Raise your hand if you hate student presentations. Every year, at the beginning of the year- I’m right there with you, with my hand raised up high in the air, as if it were a white flag, surrendering my time and sanity. Sitting through a middle school presentation is torture. To many, they are completely pointless…. who’s getting anything out of this? The presenters literally have their backs turned to the audience and are reading word for word off a PowerPoint slideshow (you know what I’m talking about) and the audience members are completely unengaged thinking about their own projects. But in their defense, students are mostly just expected to know what to do. They aren’t taught how to give a proper presentation. More and more teachers are forgoing classroom presentations because it’s just an overall awful experience (Maybe I’m being a bit overly dramatic…), but the lack of presentations is actually the problem. Every teacher knows the value of this skill and how important it is to be able to effectively communicate thoughts and ideas. Communication is a skill that needs to be practiced, and practice makes perfect. If they aren’t practicing, it’s no surprise why your students may be terrible at presenting.
Here are 5 keys to get your students to give the perfect presentation. I go through all these before our first couple of presentations. (Remember… they have to be taught these things!) It is great if you can model a good version vs bad version for students to see, hear and experience.
1. Set Expectations for the Presenters
Presenters should be facing the audience and speak in a loud tone so their voices reach the back of the room. They should speak slowly and clearly so that the audience can understand them. They should engage audience members with their eyes by making eye contact. Presenters in a group should know when it is their turn to speak.
Some things to consider… Is it a requirement that everyone has a speaking role? Can they read off a paper, notecard, or do they need to have it memorized?
2. Set Expectations for the Audience
Audience members should be actively listening to the presenters and not cause a disruption to the presenting group by making any unnecessary sounds or movements. There should be no items around them to distract them. Audience members should be thinking about questions they may have for the presenters to be asked at the end of the presentation.
3. Give Students an Opportunity to Rehearse
Give your students time to do a run though with their group members. Although they may practice at home, it is important to get the order and flow down prior to getting in front of the class. This is also an opportunity for presenters to get some last-minute feedback from their group. Remind students this is not the time to be working on their project, but running through their presentation.
4. Use Sentence Starters
Sometimes when students don’t know what to say, sentence starters can be a great tool in assisting students to a great presentation. Here is an example of a way to start and end a presentation.
“Hello, my name is _______, _________, and ________. Today we are going to present ___________(topic). We chose this topic because _____________.”
“Thank you for listening to our presentation. We hope you enjoyed it. Are there any questions we can answer for you?”
5. Give Affirmations and Feedback to Groups
Presentation skills cannot improve without feedback. Just telling a group “Good job” and having a round of applause will not make a good presenter. You can write feedback on a sheet to give to the group/ individual and shout out all the positive things you see in a presentation. At the end of all the presentations, ask the class what were some great things and some things the class as a whole still need to work on.
Practice makes progress, and consistency is key! If you keep at it, your students will be a pro at presenting, and that will go a long way, not only in your classroom, but in the real world and workforce.