Freedom Sixth-Graders Present Ted Talks

Freedom Sixth-Graders Present Ted Talks
Posted on 03/19/2019
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Freedom students who gave Ted TalksMost adults have probably watched, or at least heard of, Ted Talks. Elementary students? Not so much. However, sixth-graders at Freedom Elementary School have not only watched Ted Talks, they’ve presented the short, powerful speeches in front of their peers.

Glenda Fries is the teacher behind this project based learning exercise in her English Language Arts classes. “(The assignment) has all of the components of an essay, but the students are presenting as a Ted Talk,” said Fries. “It’s really about being prepared and presenting - it’s life skills.”

The students were asked to think about a topic that is familiar to them and then tasked with digging deeper by researching the subject to become an expert. Londyn Dennis chose self confidence and self esteem as her topic. “It’s something that needs to be talked about more in school and more among students,” she explained when asked why she chose that topic. “For me, I just wanted them to know that they need to have more self confidence,” she continued. “It’s not fair for someone to be put down for not having the coolest new Jordan’s or... petty stuff, basically. I feel like they shouldn’t have to worry about that.”

To prepare for the project, Fries showed her students examples of Ted Talks, including one by a six-year old child, telling the class “if a six-year old can do this, I know you can!” Another example was a Ted Talk about nothing. In this example, Fries had the students watch the presenter’s body language and the way he was able to command the stage. “Body language is important (when presenting),” she told the class. “You don’t want to show your nerves.” Fries encouraged the students to “own” the space by thinking of it as a clock, with 6:00 behind them. “You don’t want to move towards 6:00 because you’ll be pulling away from your audience.”

Dennis took that lesson to heart. “You want to catch people’s attention on both sides of you,” she noted, appreciating Fries’ clock method to help remind the students to move.

Another twist to the assignment was audience feedback to the presenters. Fries had the students complete a rubric while watching actual Ted Talks, which they also used during their fellow classmates' presentations. “Students should feel comfortable in this environment,” she said. “Asking a question, making a comment and providing feedback in a constructive way.” In addition to their speech, students also created a two-to-three slide presentation to go along with their talk.

LJ Green delved into why NBA referees are missing calls. Also a basketball player, Green said that missed calls in his league affect the outcome of the game and also a player’s mindset. Prashi Vatsal chose to explore chemicals in food, which is a topic she has grown up around. “My mom is the reason why I chose this topic,” she said, explaining that her mom’s passion for healthy food has increased her knowledge on the subject. “A lot of people are dying from cancer so people are always trying to say fundraise to help cancer, and so this is a way to help prevent cancer or not get sick.”

In addition to Fries’ clock method, Diego Rodriguez involved the audience from the get-go, asking “how many of you have been bullied by someone you trust or trusted?” His passion for the topic shone through as he not only spoke about statistics, but also personal experience. “It was an assignment I could finally get a message out about something I believe in,” he said.

Self-reflection also played a role in the assignment. Students learned that they have the confidence to speak in front of a large group of people. Rodriguez summed up a deeper lesson learned as well: “I have a voice to change things.”

Freedom Elementary students presented their own Ted Talks as part of a project based learning exercise in Language Arts class. Pictured: Diego Rodriguez, LJ Green, Glenda Fries, Pashi Vatsal and Londyn Dennis.