TED Talk on The Power of Fiction to Combat Identity Politics

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SWBAT examine one more argument about Identity by watching a TED talk on the topic and taking notes on powerful language the author used to draft her argument.

Big Idea

The power of multimedia can provide the image and audio inspiration to jump start a lengthy writing assignment.


TED Talk

35 minutes

The TED talk has several powerful lines and that may capture students' interest. Also, the speaker's argument is very different from the others we have read and will serve as an additional perspective to consider as they get ready to draft their own argument.

Initial word of caution and a useful tip: WIFI is a major obstacle at my school for activities like these. I have two classes following this curriculum and the first class that saw this had to endure repeated streaming interruptions. I discovered that it is possible to download the video and I did that before the next class watched it. That solved the problem.

I begin this lesson by communicating to students that this is the last argument we will examine before they begin their essay. I give students a bit of background on TED, an organization that believes in the importance of sharing knowledge. Their motto is "Ideas Worth Spreading." I talk a bit about how they organize conferences where their guests deliver their talks and how these are accessible online. More information can be found on their website. The talk we are viewing today is about 20 minutes long and it was delivered by Elif Shafak and titled "The Politics of Fiction." I let them know that the language in the talk will be challenging, but that there is enough content they can understand and to focus on that. I sometimes have to remind my students to focus on what they do understand, as opposed to stressing out over what they don't, and that is often enough to have a good grasp of the content they engage with. I ask students to have a piece of paper in front of them and to take notes on the talk. I ask them to focus on powerful statements the speaker makes and quickly jot those down in a bulleted list. This is a video that we will only see once in class so quick "sound bites" is all I expect as they listen. However, I do tell them that I will pause the video once or twice so they can digest some of the information and fatten their list. In addition, I let them know that they will be spending time at the end of the viewing digesting some more and adding to their list. 

After the speaker has presented a few important points, a bit over 5 minutes into the talk, I pause the video. At this point, the speaker has put forth the idea that if we live among people who are just like us, these people will simply be mirrors of ourselves and we will not grow. She also has already began talking about her belief in the power of fiction. It is a good place to stop and check for understanding. I give students a few minutes to digest the information and add to their bulleted list. I then ask students to identify the highlights of the talk and to ask questions. My students aptly verbalize the central points of the talk and their comments reveal that they find this talk engaging. One particular student shares her observation that this view of identity is quite different from the others we have studied. Once I get a sense that the class is keeping up with the talk, I play the rest. I was prepared to pause it one more time to help students keep track of the central points, but their ability to identify the central points of the first part of the talk reveals that they can handle watching the rest of the talk uninterrupted. If the class is having a difficult time capturing her message, definitely pause and discuss as often as needed. 

Once the viewing is over, I give students time to reflect on the talk and to finish writing. I ask for final comments and questions about the talk and then ask how many think they can incorporate this talk in their essay. Several say they can and many are not sure yet. 

Here is the link to the  TED Talk




1 minutes

I express to students my hope that they found this talk inspiring and remind them to come in tomorrow ready to outline their essay.