My best lesson - Language learning goes high-tech with TED talks

17th January 2014 at 00:00

I teach English as a foreign language at a high school in Stockholm, Sweden. My students are part of a cross-curricular technology programme, so I try to incorporate technology into my lessons as much as possible. One of my favourite methods is to use the hugely popular TED talks, in which prominent or knowledgeable figures explore issues of technology, entertainment and design.

First, pick a talk at www.ted.com and get your students to complete a multiple-choice quiz. This forms the listening comprehension element of the lesson. (One talk, pictured below, about Google Glass has proven popular among my students; it is available at bit.lyTEDGlass.)

Next, ask each student to choose a news article on a particular topic (I suggest several online technology magazines, some accessible and some more advanced). They read their article, write down key words and then present the themes orally in groups. These are the reading comprehension and speaking elements of the lesson.

Finally, get the students to write down 10 new words from their article and set them a homework task to learn them by the next lesson.

Teachers in Sweden are obliged by law to provide individually tailored education and that is often very challenging - a class of 32 students always contains many interests and levels of ability, and everyone works at a different speed. This lesson works well because it enables each student to find their own level, under the guidance of the teacher.

Having a personal connection to the topic also makes a big difference. The students are eager to present their article to their peers, not only because it is about a subject they have chosen and find interesting but also because they are likely to know more about it than their classmates, who have read different articles.

Maintaining differentiation and covering 32 different areas of interest is, of course, a challenge for a teacher, but this lesson shows that it is worth the effort.

Anne-Gro Hoyer-Trollnes teaches English at NTI Gymnasiet in Stockholm, Sweden.

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