Public Speaking PBL Unit: Talk Like TED - with Research Writing & Rhetoric

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  1. PBL Unit Bundles for ELA Classrooms : English classrooms are at an advantage when it comes to Project-based Learning -- our content is based on skills and creation. These three PBL units cover research, writing, reading, and speaking in a way that will engage your students and clearly relate to the
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Persuasive talks are a powerful way to teach students public speaking, rhetorical analysis, persuasive writing, and research-skills. For this unit, students write a research paper on the topic of their choice, analyze contemporary speeches, and craft a persuasive speech for an authentic audience that captures their own unique voice on a topic of their choice.

In my own classroom, I was blown away by some of the topics my students chose, which included “Glossophobia: How the Fear of Public Speaking Changes One’s Life” and “Are Memes Dehumanizing America?” My students’ talks were unique, educated, serious, and funny and it was a joy to put my students’ creativity on display!

Below is a brief description of what's included in this unit, but if you would like to see more concrete examples of what the project might look like before shelling out the cash, check out my typeform detailing my own experiences with this PBL unit.

You deserve to simplify your planning through enriching, engaging resources.


What's included in this 86-page unit?

  • An entry document and rubrics to introduce your students to this project
  • A Know/Need-to-Know/Next Step Graphic Organizer/Pre-Assessment to provide students with a plan of attack
  • A Powerpoint on Rhetorical Strategies
  • SOAPSTONE Analysis and Annotation Guides for three speeches
  • A Rhetorical Precis Poster Assignment to familiarize students with analyzing a speech.
  • An Independent Rhetorical Precis Assignment with list of suggested TED Talks to analyze.
  • A Speech Brainstorming Brainstorming Guide
  • A Persuasive Talk Visual Analysis Sheet
  • A Talk Like TED-inspired Mindmap
  • Persuasive Research Paper PowerPoint
  • Speech Outline Assignment
  • PowerPoint on the "6Ps of Presentations" and a highly-engaging public speaking game that is sure to be a student favorite.
  • Persuasive Talk Analysis Jigsaw Activity
  • Post-Talk Like Ted Reflection


Interested in more project-based learning units?

1. Dystopian Worlds PBL

2. Talk like TED: Public Speaking PBL

3. Toy Creation PBL Unit


Key PBL Elements:

Challenging Problem or Question: How can we create and share ideas worth spreading in a way that improves our world and benefits our listeners?

Students must determine the best way to present a topic they care about with the world.

Sustained Inquiry: Students not only explore their chosen issue for their TED Talk, but also explore what a convincing and effective presentation looks like through exploring mentor texts (TED Talks) and analyzing the use of rhetorical techniques.

Authenticity and Public Product: A TED-style conference is a “real life” opportunity to speak. Whether your conference takes the form of an in-school field trip or a conference night, students are sharing their opinions with people outside of their class in a way that will impact others.

Student Voice and Choice: Students choose a topic that’s of importance to them, not one prescribed off of a list.

Critique and Revision: Two weeks of this project are dedicated to essay and speech critique and revision. Students learn that a good speech must be practiced more than a dozen times in order to get it right.


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Total Pages
86 pages
Answer Key
Rubric only
Teaching Duration
1 month
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.
Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.
Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.
Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.


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