- Keywords: Presentation, questions, grading rubric
- Learner English Level: Pre-intermediate and above
- Learner maturity: University
- Preparation time: 10 minutes
- Activity time: 45-60 minutes
- Materials: Handouts (Appendices A and B)
Many university courses require students to do graded presentations in class, and small group presentations of typically four to five students can help to alleviate the anxiety involved. Additionally, to inspire active listening, students are often encouraged to ask each other questions. However, it is stressful for students to speak in front of people, especially if they are unsure of how to say something, and silence is a common result when students are instructed to ask their peers questions. Furthermore, teachers must ensure that each student’s question is properly noticed. This activity was designed to address such issues by creating a process that provides students with a foundation, rather than a blank slate, from which to ask questions about their classmates’ presentations. Simultaneously, it provides teachers with concrete records of students’ questions during the presentation session.
Step 1: Print copies of the ‘Question Preparation’ handout (Appendix A) for students, and a copy of the question ideas (Appendix B) for the teacher.
Step 1: Introduce “question-asking” at least two or three classes prior to the presentation day. Make it clear that all students should be prepared to listen, take notes, and ask at least one question to a presenting group member during a 5-minute Q&A session between presentations (use a timer for this on the day).
Step 2: Ask students to individually brainstorm a list of possible “general questions” (i.e., not topic-related—see Appendix B for examples). Set a time limit (e.g., 10-15 minutes).
Step 3: Tell students to share their lists in small groups, and to check their questions for grammar and spelling.
Step 4: Either the teacher or students write different ideas from each group on the board. This step allows time for checking vocabulary and question format, something which students can be encouraged to do themselves. Also, get students to add new ideas from the class to their own lists.
Step 6: Introduce the question cards (Appendix A). Ask students to write their name and class number, but tell them the questions should be written on presentation day. Demonstrate how students should use the cards on the day—explain that they will hand a completed “Q card” to the teacher when they have asked a question. Before someone can use a Q2 card, all students should have submitted a Q1 card. Encourage an atmosphere of collaboration whereby stronger students help their group members.
Step 7: Clarify “the goal” of the questions to the students. For example, lower level students may be simply required to ask a question, and perfect grammar is not important. In advanced classes, the question accuracy may be part of the grading criteria. Either way, students should know what is expected and can prepare accordingly.
By brainstorming general questions beforehand, students access necessary schemata and sentence structures and practice how to ask questions prior to the presentation day. This activity also ensures that weaker students have the necessary tools to ask at least one question. Additionally, the prior demonstration checks that all students know how to use the cards. In this teacher’s experience, student confidence builds throughout the session—students produce questions slowly at first, but towards the end of the class, the questions flow spontaneously with no urging from the teacher. The additional bonus is that the Q cards provide a concrete record of who asked what, and students can feel assured that their questions matter.
The appendices are available below.