TED Talks- overcoming adversity

By: Ms. Sara Elikan
from Berman Hebrew Academy

Development of Critical and / or Creative Thinking

Subject(s) of entry:
History, Literature, Tanach

PBL - project based learning, 21st Century Skills

Grade(s) to which this was taught:
7, Middle school

Grade(s) for which this will be useful:
7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, Middle school, High school

After reading novels including Out of the Dust, The Miracle Worker, The Outsiders and A Long Walk to Water, students, as a final project, had to write and present their own TED Talk related to overcoming adversity. It could be personal or about a person that they knew. They watched several TED Talks, we studied the format, and instead of writing an essay, my students were required to write a speech using a hook, an anecdote to rig the reader in, a strong introduction, a body paragraph and statistics to support the points made, and a final concluding paragraph with a powerful clincher or message. They were also required to prepare visuals as well. (As a side note, those who felt uncomfortable exposing information, could choose a more neutral topic related to NGO's and how they are helping people through out the third world in particular.)We then invited parents to the band room, set up the room to seem like a TED conference, and the students presented their speeches. It brought many parents to tears, and was a powerful lesson on human strength and endurance even during difficult times.

Entry Narrative

TED Talks: Informative and Persuasive Speeches

TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) Talks and conferences promote the concept that “ideas are worth spreading.” It all began in 1984 and has expanded from technology to topics about academics, science and culture.


As we’ve seen, modern Africa faces a number of serious challenges: limited access to clean water, hunger, poverty, civil war/violence, and various environmental concerns. One way in which to address such problems is through the work of NGO’s, which raise money and awareness of these issues in order to bring about positive change for those most affected. In addition, we have read about a person, Salva Dut, who has changed humanity by overcoming his own obstacles and helping others in return.


You have several options that you can choose from listed below in the form of a TED Talk:

  1. You can inform and persuade us, Shark Tank style, about an NGO you truly believe is essential to humanity’s welfare and existence..
  2. Tell a story about someone inspirational in your life.
  3. Tell a story about a life-changing event, and how you overcame the obstacle. This experience may have impacted you, changed you or led you to make an important decision in your life.

This assignment is two-fold: You must present as well as write this speech, and we will be studying this style as well as writing this in class and at home.

Today: Let’s just brainstorm:

Choose a topic

What visual aid would you use?

How can you hook your audience?

Consider statistics, facts, or narratives.

TED Talks: An outline Name:

Introduction (about 1 minute of your talk)

  • Catch your audience’s interest
  • Give some background information to introduce your topic
  • Thesis

1-3 Body Paragraphs (2 minutes of your talk)

  • This is where you give your evidence – tell a story, show a visual, share a quote, etc.
  • Comment on your evidence (tell why it’s important and how it applies to us!)
  • Make sure to cite your sources so that you avoid plagiarism

Conclusion (30 seconds of your talk)

  • Wrap everything up
  • Make sure the audience understands how this applies to them
  • Leave the audience with something to think about
  • Spreading a point- end with a motto or an important point.

THE TED COMMANDMENTS (official guidelines from TED)

  • Thou Shalt Not Simply Trot Out thy Usual Shtick
  • Thou Shalt Dream a Great Dream, or Show Forth a Wondrous New Thing, Or Share Something Thou Hast Never Shared Before.
  • Thou Shalt Reveal thy Curiosity and Thy Passion.
  • Thou Shalt Tell a Story.
  • Thou Shalt Freely Comment on the Utterances of Other Speakers for the Sake of Blessed Connection and Exquisite Controversy.
  • Thou Shalt Not Flaunt thine Ego. Be Thou Vulnerable. Speak of thy Failure as well as thy Success
  • Thou Shalt Not Sell from the Stage: Neither thy Company, thy Goods, thy Writings, nor thy Desperate need for Funding; Lest Thou be Cast Aside into Outer Darkness.
  • Thou Shalt Remember all the while: Laughter is Good.
  • Thou Shalt Not Read thy Speech
  • Thou Shalt Not Steal the Time of Them that Follow Thee.


Student’s Name:


Topic: Title that suggests the topic of your speech

  • Introduction
  • Attention Getter: Something that grabs the attention of the audience.

Examples of this: startling statistics, stories, rhetorical questions, quotations, scenarios, etc. This point should be more than one sentence long.

  1. Reason to Listen: Why should the audience listen to your speech? Make it personal to each of them.
  1. Credibility Statement:
  2. What personally connects you to this topic?
  3. What type of research have you done to establish credibility?
  4. Thesis & Preview of Main Points: (this preview should reinforce the mode you have selected)
  5. Thesis: __________________________________________________________________


  1. Statement of the first main point; you should not use a source in this sentence.
  2. Idea of development or support for the first main point: Use statistics, quotes, visuals


  1. Statement of second main point.
  2. Idea of development or support


  1. Statement of third main point.
  2. Idea of development or support

III. Conclusion

  1. Review of Main Points: