Presentation skills: Let me tell you about a famous person

Mark Swanson, Kansai Gaidai University


Quick guide

  • Keywords: Presentation skills, learner autonomy, speaking fluency
  • Learner English level: Intermediate and above
  • Learner maturity: University
  • Preparation time: 20-30 minutes
  • Activity time: 90 minutes
  • Materials: Tape, rubric (Appendix A), worksheet (Appendix B)


This activity helps students improve their presentation skills and speaking fluency and promotes learner autonomy. Students research and present about famous people of their choice, based on a teacher-generated theme, on multiple occasions throughout the semester. Possible themes include: political leader, inventor, artist, philosopher, etc. The teacher chooses a different theme for each presentation session, during each of which all students present individually.



Step 1: Tell students that they will all make several individual 3-minute presentations during the semester, each with a different focus on a famous person. Explain that they will have to find information about interesting people using the library and/or Internet and prepare picture printouts or drawings to be used as visual aids.

Step 2: Inform students that each presentation should be organized in the following order: biographical information, famous accomplishments, and relevance for us.

Step 3: Tell students that presentations will be 3 minutes followed by 1 minute of audience question time and that they will give their presentation three consecutive times to three different audiences to help develop fluency.

Step 4: Pass out the grading rubric (Appendix A) and tell students that the teacher will grade the following presentation skills on a scale of 1-3: eye contact, gestures, voice volume, and speaking fluency. Inform students that the teacher will walk around the classroom and grade presentation skills based on partial observations of each presenter.

Step 5: Explain that each presentation session will have different rounds, with one set of students presenting three consecutive times each round, separately, in different classroom locations while the remaining students sit near a presenter and listen. I find that four rounds—A, B, C, and D—work well, with one fourth of the class presenting simultaneously in each round. For example, a class of 20 students would have five presenters per round. Rounds with more simultaneous presenters may be difficult to grade.

Step 6: Tell students that they may look at notes only during audience question time. (As a variation, allow note cards during the presentation.)

Step 7: Tell students that the theme for the first session will be inventor and that all students will make this first presentation on <insert date>.

Step 8: Do a model presentation (recommended).



Step 1: Pass out a worksheet for students to fill out during the presentations (Appendix B). On the worksheet, students will write down something interesting they learn from each presenter.

Step 2: Write the presentation skill criteria on the board as a reminder.

Step 3: Announce which students will present in round A (decided before class) and indicate where in the classroom they will present. Give those students tape to put up their picture(s) in their presentation space.

Step 4: Instruct audience members to arrange seats around each presenter in a semicircle and freely choose a seat near a presenter.

Step 5: Start the presentations. Move around to observe and grade presentation skills.

Step 6: After 3 minutes, stop the presentations and start audience question time. After approximately 1 minute, stop the question time.

Step 7: Instruct the audience members to stand up and find a new presenter to sit around.

Step 8: Repeat steps 5 and 6 until presenters in round A have given their presentations three times.

Step 9: Repeat the same process for rounds B, C, and D.

Step 10: Have students return to their seats and silently answer the peer and self-assessment questions on the worksheet (Appendix B).

Step 11: Have students discuss their answers with a classmate.

Step 12: Collect the peer and self-assessment worksheets and provide activity feedback and student grades.


Follow-up writing activity

Have students write a summary of a classmate’s presentation, explaining why they like the famous person, or even a research paper about this person’s life and achievements.



Students overwhelmingly enjoy this activity. Their presentation skills can improve considerably, and they become more confident English speakers.



The appendices are available below...