TED lesson plan: The art of first impressions – in design and life (Chip Kidd)

Level: Intermediate
Lesson type: Conversation
Topic: Books, Graphic design
Lesson time: 1h/1h30 approx.

Teacher’s notes

Note: This lesson can be particularly interesting if taught around the time a Man Booker Prize or Nobel Prize for Literature winner is announced, for added interest and relevance. If this is the case, you can also show a picture of the winner and ask your students if they know who he or she is; they can offer some suggestions and you can, then, use this as a way to introduce the topic of the lesson.

Click here for the full handout.


Ordering activity (optional): Write the following bullet points on the board: Readability, Prestige, Media buzz, Connection to reality, Plot, Writing style. Ask students to rearrange them in order of importance, individually. They can compare results in pairs, then group feedback. Clarify the meaning of the bullet points if needed.

Lead in: Write the expression “Don’t judge a book by its cover” on the board. Ask students if they know what it means (figuratively). Then ask if they also judge actual books by their covers. In other words, is design something they consider when buying a book? Why/Why not? Let them discuss in pairs, then as a group.

Book cover activity: Print (or project) the first page of the Handout, showing four book covers. Ask students to discuss, in pairs, which one(s) they are the most intrigued by, and why (Optional: if students are interested and if there’s time, use this activity to introduce/revise literary genres like science fiction, fantasy, crime novel, etc. by asking them what genres they think the books can be categorized as).

At the end, ask them what they think all these books have in common – then tell them that today’s TED speaker designed all the covers.


Pre-teaching and watching the video

Quote debate: Hand students copies of the second page of the Handout, folded. Ask them to comment on the quote on the right (Clarify the meaning of haiku and distillation, if necessary).

Pre-teaching vocabulary: Elicit/feed these challenging words/expressions from the video: book jacket, book cover, backlash, sky rise, off-putting, to over share, to get run over, to cut off, to catch up with.

Viewing questions: Ask students to follow the instructions written in the handout, and make notes accordingly. Feedback and discussion after watching the video.


 Post-viewing activities and consolidation

Handout activity (wrap-up): Ask students to unfold their handouts and read the instructions in pairs. During group discussion, make notes of any grammar mistakes students make throughout, feedback at the end (for ideas on correcting mistakes and giving feedback in class, click here).

Reading activity (optional): Read and discuss this article about the politics surrounding literary prizes.


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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