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English Detective #61 Mar. 1, 2016: ESL Listening Lessons from TED talks
February 29, 2016

English Detective #61 Mar. 1, 2016: ESL Listening Lessons

TED talks can make great listening lessons for teen or adult ESL classes (as well as for individual English study.) They discuss real-world problems and provide thought-provoking solutions and ideas in clear, fairly simple language (with transcripts and translations for scaffolding when necessary).

Unfortunately, most are too hard for Beginning ESL levels. So I was quite pleased to find these inspiring A2 (more or less high beginner) level TED talks. (The pdf below includes a link to LingoRank, which ranks TED talks by difficulty and speech speed.)

I have written suggested introductions/prior knowledge activation questions and comprehension questions for three extraordinary talks (on growth mindset and two courageous stories of providing education and rehabilitation in Afghanistan against all odds), with a briefer intro and basic questions for four more TED talks—all on hope.

You can use these directly with a class or come up with better questions, possibly using these to get started. The talks are long for high beginner listening lessons, but even an excerpt would be valuable. Here’s the pdf. (You can find the same information on EnglishHints at

I also wrote some comprehension questions for an exceptional higher-level TED talk on the Danger of a Single Story.

It’s also long, but could be valuable to a class preparing to listen to university lectures.

It provides lots of opportunities for thought-provoking discussions or writing assignments. I suggested a few, but you could find many more.

Click here for a pdf with those comprehension questions and suggestions.

You can also find both these pdfs, as well as many other listening (and reading) comprehension exercises, here (on Englishhints.)

Newsletter 47 also discussed listening lessons. The most useful link from it is to a British Council article for ESL teachers on planning a basic listening lesson. You can find it here.

Happy listening!

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