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September 2014
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Quick Tip: Filming for Picture Perfect Progress in Presentations
by Sarah Kassas

Audience: Secondary, postsecondary, and adults; beginner to advanced

A convincing method to show ESL students at any level how they can improve their oral presentations is by filming them. While students may initially feel uncomfortable with being filmed and watching themselves, they do come to enjoy the process. One of my university students, Ying, said, “Getting a copy of my presentation is significant. I can compare each of my presentations to find if I have any progress, and if I need to work on other areas.”

Benefits of Filming

1. Filming Builds Confidence
Standing up in front of a crowd can make anyone nervous, especially ESL students who lack cultural awareness about expectations for presentations. The camera lens helps them to become self-aware in the privacy of their own home. 

2. Filming Improves Eye Contact and Body Language
ESL students can forget to look at their audience because they are so focused on just trying to remember what they want to say. They may look up at the ceiling, or read off their note cards, stare at their PowerPoint presentation or even stare into space. In addition, they do not always incorporate appropriate gestures. They might touch their face or their hair repeatedly, swing back and forth, or just stand in front of their audience with a blank expression on their face. Filming draws direct attention to these issues. 

3. Filming Improves Pronunciation and Volume
Through filming, our students can take a step back and place themselves in the audience’s role, and focus on how their presentations sound. They will quickly learn if they are mispronouncing words or if they need to adjust their volume or intonation.

4. Filming Improves Oral Grammar Skills
Students may not always be convinced that they have poor oral grammar skills until they watch and listen to themselves. Through filming, students can pause the video at places where they produce a grammar error, write it down, and think about how to correct it.

Of course, simply pointing a camera at a student and then hitting the record button is not enough. The most effective approach is to require your students to view their own video and evaluate themselves using a standard rubric before giving them your own feedback. 

What to Keep in Mind When Filming

  1. Film students at the best angle to record their facial expressions and body language.
  2. Make sure that the camera is close enough to capture their actual volume.
  3. Keep a copy of the video files on your computer.
  4. Require students to bring a flash drive or external hard drive to collect their personal video from your office.
  5. Ask students to sign up for an individual 5-minute feedback session.
  6. Require students to watch their video twice at home and evaluate themselves using a class rubric. A rubric is very important because it requires students to reflect honestly on specific parts of their performance.
  7. Remind the students to bring their self-evaluations with them to their feedback session.
  8. Ask students what they think their strengths and weaknesses are, and then offer your feedback.

In addition to individual presentations, students can also benefit from being filmed in other communication activities, like group discussions and debates. This allows students to observe how they are interacting with a group and to learn appropriate group communication skills. Filming does take more time, but it provides both instructors and ESL learners with a digital portfolio of student progress that is worth the investment.


Sarah Kassas earned her MA in TESOL from the University of Alabama. She teaches at Qatar University and has taught at the University of Iowa and the University of Alabama.

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Table of Contents
TC Homepage
Enlivening Dialogue Practice With Free App
ELL Transitions in Early Ed
The Syllabus as an ESL Oral Fluency Activity
Quick Tip: Filming for Progress in Presentations
Book Chapter: English for Academic Purposes
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