Ben Shearon, the Presenting Skills consultant for our brand new course Stretch, shares his thoughts on the benefits of integrating presenting skills into EFL and ESL classes.
Many people are terrified of speaking in public, even though it probably isn’t true that it edges out death at the top of the list of most common fears. My first presentation was over ten years ago at a local conference for English teachers. I was very nervous and not at all confident speaking in front of my peers. I don’t really remember much about the presentation, but since then I’ve gone on to give more than 100 talks at conferences, events, and seminars. I’m now pretty happy in front of a room full of strangers, and presenting has become one of the most enjoyable parts of my job.
There are several good reasons to introduce presentation and public speaking practice into our EFL and ESL classes. The first and most important is that effective presentation and public speaking skills are a valuable life skill. Many of our learners will need them in the future, and appreciate the chance to practice them now. Presentation practice also allows teachers to introduce personalisation and different topics into classes. Learners can choose the content they present, and this brings a variety of information and ideas into the classroom. Learners can learn more about each other, and presentations can also be an easy way to break up a course and provide a change of pace.
Before giving a presentation, learners will have to spend time drafting, editing, memorizing, and practicing their content. This allows them to really internalize the language without the tedium or staleness sometimes associated with drilling and memorization. In addition, learners are able to listen to their classmates talking about variations on a topic, giving them useful extensive listening practice. Becoming an effective presenter requires awareness of effective presenting techniques, having meaningful content to deliver, and most of all, lots of practice. We can provide our learners with the first and third of these, and guide them as they attempt to provide the second.
Developing presentation skills
One of the most practical ways to teach presenting skills is to break the complex and sometimes overwhelming experience down into discrete skills. This makes it easy to introduce and practice them gradually.
Some examples of these skills would be posture (standing in a confident and open manner), making eye contact, using appropriate volume and speed when speaking, choosing content, use of rhetorical techniques, planning and structuring the talk, and use of visual aids.
The presenting sub-skills can be introduced one at a time and students can focus on certain skills as they gain more experience presenting.
In general, the physical skills are easier to explain and harder to get right, so I usually recommend students start there in order to get the most practice with them. After that they can go on to content selection and organization, visual aids, and rhetorical techniques. Some teachers might hesitate to introduce presentation skills into language classes, especially if they don’t have experience teaching them, but in my experience it is well worth attempting and your students will probably thank you for it!
For more ideas on how to integrate presentation into your classes, take a look at Stretch, the new course that features a dedicated presenting skills strand.
To celebrate the launch of Stretch I’m asking students all over the world to enter The Stretch Presenting Skills Competition by submitting a two-minute presentation – and I’d love to see your students taking part! Get your students presenting in class and one of them could win a two-week scholarship to Regent Oxford, a renowned English school in Oxford, as well as a classroom set of Stretch for you.
Watch my video below to find out more:
Why not get your students presenting in class by entering The Stretch Presenting Skills Competition 2014-15? One of your students could win a two-week all-expenses paid scholarship to Regent Oxford, a renowned English school in Oxford, as well as a class set of Stretch for you. Closing date: January 2, 2015. Enter today!