This is part 3 of 3 on How-to presentations, an activity cycle that runs for 2½ homework-classwork sessions:
- Homework: listening activity with model text
- Class: model text plus presentation scaffolding
- Homework: write and practice presentation
- Class: deliver presentation
- Homework: reflection on presentation
4. Class: deliver presentation
It’s the big day. The students are nervous. Depending on the time available, I try to give students the first 15 minutes to warm up. 5 minutes to mumble-read their presentations individually, then 10 minutes to practice with a partner.
Even though the presentations are short and the topics varied, the key to keeping a classroom of people really engaged and focused for two hours is to give them tasks before, during and after each presentation.
I use a presentation cycle of:
- Presenter question to the audience/pair discussion
- Presentation (self-recorded)
- Pair reflection/discussion
Ask each presenter to think of a question to ask the audience, to get them thinking and talking (in pairs) about the topic. With how-to presentations, it’s usually just a brief variation on the presentation topic, e.g. How do you give a good presentation in English? or How would you give a presentation? or What makes a good presentation? Let students discuss in pairs for a couple of minutes.
The presenter gives their talk, recording it on the smartphone voice recorder (if they don’t have one, I offer mine).
While listening to the presentations I always ask students to evaluate each other’s performance, which they mark on little slips of paper. Judged on a scale of 1-4 (1 = weak, 4 = great) the three (non-technical) criteria are:
- Fluency (little stammering, hesitation or pausing)
- Clarity (is the how-to procedure clear and easy to understand)
- Presence (stance, posture, eye contact, body language, facial expressions)
Students should hang on to their evaluations until the end.
I evaluate each presentation as well, and add lots of comments. Correction is usually limited to pronunciation issues that I couldn’t have caught from the written text. I focus my praise on performance issues (fluency and presence) and particular instances where they’ve succeeded in improving on the written draft (by incorporating my suggestions or improving it in other ways).
Give students 10 seconds to complete their marks, and then give the student pairs a couple of minutes to discuss what they learned and whether it matched their expectations. I also encourage the presenter to walk around and listen to what the class is saying ― and offer clarification or answer questions.
When all the students have presented, students should go around and distribute their evaluations to the presenters.
Then there are a couple of options to wrap up the day:
- Take a (secret) vote for the best presentation (or two or three) and award a prize. Discuss reasons for their choices.
- Put students into groups and have them write quiz questions for another group to see what was remembered.
5. Homework: reflection on presentation
As homework I send students an email asking them to reflect on their presentation (see below for the full email). In summary, they should:
- Look at the evaluations ― do they think they’re fair
- Listen to their recording again ― listen for my pronunciation notes, and check the pronunciation of words in question
- Decide what they liked, and what they need to improve
All good things are worth repeating. And the next time you do a presentation activity, ask students to pull out the email they send you to give them a goal for what to work on.
As I mentioned way back at the beginning of part 1, nobody likes having to do a presenation, but everybody loves having done one. And EFL students are certainly no exception: in mid-term and end-of-class surveys, students routinely tell me that presentations are one of the most challenging, rewarding and enjoyable things they do in class.
And you don’t have to stop with one. Giving students the opportunity to do 2 or 3 throughout the course will mean you can really work to improve different performance aspects as well, like stage presence or intonation.
By providing students with good models, scaffolding and an encouraging (and safe) environment, you’ll find students are willing and eager to share their passions, with the best English eloquence they can muster, on the classroom stage.
Student post-presentation self-reflection letter
Good work today! You successfully got through your first English presentation (for this class)!
I know you may not like the sound of your voice (most people don’t), but recording yourself is one of the best ways to begin to work on improving your speaking. You can actually hear the things you need to improve! This homework will give you a chance to reflect on what you did well and what you can improve.
Look at your classmates’ evaluations of your presentations, as well as my own, and then listen to your presentation. A number of my comments had to do with pronunciation—sometimes I put (p) for pronunciation. If you want to hear the word said with US or UK pronunciation, look up the word in e.g. the Cambridge Learner’s Dictionary.
Next, I’d like you to write me an email. In the email, I’d like you to tell me 2-3 things you liked/were happy with about your presentation (even if you’re naturally a pessimist, you must find something positive to say about yourself! For example, you could say “I remembered what I wanted to say” or “It was easier than I’d feared” or “I managed to say some difficult words like X, Y and Z, which I’d looked up in a dictionary”. Also, tell me 3 things you need to work on to improve your English for presentations. Please be specific: DON’T say “I need to do better presentations” (too general), but DO say, “I need to memorize my transitions” (more specific).
For homework, listen to your presentation and read my comments. Then write me an email. Say:
- 2-3 things you liked about your presentation
- 3 things you need to work on to improve
I look forward to hearing your self-assessment! Thanks!