Jason Fried TED talk -Lesson Plan

Today I am sharing with you another TED talk I used in my class. I teach the listening skill and my learners are adults who are studying English for academic purposes. The lesson I designed again focuses on note taking. It was very appropriate for them as most of them have work experience and they are also management students. This TED talk is appropriate for B2 upper-intermediate learners. It’s great for EAP and Business English students. Like the Amy Cuddy TED talk lesson plan I shared earlier this month, there is a lot of note taking but this time instead of getting them to write a summary, I asked them to use their notes to answer questions in their groups.

Since I was asked in the comments section, I think it’s a good idea to mention that these lessons are similar to attending mini lectures. During lectures students are asked to take notes. They then use their notes (detailed) and have little group discussions based on questions. They may even have a seminar discussion. That’s what I tried to practice with this lesson.

Jason Fried talks about distractions at work. He argues that managers and meetings are one of the biggest distractions at work and makes 3 suggestions on how to minimise distractions.

  1. Have a half day silent Thursday during which no one is allowed to talk.
  2. Go from active communication to passive communication such as emailing and I.Ms.
  3. Cancel the next meeting.

My class

My students loved this talk. They giggled quite a bit and the 3 suggestions got them talking. I actually got them to debate. The final task I chose was ”imagine your ideal office/ working environment”. This does not have that much to do with the TED talk, so you can omit it if you like. My students really had fun though, and gave mini pair presentations (which ties into what I am teaching them at this stage of the course). If you want the lesson to end with a blast, keep the ideal office task as well! This lesson took about 80 minutes. I have not included minutes in this lesson plan. The activities were done in groups.

The Video

The Tasks

Before listening

    1 You are going to watch a talk by Jason Fried called,

    ‘’Why work doesn’t happen at work’’.

    What do you think it’s about?

  1. Where do you go when you want to do something important like work or study?
  2. What kind of distractions do people have at work?
  3. If you were the manager of a company, what measures would you take in order to minimise distractions?

Watch the TED talk and take detailed notes. You will need your notes to answer questions later on.

After listening

Answer the following questions

    1. How did people answer Fried’s question about where they go to do something important.

   2. What distractions do employees have at work?

   3. What’s the connection between work and sleep?

   4. What 3 measures does Fried suggest managers take in order to minimise distractions?

Debate about measures: In your groups discuss the effectiveness of the measures. Do you agree with them?

In groups decide on your idea working environment (office). When you have finished, you will present this to the rest of the class.

You can find the TED talk tasks on PDF here Jason Fried TED talk LP

If you try this lesson, let me know how it goes. Feel free to share.

Till next time…….


10 thoughts on “Jason Fried TED talk -Lesson Plan

  1. You ask them to listen and take notes (presumably this will get them to listen for the main idea(s) but then you ask them detailed questions. This seems to just test the students. What are you developing/ how are you helping them?

    What is your aim? I don’t see what the students will walk away with.


    • Hi Dave,
      Thanks for leaving a comment and the questions. I ask them to take detailed notes. Their detailed notes will probably answer the 4 questions I ask after listening to the talk. The main ideas are what answer the questions. Even if they can’t find all the answers they are in groups so they exchange ideas. That’s what they would do if they went to a lecture, isn’t it? So, my aim is to get them to write notes (cause that’s what I have been doing in the past sessions) and then talk about what they heard in the ‘lecture’. It’s like attending a lecture and talking about it. Something like a seminar discussion after a talk.


      • Hi Joanna – Have not used TED yet – thinking about it – however one quick but very silly question do you get each student to log into the website individually and view from there – looking forward to your response – Hope all is well with you ?


    • I would argue that teach note-taking skills is very important in this sort of class, and that by asking the students to listen and make notes, they are being trained in a useful way. They should be able to pay attention and listen for main ideas, phrases the indicate importance or transference, and supporting details. They should be jotting down numbers and names and ideas, and making decisions in their head about what is and isn’t important. Yes, perhaps it would’ve been useful to show them the questions first, but this way they’re learning the skills necessary to sit through a lecture in an academic situation.


    • Hi Dave,

      The type of lesson that Joanna has described is the usual approach to developing listening skills in EAP. Joanna is teaching the students to rely on their on their listening and note-taking skills to record the key points from a lecture, which is a different set of skills to the way we train ESL/EFL students to listen for key points BEFORE a listening activity. I’m sure in your CELTA / TEFL training you were told not to ‘test the students’ memories’ by asking questions after a listening activity. However, in EAP we are training learners to be successful members of the academic community, and in reality we are not given a list of questions to answer before a lecture. Therefore Joanna’s lesson imitates a real life situation of using your notes to answer questions after a lesson ( and if the student can’t answer the questions after the lecture, then there’s room for improvement in their note-taking skills).

      I recommend you have a look at the Garnet publication ‘EAP Essentials’ to get a clearer view of the distinction between ESL/EFL and EAP.



    • Hi Dave,
      As part of the pre-sessional EAP course I am teaching, students are often asked to take notes and then talk or write about what they heard during a lecture. This may also be part of a ‘seminar discussion’. I am mimicking those ‘situations’ with this lesson. Students get to practice note-taking ( I check their notes) and they see the effectiveness of their note-taking skills. My students (Asian learners) have not had that much practice in taking notes during lectures, so I am doing this in a controlled manner. When TED talks are quite difficult or sth important is mentioned I may even stop the talk.
      To answer your other question, I am not teaching them something explicitly, I am training them on how to take notes and use them after lectures.


  2. Pingback: #Augustfavourites 2015 | My Elt Rambles

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