Wednesday, 7 March 2012

CLIL, assessment, and student presentations

In our CLIL lessons (and also in monolingual ones) student presentations often play an important role in the assessment procedure. They may also be a homework, given to an individual student or to a group, after a series of lessons. 
The problem is, while they are an exciting moment for the involved student(s), they can be quite dull for the rest of the class. And if the class is bored, this will sooner or later lead to misbehaviour, with lots of disappointment and frustration both for the teacher and for the presenter students. Not to mention how frustrating it can be for your pupils to speak to a sleeping audience - now, wait a minute: thinking about it, that can be a nice idea after all. They'll eventually understand how we feel at times! life can look pretty different when seen from the other side of the teacher's desk...

Ok, back to the point. We discussed this issue with Dr Diana Hicks while attending her lessons in Cheltenham, and she gave us a very sensible answer: students in the class get bored because they feel they've nothing to do. They are not sure what they should be listening for and they are not given any active role in this phase of learning.

So she suggested we turn to peer assessment of presentations. The key of success, in fact, is transforming the passive audience into an active participant in the lesson. And here's her battle-plan:

1) First of all, divide the class into groups of five (give each member and number from 1 to five). Each of the five members of the group, depending on his/her number, has to concentrate on one specific aspect of the presentation, make notes and report back to the rest of the group afterwards, suggest possible improvements or comment positive features.

Student 1: Content
was there any new information?
which information was new to the listener and which was old?
 Student 2: Visuals
did the visuals help or hinder the information?
would other images/graphs/etc. have been better?
How did the visuals match the speech?

Student 3: Structure and organization
Did the presentation follow a logical sequence?
Did the examples help to clarify the content, or did they generate confusion?

Student 4: Language (grammar, vocabulary, personal style)
Was the language clear?
Did errors hinder communication?
Was the language appropriate? was it too informal or too formal?
Was there a correct use of specific vocabulary?

Student 5: Aims - consistent, coherent, cohesive?
Did the speaker present the purpose and objectives of the presentation at the beginning?
Were they clear?
Did he/she achieve them?

2) of course, all the students have to listen to the presentation
3) each student grades his/her part of the presentation in a scale 1-5 (choose the scale depending on how marks are given in your school system). In this case, 1 is unsatisfactory and 5 is excellent
4) all same number students gather and compare their grades with those of the others. They discuss, share opinions and eventually agree on a common mark
5) students return to their groups and inform the others
6) feedback is given to the presenters.

I liked this strategy and actually tried it with my students. It can be quite a surprise for them when you first introduce it - presentation time is usually understood by the pupils as relax time. So they'll be partly intrigued partly annoyed "what? are we supposed to do something? even now?"

You have to be sure to allow enough time to explain what they're going to do, how and why, how groups will be organized, how they will work, and - most important - what will be the impact of the peers' grade on the final mark. Be careful - too little, and the class will think you're cheating, too much, and the presenters will try to bribe the audience.

Are there any other strategies or activities you use to make presentations more motivating and engaging for the whole class?

As for this one, try it with your class and have fun. After all, a student presentation doesn't have to be sleeping time for the rest of the class!


  1. Dear Laura,
    I think, it's true - if children don't have to do anything, it could be very boring for them.
    But, listen to a presentation with an unusual task for them: evaluate other pupils answering relevant questions it could be much more interesting.
    Maybe it could be not "only" to evaluate the presentations, but to recognize other childrens' accomplishment as well.

    She/he was great in the communication an other pupil was creative using the could help us too, organising our lessons, it could help to reassure our puils and a good evaluation from pupils could be a real help involving children in the community.

    One of the reasons (there are many:)) why I like my class is because the children have really good hearts. And even if they are really small: 9 years old, they evaluate and help each other. When I give a good or a better mark for one of my pupils who has difficulties in learning, they often tell her/him: you are great, and you worked a lot.
    I like it, because I am not to ask to do, it is very natural. And it is so nice just to see my pupil's face, how happy because other pupils told something good about him/her.

    Thank you for sharing the idea and strategy,

  2. I agree with you Monika. First of all, by assessing their classmates pupils understand better how they have to work for themselves, and how the teachers assesses them (they understand we don't just close our eyes and choose a mark, but we have specific parameters).
    Then, as you correctly put it, this is another way for pupils to help each other, and to support each other - even when they say a presentation is not perfect, they suggest how to improve it: so it's not negative criticism, but positive feed back.
    And as you said at the end, there's nothing more beautiful than a child's smile at the kind words of his/her classmates!