult advanced classes. After nearly two years of doing so the EFL students have become so engaged that they've started picking their own lessons.

At first I tried to limit the TED Talks to 5 minutes in length. As a foreign language learner you might have to watch that 5 minute talk 5-10 times before fully grasping the meaning. However, in time my class's TED lessons have evolved. The lesson selection process has shifted away from the teacher and become the student's responsibility. Surprisingly the length of the TED Talks and the complexity of the matters discussed has escalated quickly.

With a five minute talk I would always listen to the talk with the class. Then watch the talk with the class and finally hand out a transcript of the TED Talk with words removed so that my ESL students could fill-in-the-blanks as they follow along for a 3rd time.

With a 20 minute  TED talk like Monica Lewinsky - The price of shame, the length of the class simply doesn't allow for the class to watch the lesson together. As such, coming to each class fully prepared for the class's discussion has become the weekly homework assignment. And you know what? They love it! For a lot of high level students these lessons are the first time they are really using their English for advanced discussions and interactions rather than text book lessons.

How to use this TED Talk in your classroom:

  1. As a warm up I like to ask the class to write down 3 words that come to mind when they think about the talk.
  2. Have students come to the front and write their answers on the board.
  3. Discuss some of the words on the board and how they relate to the lesson.
  4. Have your students make a list (individually) of what they think the top 5 words related to the talk are.
  5. Rank those words from 1 – 5.
  6. Have the students make small groups of 3 or 4 students.
  7. Share the lists in small groups and try to come to agree upon the top five words. This is a discussion based activity. 5 minutes.
  8. Once each group has arrived at a consensus have each group write their top 5 lists on the board.
  9. As a class try to reach an agreement about the top five words related to the TED Talk.
  • Then hand out the PDF attached directly below.
  1. The lesson provided below has a definition match to start that covers some of the more difficult words included in the talk. Have your students match the difficult words with their definitions. 3 minutes.
  2. Take up the answers with the class.
  3. Start the discussion questions with the class.  Do number one as a large class discussion.
  4. Break Your ESL class into pairs and and have them discuss questions 2-11 (5 minutes).
  5. Switch partners and repeat step 4 several times.
  6. If theirs time at the end of the lesson I’ll bring the class together for a large discussion to review the key concepts discussed. Much more often than not the discussions are too intense to interrupt so I’ll let the discussion period run longer.

Switching partners is a great way to expose your students to varying opinions. It also lets your students opinions evolve throughout the lesson as they gain insights from their classmates.

Watch more here:

June 15, 2015

ESL Games designed for babies have to be extremely

November 17, 2016

This Super Simple Game submission comes from Olga.

August 8, 2015

I love using card games in my ESL

May 31, 2020

Hot Seat is a classic ESL and EFL

October 20, 2015

With Halloween quickly approaching most teachers are on

May 31, 2020

Get the Cards Here