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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My first try at teaching English was in Spain, in 1989. I had a degree in English literature, and I wanted to see the world. In those days, just having English as a first language seemed to be the only necessary qualification for teaching. What I learned in a few months’ teaching was that I loved doing it, but that I didn’t really know how to do it well.

The solution?

I went back to university and got an MA in TESOL.

That was where I first got interested in teaching with video, and even developed some lessons for one of my classes based on a series of movie clips – all featuring bank robberies! I carried on using video in the classes I taught at the University of Arizona Center for English as a Second Language, and also teaching engineers and business people at Sumitomo Electric Industries in Osaka.

When I made the jump from teaching full time to an editorial job in ELT publishing, I continued to work with video. In the early 2000s, I was lucky enough to manage a project that used Disney movies for language teaching (Pearson’s English Adventure) – so I got to watch hours of some of the world’s best animated movies, and develop English lessons from them. Some days, it didn’t even feel like work!

By 2010, I was a full-time ELT writer. Not every project had video, but many of them did, including an EAP course (CUP’s Unlock) using Discovery Channel videos, published in 2014.

That same year, I had a great piece of luck: National Geographic Learning offered me the opportunity to work on Keynote – an adult and young adult coursebook that features TED Talks.

Honestly, I couldn’t believe my good fortune being invited to develop teaching materials using these authentic videos featuring people talking about big, interesting ideas – in some cases, the most important issues of our day. I was delighted.

After that, I wrote a level of National Geographic Learning’s Perspectives – an upper secondary course, again featuring TED Talks, published in 2018.

Of course like most teachers, there have been times when I wasn’t sure if I was teaching great lessons, or writing the best possible materials. But I’ve always tried to make the next lesson or project better than the last, and to find great ideas that will engage learners. And I’ve tried to learn more about what makes a lesson – or a teacher – a success. I’ve never felt that I’ve arrived, or that there isn’t a lot more to learn – there’s always a lot more to learn.

That’s part of the fun!

What I can say, though, is that I’ve been working with authentic video in language teaching for 30 years, and with TED Talks for five.

In that time, I’ve learned some things about why video is a powerful teaching tool, and how best to use it in the classroom. And I’ve written two courses that feature TED Talks. Along the way, I’ve picked up ideas from other people, through reading and research, and I’ve figured a lot of things out for myself.

I built this course to put some of the best ideas in one place, and to share my knowledge to save you the time and effort of figuring it all out for yourself.

In less than 20 hours, you’ll learn everything it has taken me years to learn about teaching with TED talks. I’m going to share my best secrets tips, most flexible lesson plans, and most engaging talks.

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

Preview Lecture 1 from Module 1 and Learn...

3 Secrets to Engaging Your Students Using TED Talks

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 closed for enrollment.

At TEFL Equity Academy customer satisfaction is my number one priority. That's why this course is covered by a 100% money back guarantee.

You can try “How to Teach With TED: A Practical Course for English Teachers”, and if you’re not satisfied within 30 days of purchasing, you can get a full refund.

No questions asked.

If you're still wondering why you should start using TED talks in your classes (or get better at it if you already are)....

There are three main reasons why I think you need to start using TED talks in your classes:

  • Authentic listening. TED Talks expose learners to a variety of accents – both first- and second-language English. They provide plenty of opportunities to think about which aspects of pronunciation make speakers easier – or more difficult – to understand. This is essential preparation for a world where the majority of English users – 86% speak it as a second language.
  • TED Talks show great examples of L2 English users sharing their knowledge and experience with an international audience. This demonstrates successful communication, even when it’s not ‘native-like.’ These speakers provide an excellent model of real-life English – though it isn’t always ‘perfect’.
  • Above all, TED Talks are about big ideas, and cover a huge variety of topics. But none of them is longer than 18 minutes, and a lot of them are under 5 minutes. In other words, lots of authentic content in a small package. It’s a perfect combination for the classroom.

