Ideas for an Oral Presentation for a Foreign Language Class on the History of a Country

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Take it Beyond the Timelines! The Next Lesson Plan

History is more than timelines and short bios, so the student who is assigned or volunteers to cover the history of a country in the four-part case study presentation should be encouraged to answer the following questions as a first step in preparing his or her oral presentation. Younger students may need the teacher to rephrase some of these questions, add or delete some. Depending on the country, some of these questions may not apply, so I have provided an over abundance of questions sufficient to allow a student to prepare a presentation of about 2-3 minutes:

1. Who were the country’s first or original inhabitants? Was there only one original group, tribe, race, etc.?

2. What language(s) did this group or these groups speak?

3. When and by whom were they conquered/settled (for instance, in the case of Iberia, this would involved a chain of civilizations from prehistory through the late Middle Ages; for Latin American countries this is a gold mine – pardon the pun – for students to explore)

4. When did the modern nation form? Who were its political leaders?

5. Did the modern country result from a war of independence or other sort of revolution or did it evolve smoothly from previous forms of government?

6. What is the form of government today – e.g., constitutional (representative democracy), dictatorship (left or right?), monarchy, etc…

7. Who is its leader? How long has he/she been in power? How did he/she come to power?

8. What are the political parties and what do they stand for or claim to stand for?

9. What is the population of the country?

10. Is the country ethnically, racially, linguistically homogenous or diverse?

11. What is its GNP (students can learn how to say this term in the language they are studying and will feel quite proud of themselves for learning it).

12. At the close of the history presentation, this student should introduce the next one, who will talk about the economy, by simply stating what the most important product or source of revenue is for the country. If this is not possible (major industrialized nations have economies too diversified to be able to name just one or two), he or she should simply introduce the next student as the one who will talk about the country’s economy.

After doing sufficient research to answer these questions, in the target language, the next task is to add enough language to string them together in a brief narrative to be presented, like all the others, with no more notes than can fit on the front and back of a 3X5 index card.

Of course, the student should be encouraged to practice the oral delivery several times, incorporating any props (not too many). They should be encouraged strongly to keep any PowerPoint or other technologically based props to a bare minimum. The whole point of oral presentations is to be oral, not electronic!


  • Author’s more than 20 years experience teaching and translating Spanish.

This post is part of the series: Lesson Plans for Intermediate Foreign Language Classes

This series of four articles shows how to use national data of different kinds to move students from the textbook to using their second language to find, assemble and present meaningful information – in short, to begin to master their second language.

  1. Group Project Idea for a Foreign Language Class: Geography of a Country
  2. Oral Presentation Idea for Intermediate Foreign Language Students: History of a Country
  3. How to Study the Economics of a Country: Intermediate Spanish Lesson Plan
  4. Lesson Plans for Intermediate Foreign Language Students: Arts & Culture of a Country