Teaching Presentation Skills to English Learners
“At a funeral, people are five times more likely to want to be in the casket than giving the eulogy.”
~ Jerry Seinfeld
Public speaking is the number one phobia. People are more afraid of speaking in public than death which is why Jerry Seinfeld made the remark above. At some point our learners will have to give a presentation. For many of our learners this is a different type of skill they have to learn and their struggle with the language makes it more frightening for them. For teachers this can be difficult to teach because we teach rehearsed language as well as presentation skills and presentation design skills. However, teaching our learners how to present helps them with their English related to their working environment, and provides them with a confidence and motivation to continue their English. Great presentation skills lead to promotions and accolades from colleagues! Presenting is not only for adult learners, though. We can and should get our students to present to their peers from as young as 10 years-old. The more they practice, the better they will be at it! Plus, these skills will help them present their ideas in future classes. I hope the following tips and resources will help you.
Tips for Preparing Their Presentations
Before your students present, they will need to prepare what they want to say. Here are a few tips to get them started.
- Have them observe famous speakers and speeches! Show them TED Talks which are short and come with transcripts of the speeches. Here’s a blog dedicated to TED Talk lessons for English language learners. Also check out American Rhetoric’s top 100 speeches of the century that include audio clips, video, and transcripts.
- Provide them with a simple checklist of what you expect from them as far as the topic, vocabulary to include, speech time, visual aides they can use, and more.
- Give them time to brainstorm.
- Have them diagram their presentations on paper before they begin putting it together.
- Allow them to write out their speeches then have them summarize the main points. Many language learners will want to write out their entire speech so they make sure the grammar is correct. Once you and their peers check their written speeches, have them create note cards with main ideas.
- Include a peer review process. Voicethread is a great free tool for having peer reviews online.
- Give them plenty of time to practice, practice, practice!
Tips for Designing Their Presentations
Now that your learners have determined what they are saying, it is time to get them to support these ideas with multimedia and visual aids. Here are a few tips!
- Instruct them to support concepts and main points with multimedia, images, and videos. These aids should not distract from the message. The presentation should not have too much multimedia. Also, steer them away from using custom animations and transitions. Many times this will create problems with the presentation.
- Get them to use presentation tools either than PowerPoint. Here is a list of various presentation tools I recommend.
- They should design the presentation keeping their audience in mind.
- Teach them about creative commons. There are websites with free images and music. You can try Flickr, CCMixter, ELTPics, Musicshake, Compfight, MorgueFile, Free Music Archive, Jamendo, and Royalty Free Music, SoundBible, and FreeSound.
Tips for Dealing with the Nonverbal Communication
Once the presentation is prepared, students should work on their nonverbal cues. They can practice giving their speech in front of a mirror or videotape themselves. Here are a few nonverbal issues that might arise.
- To deal with pitch, pace, volume, and enunciation problems, students can practice the speech with a marker in their mouth. Once they let it out, they will notice the improvement.
- To deal with distracting pacing, students can practice presenting in a trashcan till they get better.
- To deal with too many umms, ands, uhhs, students can practice with a peer who will ring a bell every time they do this.
- To help with eye contact, students can look at a point on the far wall and it will seem they are looking at the audience.
Here a few ideas to get your students presenting!
- Have them do a short Pecha Kucha or Ignite presentation. These are 5 to 7 minute speeches aimed at being highly visual and covering the most important points of a topic.
- Have them do a short online presentation with video and slides using free and user-friendly tools like Present.me or BrainShark.
- Have your students create their own short Ted Talks.
- Have them present a project or topic in real time using Google Hang Outs on Air. They can receive immediate feedback from their peers. You could even host a debate using this free online tool.
What other ideas can you think of?
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