Ignite Presentations with ESL Students

I ask my ESL students to give Ignite Presentations every semester. It’s always a fun, fast, and exhilarating experience for them. Ignites push them to get to the point quickly and succinctly.

An Ignite Presentation is exactly 5 minutes long with exactly 20 PowerPoint slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds.

I usually show my students the Scott Berkun presentation titled “How and Why to Give an Ignite Talk.” I ask them to watch his talk and take notes. Afterward, they will have to explain how an Ignite Presentation works.

After viewing Scott’s talk together, we go over the parameters of an Ignite Presentation.  We make sure everyone understands how it works.

I ask my students to tell me a story about their favorite artist. I’d like to learn a little about the artist’s background, some of their favorite works by the artist, and how the artist has inspired and influenced their own work. I’ve found that by asking for a little structure keeps them from presenting a laundry list of just the artist’s work.

This is a fantastic exercise for ESL students for the following reasons:

  • It pushes students to speak for 5 continuous minutes
  • It makes them get straight to the main idea
  • It puts the attention on the presenter because the slides auto-advance

Students are usually nervous at the beginning. I tell them it’s okay if they mess up. This is a new presentation format, and they probably will mess up. It’s what happens after they mess up that I care about because I want to see how they recover and think on their feet.

When all is said and done, most students are cheering for one another. They feel a sense of accomplishment because they’ve done something new.



If you try an Ignite Presentation with your ESL students, please let me know how it goes.

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