In a world dominated by digital communication, we need to help students build real-world speaking and listening skills. While speeches and presentations—formal or informal, in person, on Zoom, or via video—are great ways to practice and hone those vital speaking skills, cultivating listening abilities has proven (at least for me) more difficult.
Frustrated that presentation/speech week was turning into 8 minutes of summative assessment drowning in a sea of apathy, I started to look for better ways to facilitate feedback and grow listening skills. Peer feedback, group feedback, forms, discussion, all either created a lot of paperwork for me to sift through or fostered trite feedback without deepening anyone’s speaking or listening skills.
So, I looked for a simple tech tool that would revolutionize how I did speeches and presentations in my classroom. I found one in Socrative.
Good tech tools do one or more of the following:
- Improve functionality and save time
- Increase student engagement
- Increase student depth/breadth of learning
The best tech tools do all of the above and adapt to multiple purposes. Socrative checks all of the boxes. This simple quiz tool transformed how I did speeches and presentations in my classroom, turning a week of zoned-out audience members into a week of engaging simultaneous formative and summative assessments.
I first used Socrative as a traditional quiz tool. It’s free, and content is accessible via the app as well as the website, making it easy to use anywhere. Educators can search for existing content, create their own, and share with colleagues, all of which helps save precious prep time.
For speeches and presentations, I made a simple quiz for peer feedback and turned a week of summative assessments for one student at a time into a week of ongoing formative assessments and increased feedback for everyone.
If students rated a speaker a five for a certain criterion but I gave that same speaker a two, we discussed it as a class, noting how the speaker (and future speakers) could improve. (Note: I always give speakers who agree to go on the first day “benefit of the doubt” points, as they don’t have the chance to learn from other speakers.) Even better, instead of feedback from just me, speakers now received feedback from 25+ people.
What It Looks Like in the Classroom
- I made the quiz on Socrative and reserved the necessary laptop cart. Students could also access content on their phones.
- The day before presentations, we scanned the quiz together as a class so that everyone knew—as a speaker and an audience member—what they needed to do.
- The day of the speeches, students logged into Socrative as they arrived for class. (This was usually done before the bell rang as I took attendance.)
- Those speaking that day did not have to review any presentations. Their task was to focus on their speech and then enjoy being done.
- Before class began, I had Socrative open and the first quiz copy ready to go. As each speaker went up to present, I saved the quiz with the speaker’s name and started the quiz. It’s easy to copy and rename quizzes, so this process was quick for me to do between speakers and slowed down the class by only 1 to 2 minutes per speaker.
- The multiple-choice answers for each question are the same. After completing the quiz once or twice, students barely had to read the questions and could focus on providing feedback.
- I spaced open-ended questions (about eye contact, gestures) throughout the quiz. Students were asked to complete one open-ended question per speaker but could complete more.
- Thanks to the Socrative teacher dashboard, I could see out of the corner of my eye if someone was racing through the questions. If a reviewer mindlessly clicked answers, after the speaker finished, I simply asked said reviewer to please pick my next Lotto numbers. Clearly, they could see the future, since they knew how the speaker was going to do before even finishing their speech. That ensured this wouldn’t happen again.
- After each speaker, I could see a quiz summary and compare it with how I scored the speaker. This then guided a short discussion following each speaker, allowing us to highlight particular strengths, great examples, and areas for improvement.
And it was a success. While I didn’t use this presentation quiz for every speech we did, because I used it for our first major presentation and then occasionally after that, students were far more engaged during presentations.
If you have Socrative, here’s my quiz code: SOC-68520018. You can import it into your quizzes, modify it, and use it as it works for you. If you have a quiz tool that you already use, build your own quiz and turn presentation week into an interactive, ongoing formative assessment.