One More TED Talk As Final Source of Inspiration

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SWBAT decide on a topic for their final writing assignment by looking at a good model and brainstorming.

Big Idea

A good model can spark good work.


5 minutes

I let students know we are watching one last TED talk today for some final inspiration before jumping into our final speech/talk. They very much enjoy TED talks so this works as a nice treat before tackling their final, arduous assignment. I add that they are also engaging in a final brainstorming session and that they are expected to have decided on a topic before the beginning of the period tomorrow.

Watching And Discussing TED Talk

30 minutes

The other TED talks I shared with students earlier in this unit, were from teens that clearly qualify as super stars. I want to share a talk by a teen whose performance feels more within the reach of my students’ skills. It is difficult to find such TED talk, as their purpose is to select pretty brilliant thinkers, but I did manage to find one by a young woman who shares struggles she faced in her earlier life, before becoming the super star TED picks up. I communicate this to students to ease the urge to take in the talk as an unattainable product they can learn little from. 

Here is a link to this TED talk 

When we finish watching the talk, I ask students to turn to their elbow partner and share their initial thoughts and questions about this talk. This is an open-ended task meant to get them to process what they just watched. They are done with this task within two minutes. I then give them a more specific task, which is to discuss what worked well in the talk and what they can imagine borrowing from it when they begin to work on theirs. I give them a few more minutes to discuss this one. I then ask them to share with the entire class. Students express appreciation for the details of her life growing up. They remember learning about Joseph Kony’s child soldiers and they were able to identify with the speaker’s desire to do something about it. Also, they agree that this talk feels more attainable than the previous two I shared. 

Last Brainstorming Session

15 minutes

I have engaged students in a few quick writing sessions to help them brainstorm a topic for their speech/talk, mainly in this lesson. We do it once more today. This is to help them make a final decision on a topic by tonight.

Like before, I let them know I will be timing them and they must not take the pencil/pen off the paper they entire time. This is the process and directions I give them for these free writes.


4 minutes

I take a final poll where I ask students to raise one finger if they are positive about their topic and two fingers if they are still giving themselves tonight to decide. The results are about 60 and 40, respectively. I let students know they must have decided on a topic by the beginning of the period tomorrow. I acknowledge that the instructions for these free writes allow them to wallow in writer’s block, but I insist that they must have something by tonight, otherwise they will start falling behind and there is practically no time to catch up.

One final point of concern is that students may be drawn to write about controversial topics, such as abortion. I do ask students to stay away from these because they have written about extensively, people have taken a clear side, and it will be very difficult to add anything new to the discussion.