Over the years teaching in a Korean university, I’ve had students do plenty of solo and group presentations. Here are my top presentation project ideas with a bit of advice on how to make them work for you.
Each student has to choose from a variety of topics such as “family” or “hobby.” They had to speak for between 1.5 and 2 minutes. I did this only once, with low-level students and it was so boring that I never did it again.
All the presentations were basically the same. “I have a mom. She is 46 years old. She has black hair and black eyes. I have a dad. He is 47 years old and he has black hair and black eyes. He is tall.” Trust me, they were some of the most tedious and excruciating hours of my entire life.
Find out: How to teach public speaking, in a far more awesome way.
#2: Presentation and Discussion Time
The group had 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 30 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 2 minutes. However, this could have been avoided by approving the topics in advance and requiring groups to submit their assignment for feedback a week or two before the actual presentation. The duds were mostly my own fault!
The key is to set up the project in a better way. The teacher need to prepare for this activity well in advance!
#3: Poster Presentation
Each group had to choose a current issue (like environmental pollution, celebrity suicide, North Korea) and make a poster that had English writing and some interesting pictures. Set a(low) maximum number of words, or your posters will be terrible! Then, they had to do a presentation based on the poster where each group member spoke for 2 minutes, without a paper.
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.
Giving the students a reason to listen is key.
More ideas for the classroom: Task Based Language Learning.
#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 (maybe 10?). Emphasize to students that you want to see pictures, charts, etc. and not a page of text.
Teach students how to make good PPTs and then penalize heavily for not following your recommendations. You should also coach students on how to stand to the side and still keep their body pointed towards the audience.
How to Make a Good PowerPoint Presentation (For ESL Students)
You may want to show this quick video to your students:
#5: Making a Short Video
For homework in my conversation classes, I hated giving writing homework! It just seemed to defeat the purpose of trying to get the students to talk as much as possible.
In order to combat this, I’d often get students to make videos and then put them online on YouTube. I’d assign a topic that they had to talk about for a minute or two. Sometimes, I’d make an assignment where 2-3 of the students in the class would have to talk about something.
Or sometimes I’d require that students interview their classmates about something. It was really fun to watch these ones!
If you want to get creative, you could have your students make a short documentary or movie about a topic of their choice.
It’s simple, fun, and many students let me know that is was their favourite homework activity that semester.
#6: Impromptu Speaking Activity
If you ask your students, they’ll often tell you that they want to improve their speaking skills. By this, they often mean fluency. One way to do this is to use an activity like Just a Minute. It puts students on the spot and they’re required to talk about a certain topic for one entire minute.
It’s the perfect way to focus on speaking fluency because they can’t stop talking for the entire minute. You can make it into a conversation activity by requiring that students who are listening ask some follow-up questions.
Of course, do this in small groups for intermediate students, and only with an entire class for advanced level students.
Why Do ESL Presentations?
That’s a great question and we’re happy that you asked! There are a number of reasons why you might consider using presentations for an ESL project idea.
#1: Presenting is a Tangible Skill
Although I’m here to teach English, I always try to give my students some tangible skills they can take with them. For example, in a writing class, I teach students about hooks, thesis statements and topic sentences. This will be useful in any kind of writing, in any kind of language.
And, in my conversational English classes, I like to teach some presentation skills like eye contact, gestures, etc. Hopefully they’ll use these things again in the future.
#2: They’re Ideal for Business Students
Many business people have to do presentations at work. Help them get some practice with this important skill in your classes.
#3: Helps Improve Listening Skills
When else do students listen for an hour or two, in English that’s almost exactly at their level? During presentations. Just be sure to give some task to give students a reason to listen (see the section below).
#4: They’re Student Directed
I generally give some very vague guidelines as far as topics go. For example, any current events topic. Or, food/school/culture/history/hobbies. Not just one of these things, but perhaps all of them!
This way, they are free to choose whatever they’re interested in and care about. They are often more willing to learn now vocabulary than if I were to just assign a random topic.
Of course, for best results, do be strict about time limits, PowerPoint slides, etc.
#5: It’s a Break from the Usual
Teacher talks, students listen. Sounds familiar? Mix it up in your classes, and have the students do all the talking.
How Can I Increase Audience Engagement?
It’s an excellent question! How can you keep the rest of your students engaged and learning English while other students are doing presentations? There are a few related strategies I like to use to do this. Remember, presentations can be a source of some serious listening and vocabulary practice, so do everything you can to take advantage of this!
Idea #1: Worksheets
Sometimes I require the group or person doing the presentation to come up with a few quick comprehension questions based on their presentation. Multiple choice, true/false or short answer work well for this.
Then, before their presentation, students have to hand out the worksheet to their classmates. This give people a reason to listen, and even if there are no grades attached to this, most students will do it.
Idea #2: Follow-Up Questions
Sometimes I put the audience in groups of 3-4. Then immediately after the presentation, I give them a couple of minutes to come up with 3-4 interesting follow-up questions based on the presentation. I choose a few groups to ask one of their questions to the presenter. Or, everyone has a chance to ask a question in the smaller classes.
Idea #3: Peer Grading
Peer grading is an interesting thing I’ve tried in my more mature classes. I’ve almost never seen students watch so closely. Students find this kind of thing surprisingly fun!
I generally let students assign 50% of the grade to their peers, and then I reserve 50% for my own grade. It works best if you give students clearly defined categories that they have to evaluate.
The only downside is that it can take quite a bit of time to compile all the numbers from this in a bigger class.
Idea #4: Taking Notes
Sometimes I’ll require that students take some notes from the presentation. Generally, 4-5 bullet points works well per presentation. It’s great listening and note-taking practice for our students.
Or, get students to write down 3-4 phrases that they hear from each presentation. It’s simple, but effective at getting students to work with the language.
The key to this working well is to coach students about how to take notes. They don’t have to write full sentences, but just the key words or phrase.
At the end of class, I have students show me their notes for some participation points. This activity does not work that well if no points or grades are attached to their work.
Don’t Forget This Book for Teaching Public Speaking!
If you want to teach presentations to ESL students, you’ll need this most awesome of books. It’s full of great resources for teaching public speaking.
Trust me, it’ll make your life way easier and happier.
What are your Presentation Project Ideas?
Do you have any ideas for presentations for English language learners? Do you love, or hate presentation day in your classes? Leave a comment below and let us know!
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