Using PechaKuchas in the Classroom by HC120913114728


You can watch some IATEFL PachaKucha events at:

Using Pecha Kuchas in the Classroom
Bethany Cagnol, France
Bethany Cagnol has an MA in Teaching Second and Foreign Languages from the University
of London Institute in Paris and is the current president of TESOL France and Treasurer of
IATEFL BESIG. Bethany teaches at several institutions in Paris, mainly those in the higher
education, business and ESP sectors. She owns two freelance companies for language training,
materials design and project management. She blogs at: . E-mail:

By now you have probably heard of the ELT conference sensation: the Pecha Kucha, or PK.
Lindsay Clandfield held the very first ELT Pecha Kucha Night at the 2008 IATEFL
Conference in Exeter, and we teachers became instantly addicted to these entertaining talks
that last a mere 6 minutes and 40 seconds. This challenging feat forces speakers to snip their
presentations to 20 slides with each slide lasting only 20 seconds. In Exeter, Clandfield
encouraged us to use PKs with our students. As a presentations instructor, I saw this as the
perfect solution to fitting large quantities of student presentations into an already packed

The benefits for the students
The initial reaction from students, when told they will be required to do a PK, is utter panic.
The alarmed look on their faces is tough at first, but when you mention the benefits, they
warm up to the challenge. The fast-paced characteristic of the presentation is stressful, yes,
but it helps prepare them for life’s moments when they will have to speak under pressure (e.g.
timed speaking tests, emergencies, being late for a flight or train, interviewing, asking for a
raise, etc). The 20-second-per-slide format also improves fluency, editing and time
management skills.
There are also benefits for the students who watch their classmates present. The conciseness
of the PK helps keep everyone alert and interested. I also do a short lesson on being a polite
and supportive audience member.

Before the leap
Preparing students for Pecha Kuchas can take time. I usually introduce PKs after I’ve taught
the students basic presentation techniques (e.g. using proper organization, simple notes, vocal
variety, gestures and eliminating the fillers such as um, uh, er etc.). I also inform the
language department head beforehand to get his or her approval. PKs work in most ELT
contexts, but it’s always best to double check with a supervisor.
The level of the students may be a factor in whether or not you choose to use PKs. I tend to
reserve them for students who are intermediate and up, but that doesn’t mean the technique
can’t be adapted to lower-level students (e.g. cutting down the slide requirement to 10, using
basic utterances, or increasing the timing of the slides to 30 seconds to adapt to lower-level
speaking speeds).
The concept is then inserted into the syllabus to cover the student presentation requirements
and/or taught as a Pecha-Kucha-themed course.

The lesson
The PK guidelines are always presented at the beginning of the semester. I am usually
required to mark the students on their performance, but the PK can also be optional, extra
credit, or a pair-work project in which each student presents 10 slides instead of 20.
On day one, I introduce the presentation guidelines and give students the opportunity to try a
pre-written Pecha Kucha. I present a PK that includes the guidelines mixed with a bit of
humor. Then I split the class into groups of three and assign As, Bs and Cs.
All of the As stand up in front of their groups and do the same PK I’ve just presented,
incorporating their own public speaking style. They only present it to their small group to
help minimize the fear of standing in front of a large audience. Moreover, the Bs and the Cs
get practice being a supportive audience. Once the As are finished, the Bs have their turn
followed by the Cs. In about 21 minutes everyone will have given it a try.
While using this approach, I have run into a few speed bumps along the way. The classroom
can get quite noisy with several PKs going on all at once – so best to inform the colleagues in
the next room. Some students down right refuse to do it. If I find it’s due to a genuine phobia
of speaking in front of their peers, then I tend to ask them do it in front of me at the end of the
class period or during the break. Some express a desire to wait a week so they can prepare. I
remind them that the real-world is full of examples where they will have to speak in public
with zero preparation and that the classroom is the ideal, no-risk environment to give it a try.
Sometimes, I do have to get tough, but most of the time, the students enjoy the challenge and
encourage their classmates to take the leap.

Tips for the teacher
One obstacle teachers will have to overcome is demonstrating a PK in front of their students.
This can be quite challenging if we’re not used to this presentation technique. We do get
better with practice. But my own teaching philosophy is if I want my students to try
something new I had better be willing to try it too. Besides, what better way to teach them
how to be a supportive audience then to get them to practice on you (great for gluttons for
thunderous applause).
One alternative to doing a PK yourself is to get another teacher to do it in a team-teaching
session. Or ask the students to watch a few PKs available on YouTube.
On PK Day, teachers need to be ready for students who ask for an extension at the last minute.
Depending on your schedule this might not be possible. This is why I carry a few USB keys
in my bag. On the key, I have a PK template with 20 blank slides in both PC Power Point and
Mac Keynote formats. I hand it to the students and tell them they have 30 minutes to prepare
on their computer or at the lab. This might be a bit strict for some ELT environments, but I
have found that the PKs done at the last minute are often the best ones. Moreover, it gives
them experience in professional situations where their superiors give them ultra tight
deadlines to prepare material.

Using Pecha Kuchas in the classroom can be both an exhilarating and satisfying experience
for both the students and the teacher. The students benefit from the real-world skills they
develop and thrive on the challenge. The teachers can meet the syllabus requirements for
doing several presentations and benefit from trying something new with their students. The
ideal ELT environment is one in which both the teacher and the students benefit from the
lesson; and the Pecha Kucha does just that.

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