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language learning resource: TED talks

16 October, 2014

TED talks are one of my favorite ESL/EFL resources, and I’ve been using these videos in the classroom and as part of homework assignments for several years.   These videos feature “ideas worth sharing” that are great supplemental materials for language learning.

I’ve used them in spoken English/oral skills classes to provide examples of different spoken registers and to model structure for spoken narratives.  And I love to use them in writing classes as prompts to share interesting ideas that students then respond to in essays or journal entries.

In fact, this week, my students are watching and responding to one of my favorite TED talks, Ron Finley’s “A guerilla gardener in South Central LA.”  When I’m interested in and inspired by the subject matter, my enthusiasm is apparent.   I really enjoy reading students’ responses, and I can hope that at least a few of my students will also be interested in the material, and maybe even go on to explore other talks.

In addition to the cool content, TED talks are great for use with English language learners because they provide samples of so many different accents and dialects of English, and they come with transcripts and closed captions.  I suggest that my students watch the videos with English captions on, but if they are struggling, they can use captions in another language that they know.  I’ve taught students from a wide variety of linguistic backgrounds, and I have yet to have a student unable to find TED talk captions in a language they know; most videos have captions available in 20+ languages.

Months ago, TED invited The Husband to give a talk, and last week, we traveled to Rio de Janeiro so he could present at TEDGlobal.  Being able to see much of the whole process of a TED talk taking form taught me a lot, and this gives me several points to consider when having students give presentations of their own.  After seeing how hard speakers work to deliver a talk, I have a much a keener appreciation for the effort that goes into perfecting the story and its delivery.

The Husband and The Child at TEDGlobal 2014

The Husband & The Child at TEDGlobal 2014


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