If you do presentation with your language classes, then you’ll need to check out some of these presentation project ideas. Get beyond the boring old PowerPoint presentation and use some of these creative ideas to bring a bit of excitement and life back into your classes.
Your students will love it, and it’ll also keep things fresh for you if you’ve seen the same old projects year after year.
Presentation Projects for ESL/EFL Students
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.
Presentation projects, if set up well are an excellent way to add a bit of variety to the ESL classroom. After all, students get tired of hearing the teacher talk all the time! And you probably get tired of talking. I know that I always did! Plus, it’s fun to hear what students have to say.
Here are my top presentation projects for ESL/EFL students.
- Basic speech (not recommended!)
- Presentation, then discussion time
- Poster presentation
- Making a movie
- PowerPoint presentation
- Impromptu presentation
- Teaching the class how to do something
If you teach business English, then the sky is kind of the limit in terms of what topics you choose. You could focus on just about anything that students may expect to present on when they start working in a company.
#1: A Basic Speech
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.
The main problem is all the presentations are basically the same and go 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. My dad has brown hair and black eyes. He is short.” Word for word, almost the same!
Trust me, they were some of the most tedious and excruciating hours of my entire life. It was from this point on that I vowed to never set up a presentation like this again. I got a lot more creative and made students talk about things that were more varied and interesting.
Of course, the bad results from this experiment were totally my fault. I should have chosen more interesting topics for the students, or given them better guidelines.
Maybe Not Terrible if…
This style of presentation could have been far less bad if I had done a better job setting it up. I should have set the topic to something like, “Current events.” That way, students would have been forced to choose something in the news and the presentation topics would have been quite varied.
Or, I could have required some visual aids to make it a bit more interesting for the students.
#2: Presentation, and then Discussion Time
Each group has 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 often works best if the presentation is based on 2-3 articles that the students have to send you in advance.
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!
This ideas for presentation projects isn’t a bad one, if you set it up well. It can work well for English majors or advanced level students who want a class filled with conversation and discussion.
#3: Poster Presentation
A poster is one of my favourite presentation projects. Each group has 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 have to do a presentation based on the poster where each group member speaks for 1-2 minutes, without a paper.
For this one, it’s very important that you require no paper script, or you’ll just have students reading off their notes. Also, don’t allow students to put too many words on the poster, or you’ll have students reading off of this.
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. Basically, it’d give the rest of the students in the class a reason to listen.
It’s potentially an excellent group presentation project!
#4 Presentation Projects: Making a Movie
Another ESL presentation idea is to have students make a movie. It’s easier than ever these days because almost everybody has a smartphone, and it’s free to upload the video to YouTube. This works particularly well if you teach film, art or fashion students and you’ll get some amazing results.
You can have a fun “viewing day” in class and encourage everyone to bring a snack! It’s a nice change from the regular old textbook thing.
Here’s how I’ve done movie projects.
- I put students into groups of 4-5. One person can “film” the project and then you can have 2-3 actors. Finally, one person might be designated the write the script or edit. However, I leave it up to the group how they want to divide the roles and not everyone has to appear on camera.
- I set a minimum and maximum time for the movie (usually 3-5 minutes), as well as a certain number of English sentences that must be spoken during that time. It must be a story of some kind that makes sense.
- I’ll usually give a topic or theme of some kind, but may leave it open.
I evaluate it based on the following things:
- Quality of English
- Interesting story
- Quality of production (I don’t expect a lot, but just basic stuff like making sure it’s bright enough, we can hear the people talking, etc.)
The quality of English usually gets around 10 marks, while the other two categories are each worth five.
Love this ESL Speaking Activity? Then Check Out:
#5: PowerPoint Presentation
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 (5-10?). Emphasize to students that you want to see pictures, charts, etc. and not a wall of text.
I generally allow each group to have 1 intro and 1 conclusion slide, and then 1 slide per group member. So if there are 6 students in the group, it’ll be 8 slides. I usually say that each student has to talk about their slide for 30 seconds to 2 minutes, depending on the level.
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!
This is an excellent idea for presentation projects, if some key expectations are set out in advance. Eye contact/don’t look at screen, pictures instead of words on the PowerPoint, etc.
#6: Just a Minute Impromptu Presentation
If you want to give your students some practice with making impromptu, or off the cuff style of speeches, then Just a Minute may be exactly what you need. It’s a toastmasters style activity and makes the perfect warm-up activity for intermediate or advanced level students.
