Tweaking Speaking: 5 Ideas for Presentations

Tweaking Speaking
5 Ideas for Presentations

Jessica Madsen
by Jessica Madsen 31,016 views

Did you know that public speaking is the #1 fear in North America? The second greatest fear is death!

The thought of giving a presentation is scary enough for native speakers, but for ESL students, speaking in front of a group of people in a second language is even more nerve-wracking. Many students have a tendency to freeze when they are “on stage”, which can result in robotic like recitations of memorized speeches or an overreliance on notes that leads to reading aloud rather than speaking freely. One of the things we as teachers can do to help students progress as speakers in front of an audience is to design stimulating and fun presentation topics. Hopefully, the more engaged students are with their topic, the more they will relax and deliver a presentation that flows more naturally.

Try These 5 Presentation Ideas with Your Students

  1. 1

    Poster Presentations

    Some students are deeply frightened at the prospect of presenting in front of their peers and teachers.

    Some students are deeply frightened at the prospect of presenting in front of their peers and teachers. One of the ways that instructors can ease students into the role of presenter is to create a poster session in which each student has the opportunity to share ideas with a small audience multiple times. Poster sessions work great for just about any topic, and they allow students to create a visual aid that they can then explain to a rotating audience. Students can hang their posters on the walls around a room and have visitors (perhaps students from another class) mingle and browse. When people stop to see a poster, the creator has an opportunity to present the information they have included on their poster to a small group in a more relaxed setting. Then, the student has the chance to do it again when the next visitor stops by to take a look, allowing the student to present the same information multiple times, hopefully getting better and better with each “mini-presentation.”

  2. 2

    Impromptu Situations

    Your students will really enjoy fun and creative, even silly, impromptu speaking tasks, as scary as they may seem at first. If a teacher is working on developing speaking skills with students, a great daily warm-up is to write down various scenarios or topics, cut them into strips, and have students randomly choose one. Topics can be serious or wacky; the important thing is that students are talking! The more practice students have with delivering even short, random, speaking exercises in front of a group, the more comfortable they will ultimately be when it comes time to deliver planned, formal presentations.

    Here are some examples (or get 900 more creative prompts here)

    • Pretend you are an ant; try to convince an anteater not to eat you!
    • Explain how to ask a girl on a date.
    • Pretend that you have just seen a dinosaur in New York City; try to get someone to believe you!
  3. 3

    Have Students Create Autobiographical and Biographical Documentaries

    If a course is long enough, having students collaborate on a mini-documentary can be an excellent way to unleash their creativity. Working in groups or individually, students can design and produce a video that explores their own lives or the lives of someone else, famous or unknown. This fun, engaging project can be a long-term one that students work on over a significant period of time, or it can be designed as a shorter task that students create in a few days. If time is really limited, students can do a presentation on how they would plan and approach making a documentary, rather than actually producing it.

  4. 4

    5 Tips about Something Familiar

    Students get most excited about content that is relevant to their own lives. Some of the pressure that students feel when giving a presentation can be alleviated by ensuring that the topic is something that they are already knowledgeable about. Creating a presentation assignment in which students offer “5 Tips” to their classmates can be a great way to get students excited about presenting. This is a great way to allow students to display their individuality, too. Teachers can provide a list of potential topics in case students get stuck when trying to decide what to present about, but many students will be eager to share their expertise about a topic of their own choosing.

  5. 5

    Assign Class Visits

    For academic, college-preparatory ESL programs, designing an assignment in which students visit regular university courses can be an exciting and eye-opening opportunity. When students are able to witness the academic environment that they will eventually fully be a part of, they are able to better understand the importance of the preparation that they need to do to develop the requisite proficiency to undertake study at an international institution of higher learning. Once students have visited one or two academic classes, they can prepare a short presentation, answering targeted questions, and share the experience with their classmates. Students will benefit not only from their own class visits, but also from hearing about their classmates’ experiences.

Presentations are inevitable part of a speaking curriculum, but they can often leave students fraught with anxiety.

By creating fun, guided speaking presentation assignments, students can grow more comfortable with speaking in front of an audience. Be sure to give students some say in the topic that they chose; the more personal interest a student has in what they will present about, the easier it will be to get excited about doing so!

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