By Molly Merson
If you want the students to pay attention, something that has worked for me and other teachers in the past has been to do two things:
1. Give a quiz after every five or so presentations on what the people said and some points that you think are important about their topic. Then give an exam at the end including all presentations.
2. Require that every student must ask one question to the presenter per class about their topic. Add some of these questions to the quiz.
These things require you to pay attention, take notes, and clarify. It's also a good role model for the students to learn notetaking and interaction with the presenter. Mark points for whoever asks questions and have this and the quizzes be your entire grading system for the term.
You will need to clarify exactly what is expected of the students. One teacher here gave a lecture to students and required them to take notes, and then gave a quiz to the students and allowed them to use their notes. This helped them understand what notetaking is.
Something the students might try is to get the written information from the presenter so that they don't have to pay attention. This decreases the listening aspect of the exercise, but at least they're doing some work.