How To Incorporate Oral Presentations Into Your ELA Program

How do you incorporate oral presentations into your ELA program?

Oral presentations can be a hassle. Students often seriously dislike them – the groans commence almost before “oral presentation” is out of your mouth.  Public speaking is a skill that needs teaching just as surely as reading and writing – and if it is not a skill that is already part of your curriculum it is very tempting to just not worry about it and assign an essay.  

And oral presentations take time – a three to four-minute presentation by each of your twenty-five students can easily eat up three days of precious class time.  But considering how valuable skills speaking and listening are, oral presentations are a valuable part of the curriculum.  

So let’s discuss some practical ways to help smoothly incorporate oral presentations into your curriculum.

Plan Early

Despite the moans that often accompany the assignment of an oral presentation, variety adds enjoyment to the curriculum. Oral presentations are just one of a whole arsenal of assessments you can use.  

Instead of thinking of oral presentations as just one more thing you have to work in, include a couple in your long-range plans right from the start in the same way you might block off three weeks in February for research papers and a month in October and another in April for novel studies. 

This way it is not time you have to find for these presentations but time you have planned for them.

Presentations as Process

One of the pitfalls that can happen with oral presentations is that students may have little practice giving them, so you end up teaching how to give an oral presentation as well as your curriculum material.  

While public speaking is an important life skill, for this reason in practice oral presentations often take a back seat to other assessment strategies that students are more experienced in.  

To help overcome this obstacle, try thinking of the presentations your students will give over the year as a group and not individuals. 

Instead of focusing on all the pertinent presentation skills every time, try teaching and focusing on one or two each time you assign an oral presentation.  

For instance, for the first presentation, teach and focus on speaking clearly and looking at your audience (in addition to the quality of the material presented). 

Don’t worry about things like posture or use of visuals or even how to make a presentation interesting to the audience.  

Those skills can be added slowly over several successive presentations over the course of the year. In this way, you don’t have to dedicate large chunks of time to teaching oral presentations each time you assign one, but can still cover all the necessary skills by the end of the year.

Consider Group Presentations

One of the biggest issues with assigning oral presentations is the sheer amount of time it takes to have students present them in class.  

One way to overcome this problem is to assign group presentations.  

By putting students in groups, you can significantly cut down on presentation time; instead of twenty-five presentations at three minutes each, you can look at ten presentations at five minutes each.  

In this scenario you have cut your presentation time down by a full third.  

Additionally, by not only requiring all members to contribute substantially to the presentation, but also by making this participation part of students’ grades, you can make sure no one group member is doing all the work while the others coast along.

Grading on the Fly and (Almost) Immediate Feedback

Consider how long essays take to grade. Even if you are particularly focused, a set of twenty-five three-page essays at five minutes each to grade means just over two hours’ worth of grading.  

Multiply that by the number of classes that many teachers teach, and you are easily looking at over twelve hours to grade a single essay.  

Plop that in amongst all the other teaching responsibilities you have, and it could easily be two weeks before you return graded essays to your students. 

One of the benefits of oral presentations is the nearly instantaneous grading turn-around time.  

When listening to and grading presentations, use a rubric and grade as the students present.  

In this way, not only will you provide immediate feedback for your students and be able to address any issues that come up right away, but also your next two weeks will not be consumed with grading one assessment.

Use Content Area Oral Presentation Marks For ELA

If you teach in Ontario, Canada then you have to assess oral communication as part of your language program. 

Since students excel in a variety of areas, when I am teaching content areas (Science and Social Studies) I mark their oral presentations for an oral language mark as well as the content area mark. 

This reduces my marking load for Language Arts and provides students with the opportunity to demonstrate their oral presentation skills in another subject area. 

Ready-To-Go Oral Presentations

Are you looking for oral presentation assignments to use in your classroom?  

I have created two oral presentation assignment bundles that each contain 4 different oral presentation assignments that can be used in your ELA classroom. 

Oral Presentations Bundle 1: Teaching students how to create an engaging oral presentation is an important life skill. Students will practice their oral presentation skills for these assignments: Current Events News Assignment, Hot Topics Debate Assignment, Book Talks, and a Rant Writing Unit.

Bundle Includes:

  • Detailed Lesson Plans
  • 4 Assignments
  • Graphic Organizers
  • 100% Student Choice
  • Assessment Rubrics
  • Individual PDFs
  • Google Slides Format

Oral Presentations 2: Use this Oral Presentations and Public Speaking Bundle to help teach your students that speaking and presentation skills are important life skills. Students will practice their oral presentation (speaking) skills with these 4 different assignments: Good News, Product Pitch, Book Unboxing, and Spoken Word.

These assignments contain:

  1. Unit overview
  2. Detailed lesson plans
  3. Graphic organizers
  4. Video examples (must have reliable internet to access)
  5. Assignment sheet
  6. Assessment criteria
  7. Individual PDFs for Google Classroom
  8. Google Slides Format

I hope your have gained some ideas on how you can incorporate oral presentations into your ELA classes.

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