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Classroom Activities: TED Talks for Your Students

Janelle Cox

Are you looking to give your students a little inspiration via classroom activities? If so, then a TED talk may be just what you are looking for. TED talks are influential, usually short videos that are put on by expert speakers. TED, short for Technology, Education, and Design, now covers almost all topics with a growing library of lessons for you to choose from. Whether you are looking for classroom activities to show your students where good ideas come from or how they can solve problems, there is a TED talk for you. You can search by students’ grade level, content type, or duration. Whatever you feel your students will benefit from hearing, there is a TED talk about it.  Here are a few important lessons that you can share with your students. Hopefully these classroom activities will be inspirational enough to will stick with them for several years.

1. Classroom Activities: Where Do Good Ideas Come From?

As teachers, we are always looking for ways to help our students come up with ideas on their own. In this one, Steven Johnson explains how to help students understand where good ideas come from. If you don’t want your students watch the full version, or want to show younger students, then here is an animated short version about this topic.

2. Working Backwards to Solve Problems

Problem-solving skills are one of the most essential skill sets that all teachers want their students to have. This TED talk lesson is from Maurice Ashley, who teaches us one of his favorite strategies -- how to work backwards to solve a problem.

3. The Neuroscience of Imagination

How many times have you instructed your students to use their imagination and all you get is reluctance? This TED talk by Andrey Vyshedskiy will help your students understand the neuroscience of how their brain can produce something that they cannot see.

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4. The Benefits of a Good Night Sleep

Oftentimes, students will stay up late studying and not realize the effects it can have on their brain. In this TED talk, Shai Marcu explains how sleep restructures your brain in a way that is crucial for your memory.

5. Mindfulness

Andy Puddicombe, a mindfulness expert, helps students understand that by just taking 10 minutes a day to be more mindful and present in your life, you can be healthier and less distracted. This TED talk is especially good for students who are always distracted or disruptive in class.

6. Why Do People Get Anxious About Math?

For the students who get nervous when it comes to math, this TED talk will help them understand that math anxiety is a real thing, and about 20 percent of the population has it. Orly Rubinsten helps students understand the research about it, as well as what can be done to fix it.

7. Stand Up to Bullying

Bullying is a serious issue that many students have to face every day. As teachers, we can give them the tools that they need to stand up for themselves and face a bully. Shane Koyczan helps students understand that they are not alone and in this captivating poem-like TED talk.

8. How Did the Universe Begin?

Have your students ever asked you how the universe started? Here is a short, animated TED talk that will help students understand and explore these questions. Tom Whyntie tries to explain this topic as well as the Big Bang theory.

9. The Science of Happiness

It’s not always easy being a child in school -- your happiness level can be up one day and down the next. In this popular TED talk, Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert explains the surprising science of happiness. Students will learn how they can feel happy even when things don’t necessarily go as planned.

10. What Adults Can Learn From Kids

Every child just wants to be heard, and this TED talk is the perfect one to show your students that they can indeed be heard. Child prodigy Adora Svitak shows that kids can have big dreams and adults can learn from them.

What’s great about TED talks is that users can create your own TED ED lesson. All you have to do is type in the URL of the video that you want your students to watch, then you can add questions, comments or discussion prompts and share them with your students. You can essentially build a lesson around any TED talk concept that you want. If you don’t want to build your own lessons, then there are thousands of already made lessons for you to choose from.

What are your favorite TED talks to show your students? Please feel free to share your favorites of these classroom activities in the comment section below, we would love to hear about them.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds master's of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to, TeachHUB Magazine, and Skyword. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators, or contact her at