6 Tips to Help ESL Students Give Killer Oral Presentations

6 Tips to Help ESL Students Give Killer Oral Presentations

Claudia Pesce
by Claudia Pesce 75,880 views

“I can’t speak English.” “I need to feel more confident when I speak.” ESL teachers hear this type of complaint from students again and again.

Of all the skills they need to develop to communicate successfully in English, speaking is the one most of them agree they need to work on. To help your students overcome the speaking hurdle, you might want to consider giving them oral presentations. And here’s why.

  • It is the perfect opportunity to speak with no interruptions for several minutes. It definitely beats giving one-word answers to your questions.
  • It is great for boosting student confidence when speaking.
  • It is the perfect lead-in for discussion or questions from students.

Things to Consider:

  1. 1


    What will each talk about? The sky’s the limit in this regard. If it’s a one-time, final presentation, they may choose any topic they feel comfortable talking about. Or you can make it a regular activity and assign topics related to what they’ve been learning in class. For example, if you’ve been practicing conditionals, you may have each talk about a place they have never been to before but would like to visit. They may talk about everything they would do there.

  2. 2

    How long?

    The length of each presentation will depend on the number of students you have in your class, and whether you’ll have them all present in one day or over several days. Some students get very nervous about giving long presentations. Here’s a tip. Tell them they’ll have to speak for 10-15 minutes, and they might freak out. On the other hand, if you tell them they only have to speak for two minutes, they will probably speak for five. And if you say five, they’ll probably go on for a bit longer, too.

  3. 3


    Will they use special equipment? Power Point slides? Posters or photos? You may leave this entirely up to them. You may say they have to use at least one visual aid: a map, a photo or poster – whether they give a full slide presentation is up to them, though I recommend using this with Business English students as it gives them great practice for real presentations.

And now without further ado….

6 Tips to Help Your Students Give Killer Presentations

  1. 1

    Statement – Details – Expansion

    To help students organize their presentation, teach them this technique. First, they must think of a statement: I have never been to Paris, but I’d love to go there. Next, they must give a few details to support the statement (and use visual aids): There are many wonderful things I would do there like … Finally, they can make a closing statement that expands upon the initial one: If I go to Paris, I won’t be disappointed. This simple formula can help them talk about most anything. A different way of presenting this is by calling the initial statement the introduction, the supporting details the main body of the presentation and the final comment the conclusion.

  2. 2

    When? Where? What?

    Another great way to help them think of what information they should include in their presentation is to tell them they must answer most of these basic questions: when, where, what, why, who, how. By simply addressing these questions, they should have a clear idea of the points they need to cover.

  3. 3


    Make sure students understand that it is not necessary to write the entire speech down. This is meant to be a speaking exercise – not a reading out loud of one’s notes. Show them how to use key words and phrases to help them remember what they want to say. These notes should serve as prompts – they will lead them in the right direction and help them remember which point to mention next.

  4. 4

    Use Complete Sentences

    So last summer we went to beach, and then my cousins joined us, and then we played volleyball and swam in the ocean, you know, and we had a great time…” is not good speaking. It’s rambling. Instruct students to use clear language. Show them how to organize their speech, so they don’t use sentences that run on and on and on. They must learn to not only speak, but to organize their thoughts coherently.

  5. 5

    Loud and Clear

    Students should strive to pronounce clearly – no mumbling allowed. They should try to pronounce as clearly as they can even it means they have to slow down a bit. At first, it’s okay to sacrifice speed for accuracy. The more they practice, the faster they’ll speak.

  6. 6

    Visual Aids

    You may choose to make them compulsory or not, but make sure they understand they should choose a visual aid not because it’s the flashiest thing, but because it will help drive their point home. They may choose to use maps, photos or even real objects.

Give them the opportunity to take questions from the class once they finish.

And don’t forget to give each presenter feedback on their presentation. Try to be specific. “Good job!” sounds great, but it won’t be as helpful as saying, “You used great specific vocabulary, but you need to work on your verb tenses. There were several times where you needed to use the simple past, and you used the present.

Bear in mind that even beginners can give simple, one or two-minute presentations. It will help them gain confidence step by step, and build towards longer and better speaking.

Do you have your students give presentations? Share your experience below!

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