Getting students to research and then present their findings to the class can be done in a number of ways. However, consider ditching the word ‘presentation’ in favour of ‘mini-lesson’.

Instead of standing passively at the front of the class reading a PowerPoint slide, each student instead is required to engage the other students in some sort of activity, task or exercise to teach the class about his or her topic.

I adopted this approach with my Year 9 Historians during their study of “What was the most significant event of the 20th Century?”. The closing phase of this unit involves each student researching a topic for themselves, then traditionally turning this into an imaginary DVD documentary inlay. On this occasion though I asked each student instead to prepare a lesson plan and accompanying materials for a mini-lesson of between 10-15 minutes. I made it clear that all of these would be collected in and marked, and that the best five would then be used as the basis for a one-hour lesson to round off the Summer term.

Taking it futher

An additional bonus of this approach, which I did not immediately anticipate, was that it is a great way to get students thinking about what makes a ‘good’ lesson, and the sort of thought and effort that goes into lesson preparation by their teachers. I gave the class 10 minutes to discuss on their tables what lessons (from any subject) particularly stuck in their memory. What made those lessons so effective? We came up with ideas like an element of competition; team work; a practical element; incentives and rewards; a clear outcome; and so on. The discussion was very valuable not just for the students but also for me, since it gave me some great ideas about what my colleagues around the school did to engage their students in lessons.