A Skateboard With a Boost: TED Talk Lesson Plan by Lewis Lansford

If you’re like me, and you like to bring in a variety of different accents and speakers to the classroom to supplement what you can find in class, then you’ve probably tried or wanted to try using TED talks. They’re engaging, motivating and can really help showcase the incredible diversity of the English language.


There are currently more than 3,000 TED talks on TED.com. So how do we choose which ones to use in class?

One reason video is so powerful in the classroom is the visual side. Moving images engage learners, but they also can carry huge amounts of information. Often, students can understand the main ideas of a talk just by looking at it – and I mean literally looking – watching with the sound off.

One way to choose a TED Talk for use in the classroom is to notice what it offers visually. What can you see when you watch it? Because the pictures can bring a lot of language into your classroom.

Here’s a highly visual talk that shows exactly what I’m talking about: Sanjay Dastoor: A skateboard with a boost. The talk is just over four minutes long, so it’s super accessible.

I’ve put together a rough lesson plan for using this talk in class – with the sound off. You’ll need to adjust the questions and the focus of the lesson to fit the level of your students, keeping it very basic with lower level learners and encouraging more discussion at higher levels.


I can imagine using this talk with just about any level, in most classrooms – primary, secondary, upper secondary, adult – and also in a variety of ESP classes: engineers, to talk about design, business people, to talk about marketing, and medical professions, to talk about potential injuries. TED Talks are like that. They’re incredibly flexible, because they’re full of real life and big ideas.

Sanjay’s talk is in Keynote Intermediate, if you’re interested in the support that a coursebook provides.

Good news!

If you enjoyed using this worksheet, I’ve got good news. I’m working on a few others – and also on an entire online course about teaching with TED Talks. But before I tell you about that, let me tell you a bit more about myself and where I’m coming from.

Who I AM

I’m an award-winning coursebook writer materials developer and teacher trainer. I’ve co-written two course book series featuring TED Talks for National Geographic Learning: Perspectives (upper secondary) and Keynote (young adult and adult).

My ELT career started in Barcelona in 1989, shortly after I finished my BA in English literature in the States. After teaching for about six months, I decided that I loved the job but wanted to be better at it, so I went back to Arizona and did an MA in TESOL.

After that, I taught English at the University of Arizona and then at a manufacturing company in Japan. In 1995, I took an editorial job with a major publisher in Hong Kong, and in 1997 became a freelance editor, project manager and writer based in the UK.

I’ve worked on books, videos, tests, audio materials, worksheets, apps and online materials for learners of all ages across the world. I specialize in developing classroom materials using authentic input and have been lucky enough to work extensively with print material from The Financial Times and with video from Disney, the BBC, Discovery Channel, and TED.

I’ve delivered teacher training globally with Pearson Education, OUP and National Geographic Learning, and have taught a materials development module for Master’s students at the University of Durham.

How to Teach with TED talks: on-line course

Through my work as an author, I’ve been given the opportunity to speak at a lot of conferences, and TED Talks have featured in varying degrees in many of the talks I’ve given. I’ve also written a series of posts for the National Geographic In Focus blog with practical ideas for using TED Talks.

Through talking with teachers all over the world, I’ve come to appreciate how much teachers love TED Talks but also that they often feel unsure how to use them.

I’ve also realized that after all the talks and blogging, I had enough material to put together an online course about how to teach with TED Talks. The course is currently closed for enrolment, but…

…we’re doing a pre-launch giveaway. 5 people will get FREE lifetime access to the course!

How can you win?

Sign up below and then share the course with your friends on social media. The more friends you refer, the higher your chances of winning.

To learn more about the course itself, click here.

Thanks again for your interest, and good luck teaching with TED Talks!

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