Mini Presentations & 20-second topics

Sometimes the lessons we plan don’t end up taking as long as we estimated they would.  Other times, we actually need more than one lesson to complete our lesson plan.  There are multiple reasons that this can happen – student interest or lack of it, over/underestimating the difficulty level of our lesson, number of students, unexpected questions etc.  Consequently we should always have some back-ups we can turn to whenever the need arises.  In this post I’d like to share two ideas we can use at any time in a lesson.

It doesn’t have to be only for filling in the time that remains in our lesson but also if we want to be spontaneous, keep our students on their toes and help them to refocus after a long day of classes and so on.  By doing this, students are surprised and know that any lesson might hold a surprise instead of the typical lesson plan.  All too often we use course books or have a syllabus that we must follow and students after some time know exactly what they are going to get in the lesson.  These speaking ideas could help with this.  So let’s get to it…..

One idea is called “Mini-presentations”.  Make a list of topics and try to make it as random as possible.  It doesn’t have to be related to topics you’ve covered with the class if you don’t want but this up to you.  If you do choose topics that have been covered in class then this lesson idea can function as a “review” as well. Here are some ideas for topics:

Pets, music, parties, TV, bears, wine, cars, grammar, London, clothes, computers, smoking, pasta, work, the teacher, James Bond, the weather, radio, America, smartphones, cars, photography, running

Tell your students that they each have one minute to talk about the topic you give them.  They must not hesitate, repeat words, or deviate from the topic.  If they do deviate or pause, someone else can take over.  If they manage to speak for a minute they get a point, but if someone takes over successfully than they get a point.  This can be quite fun and is ideal for upper-intermediate or higher levels.  However, you can make it easier for lower level students by changing the topics, or by asking them to speak with a partner in pairs for two minutes on the topic you designate.  When you say “NEXT TOPIC!” that is the signal that they are done talking about it and you move on to the next.  Another variation, depending on the size of your class, is to put them in groups of 4-5 students and follow the original version because maybe some students aren’t as comfortable speaking in front of the whole class.

This is a great fill-in at the end of a lesson, or you can do it in the middle as break from grammar.

The second lesson idea is called “Twenty-second topics”.  This is quite similar to the first but there is no presentation for a whole minute.  Instead you put students in pairs or small groups and ask them to speak to each other for twenty seconds on the topic you designate.  Here are some topic ideas:

my room, fun, my friend, this room, danger, cornflakes, rubbish, oranges, snow, holidays, money, animals, sport, furniture, coffee, astrology, soap, hats, buses, breakfast, sleep

Variation: Each student writes a topic on a small piece of paper, which they put in a pile in the middle of another group/pair.  Alternatively, give the slips of paper to the teacher and he/she calls out the topics after each round.

This is a piece of cake but very effective in getting students talking and enthusiastic about a lesson again.  Could be very effective in ESL lessons in which the course book topic is not to the student’s liking or after some tough grammar exercises.

Both of these lesson ideas are from a book that has served me well time and time again and has loads of ideas for conversation, vocabulary review, practical grammar practice and practice with certain functions.  The functions section is particularly useful because it offers a variety of activities on functional language that can be very helpful for students of English. It’s titled “700 classroom activities” and will bail you out whenever you need ideas for warm-ups, time fillers, or simply want to practice and review something you’ve already covered with your students.  I will continue to reference it in the future so stay tuned for future posts.

To sum up, it is always a good idea to have some tricks up your sleeve for a lesson because you never know when you might need them.  As teachers we try our best to always anticipate what will happen in our lessons and to plan diligently but the reality is different.  These ideas require no materials or preparation which adds to their appeal as well as accommodating many different levels of English learners.  Obviously you can adapt them to your liking and make them easier or harder as you wish.

Another lesson idea for encouraging speaking that you can use whenever you choose. but especially for first lessons.

Keep making a difference peeps and bring that spontaneity to your class, your students will appreciate it.

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