How TED is Transforming my English Class - Post #1

Okay, sure - TED talks are cool, and I'm not the only teacher who plays them for my students. Many intuitive educators are playing TED videos at school (or assigning them as homework) to teach public speaking, listening skills, or the talk's content itself.

But this year, my eighth graders will take TED to a whole new level in our classroom.

{Edit: Read the Part 2 post to hear how the unit ended!}

What Is "Project TED"?
My goal is that, by the end of this school year, each student will graduate from middle school with a recording of his or her own original (mock) TED talk in hand.

In May, we are going to have our very own mock conference!

After gradual preparation throughout the school year (see the outline of the year below), students will be taping live speeches (in front of student audiences) simultaneously in classrooms throughout the school building.

It's important to note that this is NOT a TEDx conference and is not affiliated with TED in any official capacity; we fully share this with students and parents, and we encourage kids to go check out the real TED, TEDx, and TED-Ed as much as we can.

But, why?
Well, the list of reasons is long, but here's the digest version:

1. I have a passion for public speaking (in general) and its importance for all students. I want every student of mine to leave for high school as a confident presenter.

2. Our seventh grade ELA year culminates in a super-awesome Living Wax Museum Project (created by Teaching FUNdamentals, my former co-teacher); I wanted the 8th grade one to have a culminating point of pride as well... and a reason to not "check out" in the fourth quarter with summer looming near.

3. There's SO much opportunity here to authentically make a unit that is cross-curricular, that hits a TON of standards for ELA, that weaves in normally-dry topics (like non-fiction reading), and that builds confidence in an area that most people fear. There is also a lot of room for differentiation, choice, and cross-curricular speech topics to show off what students know. These mock TED talks are really mini-Capstone projects in disguise.

4. I strongly feel that you don't need to be a speech teacher to make the time to help students own this skill set! This is a life lesson that the next generation will need, in addition to being part of our ELA teaching standards. Instead of putting speeches on the back burner, we are putting it front and center.

How it Works
Here's my overview of the to-do list in our school year, completed over four academic ten-week quarters. All of this is going on concurrently with other, unrelated units/lessons.

(By the way... last school year, my students had already completed by Intro to Public Speaking/TED Guided Notes and my "Seven Sins of Speaking" posture lesson, so that background knowledge was in place.)

Watch & Brainstorm:
  • Pre-assess students in speaking; introduce the concept of rhetoric
  • Practice watching a speech and making observations about it 
  • Collect potential research topics in a graphic organizer
  • Watch a choice TED talk (from my approved list of TED videos) and analyze it to understand both its content and speaking style

Learn About TED:
  • Complete a whole-class, non-fiction book study of Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo. (Click here for my past blog post about why I love this book!)
  • Complete small group presentations (Jigsaw-style) on chapters of Talk Like TED, reporting to the class on what is most important from that section of text and how to apply it to their own lives!

Journaling & Drafting:
  • Complete at least 3-4 choice journal entries from a pre-made list of prompts, blending genres and imitating the kinds of talks that real TED speakers give
  • Choose one of those journals to start revising and polishing into the ideal speech draft

Revise, Practice, & Present!
We will be using the pages of my Mock Conference Project to accomplish the following: 
  • Finish revising the drafts of their speeches
  • Make slides to accompany the speech (that are NOT boring... If they need it, students will get my Visual Aids Lesson to prevent "Death by PowerPoint".)
  • Make the schedule of who will speak and when (and in which room, under which teacher's supervision)
  • Practice, practice, practice!
  • Perform speeches LIVE, in front of real audiences (students from younger grades), to be videotaped (for grading purposes only). If I can figure out how, I'm going to try to find a way to give a copy of the speech to each parent. 
  • Rejoice, and watch each others' speeches! (There may be a listening activity to collect what we have learned from each other.)

Want to Join In?
You can! Check out my Mock Conference Talks project on Teachers Pay Teachers, and get the majority of the directions, rubrics, and scaffolding assignments that we will be using!

Have some FREEBIES!
... or two! Click here to get a free copy of my TED Journal Prompts Slideshow and My Favorite TED Talks Slideshow.

NOTE: These freebies are view-only slideshows in Google Slides. To keep them for yourself, you will need to MAKE A COPY of the file; at that time, you can modify them to your heart's content.

Here's my UPDATE POST about how it went and what I learned this year! Please read Part 2!

Have a Question or Comment?
Tell me in the comments below, or email me at tptsara (at) gmail (dot) com.


  1. This summer I purchase all of your Public Speaking Bundle on TeacherPayTeacher. I decided to start the year of 8th grade LA with this unit. We started with the 15 min. of fame speech, then the Bucket List, and finally the Mock TED project. We just wrapped up our Mock TED project speeches. I want to say a huge thank you for these resources!! My students have grown in so many ways thanks to this unit. Not only were we able to work on speaking and listening, but we also reviewed how to research, essay structure, and the writing process. I followed up the Mock TED project with a couple days talking about the usefulness of reflecting and then I asked the students to write a reflection paper about what they have learned through the unit. I was blown away by how much they now realize about how to get people to truly listen to you and how much more self-aware they have become. Thank you for your work putting this unit together! I have purchased quite a few of your resources and love them all.

  2. I'm impressed! You would make a great educational coach :)

  3. This looks great! Thank you for sharing!

  4. I absolutely love your materials and just purchased them! Thank you so much! I was wondering if you have the materials pictured in the "Learn About Ted" section (the book study instructions and the rubric) for this this unit. I would love to see it!


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