A little while back, I wrote about the site News in Levels and how perfect it was for listening practice, especially for mixed level classes. While I have used it with students in the past, in the intensive English program that I am a part of now, I’ve found that TED Talks are even better, so I wanted to share that site with you just in case you missed Alexandra Lowe’s TED Talks post last year.
If you have never watched a TED Talk before, you really need to. You can find them on just about every topic and they often challenge you to think in a different way. They are usually fairly short with the ones I have used ranging from 5 to 15 minutes. This length makes them perfect for use in the classroom or even as homework assignments.
Personally, I use TED Talks more than News in Levels now because of the program I am in. The students here are learning academic English and preparing to enter the university as degree-seeking students. It is imperative that they be able to handle a certain language level and learn how to take notes from which to study. I have found many TED Talks at the appropriate level for these students and many others that are, in my opinion, far too challenging simply because of the complex nature of the topics.
For our listening and speaking courses, we use a series called Contemporary Topics from Pearson Longman. In level one of that series, there is a unit on genetically modified food, and I used the TED Talk by Birke Baehr as an extension activity. I love this video because it is of a young speaker flawlessly delivering a powerful message on that topic. I used this video to continue our discussion about the topic introduced in our textbook and also to help students prepare to give their own presentations about various topics.
That is just one example. If you are looking for more, Alexandra shared some of her experiences with TED Talks on the TESOL blog too. She highlighted two other talks that worked with lower level students, so they really are not just for your advanced students and are truly exceptional for authentic listening practice.
With the variety of TED Talks out there, you are bound to find something related to a topic relevant to your course and/or students and between the free videos and transcripts, there is a lot to work with. You can have students improve their note-taking, listening, and discussion strategies or focus in on just one of those skills. If you have never considered TED Talks before, think about it now and see what you can find.