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7 Ways To Encourage your Class To Be A Good Audience

Imagine a student standing in front of the class delivering a presentation. The student looks out and sees students playing on their smart phones, chatting, giggling, even one student sleeping. How might this affect the student’s ability to give a presentation?

7 Ways To Encourage Your Class To Be A Good Audience

I always enjoy watching student presentations, seeing students demonstrating their increasing fluency in English, as well as practicing their presentation skills. I teach at a university in Taiwan, and I think most students enjoy the opportunity to develop their English and presentation skills simultaneously. Their English level takes a big step forward as they rehearse and deliver their presentation. Also, mastering the art of giving a presentation is something that will benefit them later on in their academic and professional careers.

However, I’m disappointed to see students chatting and looking at their phones instead of rewarding their classmates with their full attention. While one might think that this is exclusively a problem associated with younger students, I have seen adult students who cannot quiet down and focus on another students’ presentation.

Over the years, I’ve developed a number of solutions to this problem. I want to share with you some ways to maximize student’s attention during group presentations. If student inattention is a common occurrence in your teaching context, perhaps you might consider one or more of these options:


1) Address the subject

During a lesson, point out that it’s very rude for an audience member not to give their complete attention when someone is giving a presentation. Work together with your students to create a list of good and bad audience behavior on the board. You can show them the list of good audience behavior again, right before presentations start.


2) Demonstrate rude behavior

Bring a student to the front of the class for a role play. Ask the student to tell you a story about their childhood. As they speak to you, yawn, look around, play on your smart phone, sigh, give every sign that you don’t really care. When the student finishes, ask the speaker how he felt about your behavior. Ask the class if you were being a good listener. Next, repeat the role play, but choose a student to take your place and ask this student to demonstrate good listener behavior.


3) Teach the presenters

Teach your students techniques that increase student involvement that they can put to use during their presentations. One powerful technique is interacting directly with the audience by moving around, speaking directly to audience members, and asking questions. Another technique is to start off with an intriguing question or short quiz, leaving everyone eager to hear the answers. These techniques could be taught to the students several weeks before they present. You can give a short presentation to demonstrate a technique, then choose a student to model the technique for the class.


4) Carrots and sticks

Consider giving rewards or punishments to students based on how much they pay attention. You can offer a small prize to the student who is the most focused when others are presenting or tell students you will deduct points for students who don’t pay attention.


5) Move the students around

Before presentations begin, make sure that the first few rows of seats are completely full. Also, put students into pairs to break up groups that can’t help chatting away when they’re together.


6) Active participation

Assign a task that heightens involvement in the presentation. You can give the audience a rubric to follow each time a group presents. Students watch and listen, then assess each group. Alternatively, you can insist that everyone ask a question at the end of each presentation, thus encouraging everyone to pay strict attention.


7) Monitor

When groups are presenting, scan the class from time to time. If you see students who are not paying attention, make eye contact and gesture for them to watch the presentation. However, overuse of this technique can result in spending too much time disciplining and ultimately missing out on the presentations.


While these techniques might not completely eliminate student inattention, they will definitely make students more aware of the relationship between audience and presenters, and help them improve at both roles.

What are your thoughts? What tips can you offer that are not mentioned here?

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