As the second wave of Covid-19 started rising in Pakistan in October, the educational institutions were closed as a precautionary measure. The situation compelled many teachers including myself to complete the remaining semester online. Usually, I have a graded presentation activity for my Functional English students near the end of the semester; however, this had to be adapted now as the classes had moved online. The importance of assessment of speaking in the course and the virtual class environment posed a challenge that required an innovative solution. Besides, I decided to make this presentation less stressful and more enjoyable for my students. That’s when the idea of picture presentation occurred to me.
I planned to conduct individual presentations for two to three minutes each. Since the number of students was high (i.e. 38), I scheduled the presentations for three online sessions. For this task, students were supposed to select a picture that is worth 1000 words (i.e. a meaningful picture). The students were given free choice to take a picture from the internet or capture one themselves for presentation. Later, they were supposed to deliver a presentation for two to three minutes. For presentation, students were at liberty to record a voiceover presentation and share the link with the teacher to be shown in the virtual class or they could share the picture with screen sharing option in Zoom class and deliver the presentation. Interestingly, all the students went for the second option despite facing internet connectivity issues.
Moreover, in order to guide their talk, I gave them four guiding questions:
What do you see in the picture? Describe.
Why did you choose this picture? Give three reasons.
How do you see this picture? Share your opinion/understanding of the picture.
What can others learn from this picture? Share a lesson/message as per your understanding.
The response from students was overwhelming as they came up with extremely sensitive and thought-provoking ideas coupled with very meaningful pictures related to poverty, food preservation, climate change, female education, adverse effects of social media, and many more. Thus, the students made use of language pertaining to multiple fields of life.
As for assessment, all students were assessed using a rubric on the following areas: picture selection, content, fluency and lexical resource. Every single student was given oral feedback as soon as his/her presentation ended. In addition to that, students were encouraged to comment on their classmates’ presentation, thus making room for peer feedback. Nevertheless, since we were doing it for the first time, students lifted the morale of their classmates by posting supporting comments in the chat. Since the online session was recorded and its link was shared with the students, they have a record of their presentation as well as the feedback they received.
When all the presentations were over, the students were advised to answer one question using a Google-form link which explored their perceptions about this experience. The students reported that they enjoyed talking about such topics using images and getting prompt feedback in the virtual class.
On the basis of my experience, I suggest that picture presentation is an extremely useful activity for all-age groups if guidelines are provided to students beforehand. Besides, key areas of speaking can be assessed using virtual platforms and prompt feedback becomes easy and rewarding. Apart from the assessment of speaking, this activity can provide students with a chance to speak about what matters to them and the world around them.
Kamran Akhtar Siddiqui