Ask Your English Students to Review TED.Com videos – and Create Compelling Conversations

How can you encourage your advanced ESL students to develop their speaking skills and tap their interest in our rapidly changing world? Create compelling classroom assignments that respect their intelligence, engage their curiosity, and model great speaking skills. Let your students be hunters, gathers, and presenters of new information to their classmates!

Adding a homework assignment that requires ESL students to go the “ideas worth sharing” website at accomplishes all these goals. For the last four years, I have asked both college and international graduate students to select a short video, watch it, and prepare to share their impressions in class.  Since many students have evolving English language skills and the course is an advanced oral skills class,  they just take notes. What’s the title? Where was the lecture given? Who gave the lecture? Date? How did they open the presentation? Was their a significant quote? What sources were orally cited? How would they rate the video on a scale of 1-5? Why did they choose this TED video? Why do they recommend we watch it too?

Students will often watch several TED videos before choosing a favorite one. This advanced ESL homework assignment seems to capture their imagination as they explore the TED website. The next day, students discuss the TED 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 videotape all the presentations. The 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!

As the old American cereal commercial used to say, “try it – you’ll like it” – at least with more advanced English students!

For ESL teachers who want a more formal assignment, you can also use this more detailed worksheet.

Ask more. Know more. Share more.

Create Compelling Conversations.




  1. It’s much easier to undseartnd when you put it that way!

  2. This is a great idea. I have used TED videos for many of my online classes and the students seem to get excited over them. Not to mention they are very interesting for me, as well.

    great to share these types of values, learn more about culture and beliefs, while learning language.

    great blog, just found your website. bookmarked!!

  3. Thanks Brian! My students love watching TED … both in speaking and writing classes. This semester I experimented with having students find and recommend a TED talk – and then required them to watch three more TED talks and leave brief comments on a discussion board. The results were quite satisfying with the average TED talk viewed by 7 students. The exchanges back and forth provided a satisfying supplement to classroom discussions too. TED talks rock on multiple levels – and the addition of translation tools expand its suitability beyond advanced students. Or so it seems to me.

    As for my blog, this remains a rather irregular hobby. Shock, shock I tend to write more during vacation since my primary focus remains teaching university students. Compelling Conversations is just a wonderful bonus that allows me to share ideas with other innovative English teachers – like you – around the world.


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  2. Advanced homework task | - [...] homework task Posted on 21 June, 2011 by Simon Thomas Eric Roth has a simple but good idea: asking…

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