It is an evergreen question: when a student or group of students presents a topic, what do the other students do? How can I make the rest of the class listen – really listen, i.e. listen actively to that presentation?

Obviously they have to be given a task connected to the presentation they are listening to. But should I prepare the task, or can that also be the responsibility of the students?

Step one: Choose a topic

We were discussing ‘environment’ which topic offers a wide variety of problems to look at. Having watched and analysed the issue of biodiversity with the help of a funny but at the same time thought provoking video the students had to form groups. There are 16 students in this class, so they formed 4 groups of 4.

First we listened to and discussed the introduction then when it arrived at the world map the students could sit down at a computer, check what information each sub-topic offers and choose the one they think they can prepare a good presentation about.

Step two: Setting deadlines

First deadline: When the groups had chosen their topics they had to work on the key words first. I expected my students to send me (in our digital classroom) the most important words connected to their presentation topic. These were not only key words but also new words, so the vocabulary the rest of the class needed to be able to understand the what they were going to lecture about. I prepared a set of quizlet cards about hte new vocabulary with which students love so much!

Second deadline: The next task was to prepare five comprehension questions about their topic that they also had to send me in a prvate message. It was important that they ask something they intended to mention in their presentation, so that the others would be able to answer the questions.

Third deadline: It was the date when the presentations had to be prepared. Each students had to participate in the end-product, they had to work together and present together.

Step three: Present, take notes and finally answer the questions

That’s exactly what happened. The students presented their chosen topic. Some with pictures, some with notes on the whiteboard – as they wished. The audience had to take notes. As they had all sent me questions, they knew that they would have to answer the questions the other groups had prepared for them, so they were really busy taking notes!

When all the groups were ready they had to sit in front of a computer and go to the fantastic Sorcrative website. I love this site as you can check students’ knowledge or get feedback in many different ways with very little preparation on your side! I have got a registration there, so I logged in with Teacher log in, I was given a room number that I gave my students who then were able to enter that virtual classroom with ‘Student log in’.

This time I used the ‘Short answer’ task type where I only asked the questions and waited for students responses that they typed in, and submitted – it appeared on my screen and we could immediately discuss if the answer was correct or not.

Conclusion: Students knew from the very beginning that they have to pay attention in order to be able to answer the questions. They were involved in the preparation of the task as well as the feed-back and not only in  the presentation phase.

This is just one approach to presentations in the classroom, there must be lots of other ideas that I’d be happy to experinent with!