Vol. 11, Issue 2, December 2010

Webbing In
Eugenia D. Coutavas

Debbie Coutavas

Nothing beats using authentic listening material to hone listening and note-talking skills.  In the past, cassettes and compact disks accompanied textbooks.  (Nowadays most books have accompanying websites that offer great supplementary materials).  The progress of technology has allowed me to break away from the use of textbooks with their often stilted and unnatural dialogues.  I am a big proponent of using the Internet to find brief, relevant, level-appropriate listening materials.  There are many great websites that contain authentic material.  It’s difficult to narrow it down, but if I had to, I would put ted.com at the top of my list. 

This site offers videos of talks given at annual TED conferences and covers the subjects of technology, entertainment, and design among others.  The speakers are all authors or specialists in their fields, and illustrations are used to highlight their lectures.  Talks vary in length from a few minutes to eighteen minutes and include transcripts.

I started using ted.com about three years ago while teaching at an art school.  I easily found relevant topics and speakers that my students found engaging.  I’ve gone on to use it for intermediate- to advanced-level students interested in a variety of subjects.  I’m never disappointed.  It provides real output – with all the nuances of spoken English, which I believe are important for language learners to be exposed to.

Here is a talk I use very often because it’s only 4.5 minutes:

And here is one I just used recently during a unit on organic food/ecology:

Try ted.com. You won’t be disappointed.




Eugenia "Debbie" Coutavas received a B.A. in History of Art with a minor in photography from the University of La Verne in Athens, Greece, and an M.A. in TESOL from Hunter College. In addition to teaching for more than ten years, Debbie was also the Web site coordinator for Hunter College's IELI Web site.

Please send your questions and responses to "Webbing In" at dialogue@nystesol.org.