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
- PowerPoint presentation
#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.”
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.
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.
#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 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
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!
Love this ESL Speaking Activity? Then Check Out:
#4: 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 (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.
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 a paper.
Like these Ideas for Presentation Projects?
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.
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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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