The English Classroom

A HELPFUL GUIDE FOR PRESERVICE AND GRADUATE TEACHERS

Presentation Skills – Building Confidence

AITSL STANDARD – 1.1 Physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics of students

Use teaching strategies based on knowledge of students’ physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics to improve student learning.


The Situation

Your students are nervous presenters and are unsure of their ability to present in front of a class.

The Solution

  • Present a variety of videos that showcase positive presentation skills.
  • Build safety by having students select when they would like to present in the order of students that need to present.

Presenting in front of an audience is one of the most terrifying experiences students will remember about their schooling experience.

It is the confrontation and exposure. Everyone is looking at me What if they judge me? What if I say something silly? What if I make a mistake? And the anxiety builds. This anxiety turns to adulthood where presenting in front of an audience becomes a skill left to those who have a natural ability.

As teachers, it is our job to reduce this trepidation and reassure our students that they do not need to fear judgement. One of the best ways to do this is to expose students to a variety of strong speeches that exemplify strong presentation skills.

Firstly, provide students with the following document:

On this document, students can watch three videos. For each video they need to identify the persuasive techniques used, explain how the presenter uses their voice and identify a lesson they can learn from the speech. Now, that last question isn’t focused on actually identifying the message of the speech. Instead, the focus here is on what students can ‘borrow’ for their own speech. For example, the presenter is calm and takes intermittent pauses throughout their speech. Perhaps the phrasing here is confusing having used the word ‘learned’; however, I want students to be cognitive that they need to be able to present in a similar fashion as to the examples they are shown. With this in mind, the question becomes “how will you present your speech?” or “What do you need to be mindful of?”

On the final question of the page, students need to identify what they need to practise at home. For example, eye-contact, hands out of pockets or not speaking too quickly.

An example that was fantastic for my class was this Ted Talk by Molly Steer about the Straw No More movement. As the presenter is so young, I used her confidence as a motivator to highlight courage that people have when they are passionate about a project.

Another fantastic speech that uses pausing, anecdotes and statistic/facts is this Ted Talk on why school should start later for teenagers by Wendy Troxel. .

When selecting videos, be mindful of the age of the presenter and the positive elements of the speech that you can highlight to students. Allow each speech to offer a new discussion and, more importantly, link back to the techniques/lessons that students can borrow for their own presentation.

Students generally will not volunteer to present first and you will likely face the trouble of getting the first student to move to the front. How do we overcome this? Before students arrive to class, have a chart on the wall or a word document that outlines a list of 1 – 30 down the page (Or the equivalent of students in the class). This represents the order of presentations will occur. When they begin to arrive, ask students to place their name next to a number. If they are feeling confident, they might go with the top 10; if they are still a little unsure, they might choose the last ten.

The purpose here is to allow students to anticipate when they will present, so they are mentally ready and the shock is less abrupt. As students put their name on the chart, you can discuss the pros of going first (Getting it over and done with) and highlight the fact that everyone is presenting and is likely to be as nervous as you are (“Everyone here is presenting and we are all supporting you”). People are generally not thinking about your presentation if they are next in line. Furthermore, by giving students choice about when they present in the order, you avoid the ‘picking on me’ argument and you build safety. Students know when they need to be ready and there should be limit wasted time between speeches when students are unsure of themselves.

Good luck and I hope this helps you build a positive and safe environment for when students present!

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