Current Events Presentation Project | Presentation Topics

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If you’re looking for an interesting activity to mix things up a bit in your intermediate or advanced classes, check out this current events presentation project.

Current Events Presentations: I Loved Them!

This week in class, my students have been doing a presentation project. To be honest, I had pretty low expectations but my students have gone above and beyond to produce some awesome presentations. Now, I know that I had very little to do with this awesomeness, but I couldn’t help but feel really proud of them.

How I Set Up this Presentation Project:

Class: 3rd and 4th year English major students at a big, private university in Busan, South Korea. The level of the students ranges from low-intermediate to low-advanced.

Group Size: Student choice. From 1-5. I always hated group projects in university, so I always like to give students an option to work alone. About 1/2 the students did it by themselves, while the others mostly went in pairs.

Length of Presentation: 1.5-2 minutes/person in group.

Visuals: 1 PowerPoint slide/person in group. 15 words/slide maximum. I wanted the focus to be on the speaking and not on an impressive PPT. Most students just had a title and an interesting picture.

Task: Choose a current event in the news lately. It could be in Korea, or around the world. Talk about three things: explain the news story, talk about why it’s important, give your opinion about it.

Grading: Out of 15 points. Explain story = 3. Why important = 3. Opinion = 3. PPT slides = 2. Overall impression = 4 (eye contact, voice, looking friendly, posture). We spent about a 1/2 hour in class practicing things like how loud to speak, how to stand, making eye contact, etc.

If students went in groups, the entire group got the same grade.

Speech set-up: Students had to memorize their speeches. While they could bring their paper to the front with them, they had to keep it in their pocket to use only in case of emergency. Most students didn’t need it. I said that I wouldn’t penalize them for looking at it once.

Why were these Presentations so Awesome?

I think the awesomeness of the presentation project is related to a few different things, including the following:

Length of Time: Shorter is better! 1.5-2 minutes is a nice length. Students can say what they want to say but it keeps things fresh for the audience.

No Forced Group Work: You like alone, go alone. You like group work, go in a group. I like to give students choice.

No Death by PowerPoint: Limiting each person to only one slide with basically no words led to lots of interesting pictures. It also helped students focus on making eye contact with the audience instead of just looking at the screen.

No Reading: Is there any worse thing to do in a presentation than to read? I don’t think so. I always make my students memorize their presentations and I find it goes much more smoothly.

Free Topic Choice: The topic choice was so wide open. “Anything in the news lately.” Students chose stuff they were actually interested in and surprisingly, nobody chose the same topic.

Some Structure: Giving some structure (explain story, tell why important, give opinion about it) helped to prevent random rambling.

Not just Me Blathering Away: I’m sure my students are weary of me blathering away at them each day by this point in the semester! I think it was a nice break for them, as well as me. The students did a great job listening to their classmates.

Optional: Peer Grading or Follow-Up Questions

If you wanted to extend this activity a little bit, there are a few things you could do. Here are some of the ideas I have.

  • Put students into small groups of 4-5. Then, each person that does a presentation has to think of 3 interesting follow-up questions for the groups to discuss after their presentation.
  • Peer grading. This is not something that I do very often, but when I have, the students have really liked it. I mostly don’t do it because it requires way more time to collect all the scores and to calculate them.
  • Follow-up questions for the presenter. This is best only for advanced students because it really puts the presenter in the hot seat!
  • You could have students submit a report of some kind related to their topic if you wanted them to have some practice with writing.

What’s your Source for ESL News Articles?

That’s a great question and I’m happy that you asked. For this presentation project, it didn’t matter to me whether my students used an article in English, or Korean. The only thing that mattered is whether or not the presentation was in English.

However, if you’re looking for news articles for your students for presentation, or other things, then where can you find them?

For intermediate or advanced students, I generally prefer authentic materials from somewhere like the BBC or CNN. The grammar and vocabulary are usually not that difficult.

However, for lower intermediate or beginner students, you’ll want to use articles with graded language. You can check out some of my top picks here:

ESL News Articles

How to Give a Presentation in English

Here’s a solid video to show your students before they get started working on this project.

Need Some More ESL Speaking Activities?

If you teach teenagers or adults and want some more speaking activities for your classes, the book you’ll need is: 39 No-Prep/Low-Prep ESL Speaking Activities. The best part is that the activities are no-prep, or low-prep so you’ll be able to plan your English lessons in no time.

They key to successful classes filled with happy students is a variety of interesting games and activities. This book will help you do just that. Seriously, it’s filled with fun and engaging activities or games that you can use in your classes today.

You can get in Amazon in both digital and print formats. The e-version is less than the price of a cup of coffee. Well, actually a whole lot less! You can read it on any device by downloading the free Kindle reading app.

Check it out for yourself here:


Have your Say about this Presentation Activity!

Have you ever done this kind of presentation with your ESL/EFL students? Leave a comment below and let us know your tips and tricks.

Also be sure to share this on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Last update on 2019-06-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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