One of the most valuable yet underused learning activities is the oral presentation. Most of the time, we require that our students submit their tests and homework assignments in writing. Though writing and spelling are important skills, the ability to present information orally will also be of paramount importance when students leave school and enter the work place. It is interesting to note that in many foreign countries, oral examinations and presentations are given almost as much weight as written work. Consequently, the students from those countries are more articulate and less inhibited about expressing themselves orally than their American counterparts. Therefore, if we overemphasize writing skills at the expense of oral skills, we are doing our students a great disservice.
Oral presentations can be particularly beneficial to the blind teacher because they can be graded without the help of a reader. There are several ways you can use oral presentations in your classrooms. Oral presentations can be used when teaching almost any age group or any subject. For example, an oral presentation can occasionally be substituted for a written composition, report, or research paper in such subjects as English, foreign languages and social studies. Instead of requiring a written lab report in science, you can have students demonstrate an experiment and report orally on the results.
Instead of having an English student analyze a literary work in a written essay, why not assign an oral explication of text? In an explication, a student analyzes a poem, short story or passage from a novel in terms of its content, historical background, context, style, language usage, and literary technique. If your class is studying a particular novel, each student could be assigned a different passage to explicate.
Oral presentations can even be used in a math class to supplement written work. A possible way to handle this is to give the class a work sheet containing as many problems as there are students in the class. The students would complete the entire work sheet as homework. The next day, you can have each student present one of the problems aloud, talking through each of the steps and perhaps writing on the chalkboard. Each student could be given a homework grade based on the problem he/she presents.
An occasional quiz can also be given in this manner. Assign a student two or three different problems, English grammar exercises, questions on a study guide, a passage from a reading, or just about any other type of homework. These can all be presented orally.
Sometimes an oral presentation can be substituted for a unit test. For example, my seventh-grade Spanish class studies a unit on members of the family which also includes descriptive adjectives and the verbs "to be" and "to have." During the unit, I give several written quizzes on vocabulary and grammar to assure me that the students are spelling everything correctly. At the end of the unit, instead of taking a written test, each student must compose and present an oral composition describing his/her family entirely in Spanish. After the presentation, the student must answer questions about the composition orally in Spanish. The composition forces the student to use everything he learned in the unit. The students have an opportunity to apply what they have learned in a realistic situation rather than just repeating information without really understanding how it should be used. It also gives me the opportunity to test their comprehension, pronunciation and speaking skills.
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