Oral Presentations in English
Oral Presentations in English simply involves explaining something to an audience. Visual aids and teaching tools are used to further enhance the spoken words. These can be given as an individual or as part of a group.
English Language Learner
As a English language learner, I had to make a lot of oral presentations, specially in oral communication classes.
I also had to listen to many presentations prepared by my classmates about a great variety of topics.
I don’t remember my mood during the presentations made by my classmates but I thought that those presentations were opportunities to learn something new.
Sometimes as a learner I didn’t have to take notes during oral presentation because the subjects used were not intended to be used in future assessments.
I definitely paid more attention to presentations that were going to be used in future assessments.
something I didn’t consider quite fair if you ask me because the last thing you want to do is to study something that was awfully presented by a classmate.
You probably agree with me when I say that the best lesson learned during hours and hours of listening oral presentation is the tradition of clapping after a classmate has finished her/his presentation no matter how good or how bad that presentation was.
English Language Teacher
After I finished my degree in English Teaching, I started teaching classes in a university and guess what I did:
I usually came to the classroom with a chronogram ready, I started talking about topics that we were going to study and I reminded students that part of the evaluation was based on oral presentations.
I did that because I was doing what I saw my teachers do.
I followed that same methodology for quite a long time, if you asked one of my students in those courses, they might tell you about those moments that they have to come to the board and with the help of a PowerPoint presentation and some courage introduce a topic for 10 minutes or more.
Back in the days, I didn’t think that spending entire lessons listening to presentations was a bad idea at all.
No More English Presentations
Like two years ago, I started working in a different university and I learned important concepts such as peer to peer interaction, task-based learning and student-centered classes.
That new knowledge helped me realize that overusing oral presentations wasn’t a good idea at all for the following reasons:
- Listening to presentations for two straight hours can be quite boring for your students: I don’t have to tell you how boring it is to listen to people for more than hour without being able to move or interact with others.
- You never get what you want: I don’t have to tell you this but if you assign topics for your students to analyze and introduce, you might end up getting something that pleases you or something that you really don’t like and that you have to suffer through for ten minutes or more.
- You are forgetting about peer to peer interaction: I think that you get most benefits out of a lesson if students have to integrate 2 or more skills. When you are sitting through a 2-hour lesson, you are doing a lot of listening and not too much interaction.
- You are not maximizing speaking in the classroom: When you are listening to presentations for more than 30 minutes, you are helping new learnerS to hide in silence in some classroom corner. They won’t talk unless it is their turn.
- Students read or memorize too much: In many presentationS you will see students exceeding your expectations but you will also see students reading notes or trying to recite from memory forgetting that they are supposed to sound fluent and natural.
- Students introducing grammar or pronunciation: In rare circumstances, teachers ask students to introduce grammar or pronunciation topics to their peers, you might think that such method is not that bad but I think that the last thing you want to do is to listen to a classmate teaching wrong grammar or inaccurate pronunciation rules.
- Presentation by students is simply teacher talking time in disguise: As a teacher, you take a seat and you let the students introduce a topic and that’s good for the student doing the talking but not for the students listening. Don’t ask students do the job you are supposed to do.
- Laziness is free: It became a common practice in universities to select the topics from the syllabus and ask students to do the research and the introduction of some topics that they might not know anything about.
Are Oral Presentations in English Ineffective?
Oral presentations are a form of assessment with some degree of effectiveness but it is not the best teaching method or the best learning strategy in education now that English language learning has been taken hostage by principles such as:
- Peer to peer interaction
- Communicative classes
- Student-centered classes
- Less teacher-centered instruction
- Teaching grammar inductively
- Maximizing speaking in the classroom
Using oral presentations in the classroom once in a while is not that bad since having oral presentation skills can be quite beneficial to students but overusing this form of assessment can be detrimental to your classes.
Oral Presentation is the most overused form of assessment in the history of English teaching in Costa Rica, specially in higher education because teachers tend to rely a bit more on the students to introduce a topic and that has created the sensation that oral presentations are quite effective but that’s not the case.
This article posted in the Independent doesn’t mince words as it says that “Powerpoint makes students more stupid and teachers more boring”
I might still use oral presentations as a part of my formative and summative assessment but I am committed to use other methods if they are proven to be better that this ol’ reliable.