May 27, 2008
I've been working with a couple of newish teachers this term, and have been asked this question a number of times "What are good topics for presentations"? Which is quickly followed by should they use powerpoint.
Usually my impression is that language learners don't really need to use powerpoint in their presentations. I know that may sound like heresey coming from a guy that writes a blog about CALL and runs a University Language Lab, but for me the primary goals of a presentation are for the student to display
- the ability to come up with the needed ideas and content,
- organize it logically so they reach the objective of their presentation
- have confidence to deliver it
- make use of good language (grammar, vocabulary)
- speak clearly so all can understand what they are trying to present.
I've found that in more cases than not, a computer based presentation just ends up getting in the way of their language production because
- they read the slides verbatim
- they look at the screen and not the audience
- the technology fails in some way (there are hundreds of ways this can happen)
- the computer portion is so flashy that it is distracting and irrelevant
This has so far been a little off the topic of "topics for presentation", but not really. It is those first five points above that should guide the choice of presentation topics in an average language classroom. Your topics should focus on materials and ideas that are relevant, and meaningful to your students. If they are within a content area that you have been studying recently, all the better as they will be more familiar with the content and language. Here are a few guiding principles that I suggest you follow when you as a teacher decide on topics for presentations
- make sure they are age appropriate - don't give kids 'adult' topics like politics, economics, or law
- make sure they are knowledge appropriate - focus on what your class knows, not what they don't know
- be sure they are language level appropriate - some topics simply require more vocabulary and higher levels of grammar knowledge
- unless there is good reason not to, give your students a lot of opportunity to explore the topic in a way that is interesting to them - basically assign general topics rather than specific ones.
As an example of this, I recently had my upper intermediate ESL class do a presentation. The basic assignment was for them to think of a problem in the world (ideally a social/environmental problem), explain why it is a problem, and offer a possible solution. I did not care if it was a global issue or an issue local to their hometown or even neighbourhood. We had 15 totally different presentation topics, which made the class more interesting and added to their overall knowledge of such issues.
There is no magic secret to presentation topics. The magic comes in the presentations themselves. If you follow some of the suggestions I've offered here, you and your students should be OK.
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Filed under Speaking & CALL by Eric