I love student output. Discussions, presentations, debates, stories – you name it, I’m into it (assuming it’s meaningful to the people speaking). I listen, comment, scribble notes, think of ways to extend it, all that good stuff.
Sometimes though, after a group has carefully prepared and practiced an amazing presentation for the class, it doesn’t seem like their peers are as enthralled as I am. Fair enough considering they are worrying about their own turns, can’t really hear their colleagues, or just aren’t that interested in what they have to say. Still, I’d like them to be more engaged, and since I spend quite a lot of time these days thinking about task design, you’d think I’d have some amazing, innovative ways to capture their attention. Sadly, this isn’t the case, so I’m turning to the ol’ blogosphere to see if anyone can help out.
Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling which have worked for me, but nothing spectacular, so I’m really hoping for a comment or two (come on you TBL/Dogme aficionados, this should be right up your alley):
– Peers write questions to ask about the presentation – my usual go-to, this one is a classic for a reason – it’s simple to set up, works with any topic, and can be managed at any level.
Downside? Pretty dull if this is only the ever peer-listening task.
– Test the expert – nearly identical to the one above, but with a bit more of a game-like element. Instead of asking questions directly about the presentation, peers try to come up with tricky questions related to the topic to try to stump ‘the expert’.
Downside? Only works if the presenters are fairly familiar with the topic they are talking about.
– Summary tasks – rather than asking questions, peers are asked to do some kind of summary task, anything from write a one-sentence summary, one paragraph, 3 interesting facts, etc.
Downside? Not particularly personal or interactive.
– Artistic tasks – for the more open-minded classes, you can ask them to draw a picture of either the whole presentation or specific elements. These drawings can then be used for guessing games/explanations after the presentation.
Downside? Definitely not a task that suits everyone’s tastes.
– Prompts – these can sometimes be a good way to get feedback on a presentation. Sentence stems for example, like I never knew that…, can help to get the learners focused and lead to a more fruitful and specific feedback session. Other prompts cold include charts to fill in, categorization tasks, etc.
Downside? By itself it doesn’t stimulate any interaction and not all prompts are appropriate for every presentation.
– Student-made comprehension tasks – for the more attentive groups, one option is for them to create comprehension tasks based upon what they’ve heard (true/false, questions, multiple-choice, etc.). These can then be given to other groups to complete while the presenters confirm/deny the answers.
Downside? Possibly overly challenging for some levels
– Agree/Disagree tasks – students can write a specified number of things that they agree or disagree with the presenter about. These can then be used to stimulate discussions, debate, or can be used as part of a guessing game (who said it? Did they agree or disagree? Etc.)
Downside? Depending on the presentation, this task may not be applicable.
So, there are a few simple peer listening tasks that I’ve tried out. These are all material free and adaptable since that tends to be what I like, but I’m open to trying out all kinds of new ideas. Now, what have you got for me?