Using TED to Develop Presentation Skills

Post date: Jan 21, 2013 10:01:48 PM

16. Using TED to Develop Presentation Skills


I recently attended the CATESOL conference in Oakland, CA and heard about a fantastic lesson plan that teaches presentation skills using TED. The presenter was Marina Broeder from Mission College in Santa Clara, CA. Written below is a quick overview of TED and an adapted (and tested) version of her lesson plan.

What is TED? TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) is a non-profit organization devoted to sharing “Ideas Worth Spreading.” The first TED conference was in Monterrey, CA in 1984 and the ideas have not stopped flowing.

Why is TED so popular? Many educators and professionals find the 3-20 minute speeches authentic and high-interest with diverse speakers who have various presentation styles.

What can TED do for your classroom? TED speeches are available through its website on, YouTube, and an app for all devices, including iOS. Teachers can use TED to teach and develop dynamic presentation skills using the videos it offers.


  1. Download this template and make copies or ask students to create a duplicate on their own paper. Discuss each of the skills across the top and ask students to think about what they would look like, ideally.
  2. Next: TURN OFF/MUTE THE VOLUME of the presentation and allow students to watch about 3-4 minutes of the Bill Gates presentation by just watching the physical movements (the skills at top) without listening to the content. Stop the speech and ask students to score Gates using a 1-5 rating (1=bad, 5=excellent). Gates actually doesn’t move around much and keeps his arms in one place most of the time. It is hard for students to give such an iconic figure a low score, but keep them focused on what he truly deserves. I like this activity as a think/pair/share.
  3. You’ll do the same exercise with Lomborg and Oliver. Oliver moves around, a lot. He also waves his flashcards around so that when you are not listening to his content, it is very distracting.
  4. Either in the class or as homework that night, students will choose 2 speeches on TED and evaluate them based on the rubric criteria.
  5. Students will share their findings with their groups (I seat students in groups of six) and groups will choose one to share with the class.
  6. The group will test out their own presentation skills by reviewing the speech of their choice in front of the class.
  7. The class will evaluate the group based on the same criteria.


  • I use this rubric to evaluate the students throughout the year whenever they give a presentation in front of the class. My rule in class is that students have to stand ANY time they speak in class, even if it is just to answer a question, and be as dynamic as possible. Asking students to stand up in class also makes them own and be accountable for what they say.
  • I will show speeches throughout the year to introduce topics, engage in great discussions, and remind students of the presentation skills rubric.

Some of My Favorite Speeches: If you can’t access through TED, you can access on YouTube.

Steve Jobs: How to Live Before You Die

William Kamkwamba: How I Harnessed the Wind

Jill Bolte: Stroke of Insight