Tuesday, November 11, 2014

TESOL Teaching Tip #54 - Alternatives to Presenting in Front of the Class

As a teacher at an International School, many of my students were English Language Learners. Even my native English speakers were living in a non-English speaking country. Due to my unique teaching position, I have had some readers ask for tips on teaching English Language Learners. Here is this week’s Tuesday TESOL Teaching Tip:


TESOL Teaching Tip #54 - Give students alternatives to presenting in front of the class. Presenting can make ESL or ELL students nervous and prohibit language ability. Find four alternatives and more at my blog post on Raki's Rad Resources.

TESOL Teaching Tip #54 - Give students alternatives to presenting in front of the class.
Imagine standing in front of a room of people who speak perfect Mandarin Chinese and speaking in the broken Mandarin you had been learning for about a year, giving a speech in Mandarin on which you would be graded.  Your palms sweat, your heart races and all the words you do know in Mandarin go racing out of your head from the adrenalin of the moment.  You open your mouth to speak and the words that do come out, jumble up as you try to hurry up and be done with it. 
This is the experience our ESL or ELL students experience when we ask them to present a project or research paper to the class.  The resulting presentations rarely reflect the students’ true language ability or knowledge on the subject.  However, we tend to give them a grade on the presentation just the same.
As a teacher who has always used as many project-based learning experiences as I can, I believe in presenting the completed project.  By presenting the project, students learn to work for an audience, take more pride in their work and are more motivated to create quality work.  I have included presentations as a part of all of the projects before:
Earth's Material Glog Project - a perfect opportunity to allow students to present information to their peers.  from Raki's Rad Resources    Biography Project - a perfect opportunity to allow students to present information to their peers.  from Raki's Rad Resources

Rock Project - a perfect opportunity to allow students to present information to their peers.  from Raki's Rad Resources     Amazing Americans Technology Project - a perfect opportunity to allow students to present information to their peers.  from Raki's Rad Resources

Virtual Desert Project - a perfect opportunity to allow students to present information to their peers.  from Raki's Rad Resources     African Folktale Connected Glog Project - a perfect opportunity to allow students to present information to their peers.  from Raki's Rad Resources     
However, I don’t think that the only way to present projects is by standing in front of the class shaking while your classmates watch on – often bored and not paying attention.  Instead of standing in front of class presenting, I often use one of these alternative techniques:

Four alternatives to presenting in front of class - great for esl students - ideas from Raki's Rad Resources
Four alternatives to presenting in front of class - great for esl students - ideas from Raki's Rad Resources1.)  Museum Day:  Each student sets up their materials in a display around the room and stays at their display to present.  Invite in another class (or two) and ask them to wander around the materials, with no more than 2 or 3 people stopping at each display at one time.  When they get to a display, the person who created the project will present to the few people who stop.  Museum guests can wander at will, or can change displays at the ring of a bell.  Either way, museum presenters will present their project multiple times, giving students a chance to explain their project and use their language skills multiple times in one lesson, while providing them with a low stress way to present.

Four alternatives to presenting in front of class - great for esl students - ideas from Raki's Rad Resources 2.)  Pair and Share:  Split your class into pairs.  In each pair, students will take turns presenting their project to their partner.  Students get the one on one experience of teaching and learning, including the option of asking detailed questions.  You may choose to have students break into a different set of pairs and repeat the process.  In fact you could do as many pairings as you have time for.



Four alternatives to presenting in front of class - great for esl students - ideas from Raki's Rad Resources 3.)  Parent Presentations:  Set up your room similar to the set up for museum day, but invite adults to come and visit – parents, administrators, teachers with a prep period.  When parents come in, students have a chance to present to their own parent in their home language, and then turn and present to an administrator or teacher in English, giving them even more practice with their language skills.



Four alternatives to presenting in front of class - great for esl students - ideas from Raki's Rad Resources 4.)  Small Group Presentations:  If it is very important that all the kids in your class hear all of the presentations, then try doing small group rotations. Break your class into 4 groups.  Have one group stay stable while the other 3 groups move around and listen to presentations from the group who stable.  Once everyone has seen these presentations, switch and make another group stable.  Continue until all students who listened to all presentations.  Management tip -If you are going to have students listen to all presentations, you may want to have them use a graphic organizer to keep track of what they learned from each presentation and keep them engaged.

If students do need to present to the entire class, I often give them the options to work with a partner or group (strength in numbers!) or to create a video and play the video for the class.  All of these strategies are also helpful to students who have stage fright or anxiety about standing in front of a large group of people.
Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources