Over the years teaching in a Korean university, I’ve had students do plenty of presentation projects, with varying degrees of success. I hope that you can learn from my mistakes and make your ESL speaking classes as awesome as possible. Here are my top presentation project ideas.
Each student has to choose from a variety of topics such as family, food, dreams or hobby. They have to speak for between 1.5 and 2 minutes. I did this only once, with low-level students and it was ridiculously boring such that I never did it again. All the presentations were basically the same and went a little something like this: “I have a mom. She is 49 years old. She has brown hair and black eyes. I have a dad. He is 57 years old. He has brown hair and black eyes. He is short.” Trust me, they were some of the most tedious and excruciating hours of my entire life.
Presentation, and then Discussion Time
Each group had to give a presentation about a topic of their choosing and think of at least 5 interesting questions/surveys/activities that groups could discuss or do for about 20 minutes after their presentation.
This presentation project ideas had varying results, since some groups chose a topic that led to a lot of “yes/no” answers and discussions that lasted about 5 minutes, at most. However, this could have been avoided by personally approving the topics in advance and requiring groups to submit their assignment for feedback a week or two before the actual presentation. I blame nobody but myself for the failure on this one!
If you want to teach ESL speaking or conversation to adults, this is the book that will make your lesson planning quick and easy: 39 No-Prep/Low-Prep ESL Speaking Activities: For Teenagers and Adults
Each group had to choose a current controversial issue (like environmental pollution, suicide, North Korea) and make a poster that had English writing and some interesting pictures on it. Set a (low) max number of words or your posters will be terrible and filled with wordy death! Then, the students had to do a presentation based on the poster where each group member spoke for 2 minutes, without a paper.
If I ever did this again, I would do something where the audience was more involved, such as peer grading. Or, I would require each group watching the presentation to think of at least 1 question to ask and they’d get a point for doing so.
This has the potential to be very interesting, or PPT death. It all depends on how you set the presentation project up. If you do go with this method, you should set a maximum number of slides and also a maximum numbers of words per slide (8-15?). Emphasize to students that you want to see pictures, charts, etc. and not a wall of text.
Teach students how to make good PowerPoints and then penalize heavily for not following your recommendations. You should also coach students on how to stand to the side and keep their body pointed towards the audience. Eye contact is key!