5 TED Talks to Share with High Schoolers

You may have seen an inspirational TED Talk floating around social media. Whether you have caught Sir Ken Robinson’s thought-provoking talk, ”Do schools kill creativity?” or Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk, ”Your elusive creative genius”, you know the power of TED Talks in your own professional life. Did you also know that there are thousands of inspirational TED Talks you can present to your high schoolers? Share short talks as bell ringers, assign as out-of-class viewing in a flipped classroom, or use as an integral part of a lesson.

Here are 5 TED Talks to share with high schoolers. 

”Why the pencil is perfect”

This talk is about something very simple, a pencil. Pencil shop owner Caroline Weaver tells the story of a pencil. Use this under four-minute talk as a bell ringer in your ELA class or inspiration for a writing prompt about objects or inventions.

”How fake news does real harm”

“Fake news” is a real problem with adults and young people alike. Social media and instantaneous breaking news make it easy to spread false information. Journalist Stephanie Busari reminds viewers of the 2014 story of the 200 girls from Chibok, Nigeria, kidnapped by the terrorist organization Boko Haram. Because the story was called a hoax by the Nigerian government and because of the transmission of fake news during this time period, lives were endangered. This talk provides a powerful testament of what makes fake news so dangerous when real problems exist. Use this talk (right around six minutes) as a discussion of how to determine the credibility of news stories and the responsibility of those who provide the news and the audience that consumes it.

”The art of choosing”

High school students are faced with trivial as well as enormous choices. Everyday choices like what to eat for breakfast, whom to sit with at lunch, and what book to read are fairly simple and inconsequential. As they enter the brink of adulthood, they’ll face choices on whether or not to go to college, where to go to college, what major to choose, and whom to date and marry. There are hundreds of other choices, often fueled by our own cultural assumptions and bias. Sheena Iyengar talks about the choices people make and the assumptions around them in this longer TED Talk (around 20 minutes) that is a great piece to share before having conversations about graduation and college.

Why some of us don’t have one true calling

How often have our students been asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” in their young lives? This loaded question is difficult for those who have a wide array of interests and aren’t ready to make a decision on their future career at a young age. Share writer and artist Emilie Wapnick’s talk and allow it to become a conversation about your students' passions, not necessarily the things they show they are good at on assessments but the things they truly love.

What adults can learn from kids

Even though Adora Svitak is just 12 years old, this TED Talk is highly recommended for high school students who struggle to find their voice in a world where they’re on the bridge between child and adulthood. Svitak reminds students of the childhood ideals they should hold onto as adults, including creativity and hope. These 5 TED Talks to share with high schoolers can be put into a YouTube or TED Talk Playlist for whenever you need an inspirational talk or motivation for your older students. From a focus on writing and reading to finding purpose after high school, these talks are helpful and great media to use in your ELA classes.

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