See what other English teachers are saying about this course...

"The course was great, full of practical ideas."

Katarina Celkova

"The course helped me learn how to use videos both with beginners and advanced students"

Olga Nikolaienko

Course Programme

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 unlock the power 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 choose even more TED Talks for the classroom

Overview: In modules 1–4, we've talked about how to choose TED Talks and a few things you can do to make use of them in the classroom. In this final module, we'll look at a few more important considerations for choosing and using talks, talk about more activities you can do, and add to the list of TED Talks you might like to try teaching with.

"In How to Teach With TED Talks: A Practical Course for English Teachers, Lewis Lansford brilliantly combines practical resources, such as worksheets and lesson plans, with some relevant cognitive psychology concepts that will allow any teacher to start using a powerful - and my favorite - source of authentic materials: TED Talks. You just can't miss it!"

- André Hedlund, English Teacher from Brazil

"The course is complete,very clear and user-friendly.The links given by Lewis are really useful."

- Ivana Perez Campos, English teacher from Argentina

If you got this far, you might be wondering: is “How to teach with TED Talks” worth it?

If you fit any of the below criteria, then the answer is: ABSOLUTELY!

You don’t have much extra time, but would like to use video and TED talks in class.

This course was designed with people like you in mind. It’s a shortcut to results. And because all lectures have been pre-recorded, you can watch them at your own time. So if you have a busy schedule, don’t worry!

You have already used TED talks, but are looking to learn new techniques and be able to prepare lesson plans more effectively.

During the course we will take you step-by-step through the whole process of choosing the right video, selecting appropriate tasks for it and preparing a lesson plan. Once you’re done, using TED Talks will feel like a piece of cake. You will be buzzing with new ideas for your classes and will have a list of talks ready to use in your classes.

You want to engage and motivate your learners

TED talks are packed with big ideas. And I will show you exactly how you can use them to really get your class energised, motivated and talking! Whether you’re teaching young learners, adults, business, EAP (you name it!), you will know how to motivate even quiet, shy or uncooperative students.

You have time in the next month to do some of the course

If the answer is a YES, then you have nothing to lose.

If you find the content valuable (and I promise you will), then fantastic! You’ve just learned how to teach with TED.

If for whatever reason you don’t enjoy it, you have 30 days to cancel and get all of your money back without losing anything.

So what do you think?

This course is closed for enrollment.

At TEFL Equity Academy customer satisfaction is my number one priority. That's why this course is covered by a 100% money back guarantee.

You can try “How to Teach With TED: A Practical Course for English Teachers”, and if you’re not satisfied within 30 days of purchasing, you can get a full refund.

No questions asked.

Preview Lecture 2.1 and Learn How to...

Unlock the Power of Visuals to Promote Critical Thinking

FREE Bonus #1 - Lifetime Updates

Every year, following the feedback from course participants, as well as the latest developments in research and teaching practice; I update the course, refreshing the content and adding new material.

That way as a course participant you will always get the latest content and new teaching ideas that will help you teach with TED talks more effectively.

Get these updates FOREVER for FREE now and you won't have to pay a penny again, even if the course fee goes up!

FREE Bonus #2 - Lifetime access

Being and English teacher myself, I completely understand how busy your schedule can get. Offsite classes, correcting essays, marking exams, split shifts... I've been there!

That's why I want you to be able to enjoy the course for as long as you want. Lifetime access gives you the flexibility to start and finish the course whenever it suits YOU best!

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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.
Will I get a certificate?
Absolutely! Once you have finished the course, we will send you a certificate.

This course is closed for enrollment.

At TEFL Equity Academy customer satisfaction is my number one priority. That's why this course is covered by a 100% money back guarantee.

You can try “How to Teach With TED: A Practical Course for English Teachers”, and if you’re not satisfied within 30 days of purchasing, you can get a full refund.

No questions asked.

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!