Making Student Presentations Sparkle

I’ve become very fond of student presentations as a means to develop language proficiency and overall confidence. When diligent preparation leads to successful delivery, it’s a particularly satisfying experience for the learner and for the teacher.

I’m also learning how to guide this process efficiently. Have you discovered some best practices? Please feel free to share. I’ll start the list with my thoughts.

1. Students need a realistic timeline. For a 3- or 5-minute presentation, I’ve given up to four weeks:
Week 1 – brainstorm, draft outline and/or write first draft of script
Week 2 – revise script
Week 3 – create slides and practice the delivery
Week 4 – live presentation
I try to be as accommodating as possible with my busy students, but I know it’s also important to keep people on track, so that tasks get done. Checking in with students at the start of a lesson or mid-week has helped.

2. Students need a sense of ownership. The more students are involved in decision-making, the more invested they can be. Sometimes I state the kind of presentation I want, but allow the students to choose the the topic.  For example, I’ll focus on structures and expressions that help present problems and solutions. Then students are left to choose a problem to address. Presently, two students just read a text about habits, so their next presentation will be on daily habits. They can choose two habits of their own, a family member, or friend. They can focus on only good habits or only bad ones, but they must explain why certain habits are good or bad. The chance to select images and design slides further allows them to create a project that’s uniquely their own.

3. Students need a model.
 Different kinds of presentations can require different models. The first time I ask students to work with new technology, such as Shadow Puppet, I offer my own model. If they’re working with Power Point slides, I share a model script so that they  have a clear idea of presentation length, organization, and the kinds of points and transitions I’m looking for. Furthermore, when they have their final draft in place, I often record my model as an mp3 file that they can refer to when they’re practicing their delivery.

4. Students need feedback. Feedback begins in Week 1, when I comment on early drafts of their outlines and scripts. I’ve encouraged some private students to submit an audio recording of a practice session before the live presentation for any corrections or tips. Then after a presentation, I either give comments immediately or share them later, perhaps as a Voice Memo.

5. Students need a place to store and display their work. Just as proud parents use refrigerator magnets to show a child’s schoolwork or artwork, I like to have students post an online version of a live presentation. I’ve had students send their best audio recording to me to go along with their Power Points slides, and with the help of editing software, I put the narration and images together in a video that’s posted privately on Facebook. Students then have a record of their work, and it’s an additional opportunity for them and me to evaluate strengths and weaknesses.

6. Students need scaffolding not just within a single presentation, but over time. I’ve been encouraging one of my private students to move away from a script and rely on notes during a live presentation. The script is still an important step, in my opinion. Drafting the script helps with organization. In addition, the writing process puts grammar and vocabulary into use and allows me to give specific feedback. Many sentences and phrases end up in the live presentation, but the actual delivery is meant to have variation. The delivery must sound natural and the presenter must remain aware of the audience, which is harder to do when reading whole sentences.

Thankfully, my student is very skillful at creating slides with a visual impact. Some well chosen key words and phrases should be enough to cue her during delivery. It’s taken time to reach this stage, but her confidence is growing and an English lesson is the perfect place to experiment. My hope is for this skill and the newfound confidence to transfer to a work setting, where she already has to make oral presentations.

How do you help your students make their presentations sparkle?

Photo credit: Blur, Bokeh, Tablet, Woman, Hands by rawpixel. Retrieved from the Public Domain at

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