The best presentation/workshop I have ever seen

With the fall conference season upon us in North East Asia I felt compelled to share some details about the best presentation I have ever seen. I have been lucky enough to see lots of ELT presentations in my life and a few of them stand out. I think about one of them roughly once a week and this is the one I want to tell you about.

I *should admit my bias and mention that the presentation was led by a group of 4 of my (former) course participants. Their topic was “How to use EBS books to help students prepare for the KSAT.” (There’s a brief explanation of EBS and KSAT at the end of the post).

The presentation started out with one of the members setting the scene to share a video of his class. He mentioned that this was a normal class and that he wanted to share it with the audience and get some help from those in attendance. The camera was pointed at his students and the first thing we could hear was the teacher greeting the students. The next thing we heard was him telling the students what page to turn to and then we heard him explain and explain specific grammar points and vocab words in Korean.

Some readers might find it relevant that the teacher is an extremely proficient English user but probably said 10-15 words in English in the parts of the clips that I heard.

After showing the first minute or so of the class the teacher said that instead of showing us the whole clip he would skip ahead and show us various moments. He jumped ahead to the 10-minute mark of the 50 minute class and things were pretty much the same except now some students had their heads down. The teacher was explaining a different point highlighted in the book. After we got a feel for the 10-minute mark he showed us the 20-minute mark. More students with their heads down. Same thing at 30 and then 40 minutes. By the 40-minute mark only 3-4 of the 25 students still had their heads up. The teacher kept explaining points from the book to the increasingly tired looking few that managed to stay awake. In the final moments of the class it was time for vast majority of students to wake up and go to their next class.

The teacher rounded off this part of the presentation by saying,  “I am not so happy or proud about it but this is my real class. You guys know me. I am not lazy. I care about students. I care about learning. I did my MA at ____ (a famous grad school for language teaching). This is my real class. Please help me.”

I was in awe of his honesty and bravery. I had chills. I felt uncomfortable. I felt guilty for laughing at the 40 minute mark when I saw even more students sleeping. I empathized with the teacher and even though I wasn’t really participating in the presentation/workshop as a “real” audience member my interest was piqued and I felt ready for the next stage.

The next stage included 2 short sample lessons using the EBS books in very different styles. Audience members participated in the sample lessons as students and then were asked to reflect on how it went for them as students. The final step was for audience members to plan short lessons based on their discussions and using material from the EBS books.

This presentation pops into my mind quite often and I am always thankful that I had the chance to see it. I also try to think about what lessons I can take from it.

Some questions I am thinking about…

What exactly made the above presentation so great for me?
What was the best presentation you have ever seen and why?
What does this tell us about great presentations?

Brief Acronym Explanations: 

What are EBS books? 

Apparently these are books made by the Korean Educational Broadcast Company and the examples in the books are very closely related to what is in the English portion of the college entrance exam. It is apparently sort of a secret that teachers use the books for test prep because they are technically not supposed to use them as they are supposed to use the official textbooks/curriculum.

What is the KSAT?
This is the Korean SAT, or the college entrance exam. There is obviously a lot to say about this but here is what wikipedia says.  I would just say that it is like the American SAT but much more important in that is often by far the most important factor in getting into a good college. The negative (IMO) washback from the English test is seen everywhere.


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