TED lesson plan: What I learned from serving time for a crime I didn’t commit (Teresa Njoroge)

Level: Intermediate/Upper Intermediate
Lesson type: Conversation and vocabulary focus
Topic: Crime and imprisonment
Lesson time: 1h/1h30 approx.

Teacher’s notes

Note: For a bit of added interest, avoid using he/she or his/her in reference to the speaker until after the full video is played. Whenever I managed to do this successfully, my students tended to assume the banker’s gender was male and were, therefore, quite surprised once the TED talk started playing! You can address their gender bias (if present) during post-video feedback.

Click here for the full handout.



Short news article: Write “Kenya: Former Banker Speaks of Time in Prison and New Life” on the board. Ask students if they can guess what happened – they can do this in pairs or individually. Then hand them the short news article (Handout, page 1) so they can check their predictions. Discussion of underlined words in the article during group feedback.


Pre-teaching and watching the video

Specific vocabulary (Taboo): Print as many copies of the card game (Handout, page 2) as there are pairs in class. Students should try to get their partner to guess the word at the top of each card without using any of the forbidden words underneath it. You can set a timer to 1 minute and let them know when it’s time to switch. The first pair that goes through all the cards wins.

If necessary, elicit/feed other challenging words from the video: conviction, chasm, yearning, vilify, to serve time.

Viewing questions: Ask students to make notes on the following as they watch the video:

  • The speaker mentions two children’s names. How are they relevant to the story?
  • What point does the speaker make about crimes of the system? And about the relationship between poverty and prison?

Feedback and discussion of points above during post-video feedback.


Post-viewing activities and consolidation

Debate: Ask students if prisoners should be punished or rehabilitated, and let them exchange ideas. Refer them to the article from the Telegraph (Handout, page 3), have them read it and underline any words they find challenging, clarify as needed. In pairs, ask them to summarize the article’s main points. Resume the debate.

Feedback/mistake correction: Throughout the debate, make notes of good uses of language and of any grammar mistakes made. Write them down on the board in two separate columns and let students peer correct. This can also be done in the following lesson, as an error correction exercise or game/activity. For more ideas on correcting mistakes and giving feedback in class, click here.


For similar lesson plans based on TED talks, click here. If you’re interested in learning how to create a lesson plan around a TED talk of your choosing, click here.

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