You can also turn this into a listening activity, instead of just an ESL presentation by requiring the other students in the group to ask follow-up questions. Try this one with your classes and I think your students will really enjoy the challenge.
Find out more about it here:
Impromptu presentation skills are never a bad thing for students (or anyone) to practice!
#7: Teaching Others How to Do Something
One of the best presentation ideas for students is to get them to teach the class how to do something. I’ve done this a few times now and they are some of my most memorable classes.
The way it works is that students choose something they know how to do well. Students in the past having chosen things like:
- How to fry an egg
- Heading a soccer ball
- Playing the guitar
- Getting dates
- Making sure their parents give them enough spending money
- Eating out cheaply around the university
- Getting the best class schedule
I allow students to bring in props, material or make a simple powerpoint presentation with pictures (no text) to explain.
To Memorize, or Not Memorize, that is the Question
Should you make students memorize their presentation, or not? It’s an interesting question and I certainly see points for both sides. However, I generally lead towards the memorization thing because…
- It results in presentations that are far more interesting for the audience
- I only require 30 seconds-2 minutes of speaking. It’s not a big task to memorize this amount
- It helps students remember vocabulary and key phrases
That said, I do know that students get nervous and that this can be a big ask. It’s for this reason that I tell students to bring their notes up to the front with this, but to leave them in their pocket.
If they have an emergency (forget what to say!), they can take it out and use it. But, only once if they don’t want to get a penalty. After that, put it aside and continue on.
I’m usually kind and if a student has to do this twice, I don’t mind. My main point is that I don’t want students reading exclusively off of a paper.
Things to Consider for Presentations in English
If you’re going to have your students do an ESL presentation, there are a number of factors that you’ll want to consider.
- How to explain the task in a simple way that students can understand what they need to do. How will you evaluate it?
- When will students prepare (outside, or inside of class. A combination of both often works well).
- What kind of equipment can students use (Projector, or not).
- How students will deliver the presentation. Will you expect things like gestures and eye contact?
- What kind of language will the students use? Will you teach them about the introduction (I would like to start by…) and conclusion (In conclusion, you can see that…), as well as transition sentences (Moving on to…). The style of the speech (persuasive, informative, etc.) is important for this.
- What will the rest of the class be doing while the presentations are happening? Is there a listening task you can assign to make this activity even more valuable?
The biggest tip I can give you is to be clear about the terms of the assignment. And, also how you will evaluate it. If expectations are clear, results will be far better and your life will be easier as well because you won’t have to answer the same questions over and over again.
ESL Presentation Topics
Here are some of the most common topics that you may consider assigning to your students:
- Family (can be sensitive for some though)
- Current events
- If I had a million dollars…
- Vacation (past or future dream)
- Ideal first date
- TV and movies
- Favourite book
Like these Ideas for Presentation Projects?
- Jackie Bolen, Jennifer Booker Smith
- Kindle Edition
Then you’re going to love this book, 101 ESL Activities: For Teenagers and Adults. It’s an extremely practical, well-organized teaching guide that will help you plan your lessons in no time. The best part about it is that your students will be having fun, while learning English.
The book is available in both digital and print formats. The (cheaper!) digital one can be read on any device-Kindle, Mac, Pc, Smartphone, or tablet by downloading the free Kindle reading app from Amazon. It’s super-easy to have some top-quality ESL activities and games at your fingertips at all times.
Keep a copy on the bookshelf in your office and use it as a handy reference guide. Or, bring a copy with your on your phone or tablet to your favourite coffee shop for lesson planning on the go. It really is that easy to make your English classes even better.
Check out the book on Amazon by clicking the link below:
Tips for Student-Centered Language Teaching
Presentation are the ultimate in student centered English teaching. After all, the students are doing all the hard work, and not you!
Of course, you should give feedback and make the activity meaningful too. But, the goal is to have your students be producing the language, not just being fed it by the teacher.
Another thing you can do is to require some task around listening or vocabulary for students who are not doing the presentation. Perhaps some questions to answer, 5 interesting words that they heard, or a follow-up question to write/ask out loud to the presenter.
You can learn more about this style of teaching in this short video:
Have your Say about ESL Presentation Ideas
What’s your top ESL presentation project ideas? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.
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Last update on 2019-09-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API