Poster presentations with a twist

Paul McAleese, Momoyama Gakuin University

Quick guide

  • Keywords: Presentations, fluency, building confidence, listening tasks
  • Learner English level: Upper-beginner and above
  • Learner maturity: High school to university
  • Preparation time: None
  • Materials: Egg timer (or timer with alarm), A3 paper, scissors, tape
  • Activity time: 30 minutes

While the ability to give short spoken presentations is an important language skill, many students are apprehensive about speaking in front of the whole class. Poster presentations are one way of building student confidence in presenting without the pressure of large audiences. Also, presenting visual material can not only take some of the focus off the presenter but make the presentation more enjoyable for the students listening. This graded activity requires students to give short poster presentations to other students on a one-to-one basis. Non-presenting students are required to mingle around the different presentations while completing simple listening tasks.

Step 1: Have students prepare a 3-minute poster presentation on a given topic. I like to do this as a review activity using lesson themes or topics already covered. As they will be later asked to listen to a number of presentations, I also like to give students the choice of a number of different topics in order to create variety. With my lower-level students I have found topics such as my weekends, an overseas trip, or shopping successful. While preparing, students are free to attach any number of pictures to their posters and write short titles or captions. It is important to tell students that delivery is an important part of the presentation grade, so they should plan for lots of time to practice in advance. I have also found it is a good idea for the teacher to model an example presentation in advance, although this obviously takes some preparation.
Step 2: Once the students have prepared and practiced their presentations, have them form two groups: a presenter group and a listener group. Members from the presenter group each attach their posters to the walls at evenly spaced locations around the classroom. Following this, assign each presenter one listener.
Step 3: Instruct listeners that they will have 3 minutes with each presenter and they are required to listen to the presentation and complete their listening task sheets (see Appendix) by recording the presenter’s name, topic and one extra detail. Instruct listeners that, when the timer alarm sounds, they are to move to the next presenter area to their right (i.e., clockwise) and continue until a number—or all—of the presentations have been listened to.
Step 4: Now have listeners and presenters exchange roles. Give the new presenters time to set up their posters and prepare while issuing the new listeners their listening task sheets. Then, repeat Step 3.
Step 5: Once all presentations are complete, it is a good idea to give the class some praise on their performances and some general feedback. I like to give my students tips on how to further improve their presentation delivery for next time, such as on the importance of eye-contact and appropriate body language. Feedback for more advanced classes might focus on tips such as effective verbal sign-posting to link different parts of their presentations.

With such activities as this one, variations are virtually limitless. With higher level students, I try to make the presentations more interactive by having listeners also ask questions at the end of each presentation and record more detail in the Extra point column on the listening task sheet. If all the students have access to PCs or laptops, the presentations can easily be created and pre-recorded as animated slide shows using open-source software such as Microsoft Photostory 3, with students moving around the computers to view the presentations.

I have found that even low-level and low-motivation students seem to enjoy this activity and often appear pleasantly surprised about how long they can present for. The activity gives students the freedom to choose and present topics in a non-intimidating and interactive way. Listeners also are kept fully involved by constantly moving around the different presentations while completing their task sheets.