Presentations that feel like home

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Presentations are ubiquitous in modern life, so it makes sense to include them as a component in ESL classes.  In North American culture we have certain expectations about how presentations will be given.  The format is low-context, meaning the presenters are making sure that they can be understood by the audience.  The students in our classes not only require the appropriate language skills, they also need to understand how to format a presentation so that the audience can understand its structure.  The following house analogy is one way to teach about how the format of a presentation gives it structure.  This structure makes the content more coherent to the audience.


The introduction welcomes the audience to your presentation.  It tells them who you are, why you are giving the presentation and, maybe most importantly, it shows them what to expect.  It’s the first impression that the audience has of what will be delivered.  Much like the front lawn or the walk way to your house, the first impression of the introduction adds value. 

Interesting Fact, Anecdote, or Question 

Including a fact, anecdote, or question before you launch into the content, will act like a door as it engages your audience.  The door allows them to enter and be a part of what is happening on the inside of the presentation.


A good outline tells the audience how you are going to present the information and gives the audience the structure and form, which allows them to understand more easily how the content will be laid out.  It is here that you tell the audience how long the presentation is going to be, and when to ask questions. An outline, similar to the framing of a house, holds everything together.  The audience will become familiar with the interior, and they will be more aware of how the information ties together.    


There is a window of time for your presentation and you need to fit your information in it. Using key points, you can convey your message on the specific topic.  The content contains the information that you want the audience to receive, process, and relate to.  You clearly illustrate your points with examples, using appropriate language, and keeping in mind the time that you have and the message you want the audience to leave with.


The conclusion comes at the end of your organized information.  It puts a roof on what you have built while you were delivering the coordinated report.  It finishes off what you have to say by including a summary.  In the conclusion, you should not only summarize the content, but you should also reinforce the “take home” message of your presentation.

Questions from the audience

Most frequently, audiences will ask questions at the end of the presentation, but like a chimney, questions can run through several floors.  During the introduction, you should specify when you want the audience to ask questions: anytime throughout or just at the end.

Presentations need not be overwhelming for ESL students.  Having students think of their presentations using the outlined pattern of a house helps them to assemble the information in a logical sequence.  Using this structure, students will gain confidence and will develop the skills to deliver a polished presentation—and feel right at home doing so!

How do your students feel about giving presentations? Do you think the house analogy would be helpful to your students?

Image source: Gwen Zeldenrust

Hi, I’m Gwen Zeldenrust. After a brief absence from the profession, I realized that teaching is my passion and the path that my career should follow. Most of my practice has been focused on teaching ESL to adults in Ontario. In addition to that, I’ve been a trainer for an insurance company, a teaching assistant for several professors at university, taught English in Japan and Core-French at the local school board. While I’ve been teaching ESL I’ve also been working on a project which has developed organically among a group of teachers. Under the name of Language Foundations, we’ve produced a video that teaches strategies for interacting successfully in Canada. The video project has inspired in me a true passion for writing. I love being able to reach out with my thoughts, share ideas and discuss different perspectives. I think writing and teaching are very complementary!


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