One perennial issue in presentation courses is class management. Let’s say I have 16 students and an 85-minute class period. That’s roughly 5.5 minutes per student, which on paper should work, but if students go over their 5 minute allotment or answer audience questions or fumble with technology, inevitably we run out of time. Also, the students who are not presenting are bored or distracted, even if they are supposed to be giving feedback (more on feedback later).
At one point, I had about 30 students in an English as a Foreign Language/academic presentation class that met once a week. Thus, in-class individual student presentations were logistically impossible. I put students into small groups with the following group roles: presenter, time-keeper, recorder, evaluator. The presenters gave their presentations to the small group, the timekeepers timed the presentations with their phones, the recorders were responsible for recording the presentations with digital devices, and the evaluators filled out feedback forms for the presenters. They met outside of class and rotated roles. Then, they posted the videos of their presentations for me to view. In class, I checked the feedback forms to see if they were complete. Finally, I had students reflect on their performance and on the feedback that they received from peers.
With a webcam, a smart phone tripod, or a friend, students can record their presentations. Then, the students upload their presentations to their student YouTube channels where the instructor and/or fellow students can view them. Another advantage to students recording themselves is that they can observe their own timing, pacing, volume, delivery, eye contact, pronunciation etc. I find this to be helpful when assigning reflections.
If you decide to let the fellow students view individual student presentations, you can ask students to bring their tablets or laptops to class, take the students to a computer lab, or reserve a laptop cart. Then, students can view each other’s presentations on YouTube and comment on them. Students can make general comments, post questions or give constructive feedback. Constructive feedback with oral projects is analogous to peer editing in the writing process. Giving constructive feedback is particularly challenging for students from cultures that strive to save face or students from collectivist cultures. Therefore, structured practice is helpful.
Example: “Your topic is interesting; You need better eye contact; I understood you well.”
More advanced: “Praise, where you can improve, how you can improve.”
Example: “Very interesting topic! I think you need better eye contact. If you rehearse more, you won’t need to look at your notes as much.”
Here are 3 ways a student YouTube channel can be used in conjunction with or in place of a class debate.
- Host a normal debate in your class (cats v. dogs, pro/cons of sororities and fraternities, etc.) For intermediate-advanced classes, I like to either provide the students with a jigsaw reading in class or assign research on the topic before class so the students are informed enough to hold the debate. I generally assign groups regardless of student opinion. Then, students have to develop the skill of arguing based on facts rather than bias. After the in-class debate, students create a YouTube video to express their personal views on the topics discussed in class.
- I like this collaborative lesson from Teacher Dude, which is a hybrid of in-class debate and post-debate response. Basically, give the students a sticky scenario to discuss, put them in groups, then the students post a video summing up the group’s discussion. This is similar to an activity I call “Table Topics” Students can have the small group discussion, then post their summary on YouTube.
- A third YouTube debate style suitable for an entirely online class is point-counterpoint video posting and video reply. The instructor assigns a controversial topic to each pair of students. The two students are then assigned opposing views. For example, Student A is pro Greek Life and Student B is against it. Student A posts the first video stating his/her first argument. Then, student B can create a video as his/her rebuttal and post a link to that video in the comment section of Student A’s video. Then, the cycle repeats at the teacher’s discretion.
Anna Rozzo is currently a visiting lecturer for the academic ESL program at SUNY Binghamton where she teaches composition and public speaking skills to international students. Additionally, she helps to train and supervise undergraduates who serve as TA’s in the ESL classes. Previously, she taught ESOL at Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, Prince George’s Community College, and Montgomery College. She has also taught at the American Centers in Rabat and Kenitra, Morocco and served as an English Language Fellow in Indonesia.