Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Spectacular Presentation Skills

Last Thursday I visited the 6th grade Social Studies Class (John Nussbaumer's). Unknown to me, it was presentation day. Five teams of students--two or three students to a team--were reporting about African countries. Several things struck me immediately. First, the way the students used technology was impressive. They had prepared power point presentations carefully and well. While they gave their oral reports, Mr. Nussbaumer acted as their technical support. The power point presentations were slick, visually appealing and well produced. The content was excellent.

If this had been all that I saw then I would have been impressed. But what absolutely floored me was the poise and the polish of the presenters. As I watched the first presentation, I wondered how in the world these 6th graders could be so good at presenting. Then I learned how and why. Immediately after each team finished its presentation, Mr. Nussbaumer pulled them in a corner for discrete feedback about what they had done well and what needed improvement. His critique was based on a printed presentation rubric that the 5th and 6th grade teaching team prepared several years ago. (See it below.) He carefully went over each of their presentations and graded them according to how well they satisfied the rubric. 

Students take the rubric and the constructive criticism seriously. They are very familiar with the expectations of the rubric and prepare for their presentations with it in mind. When Mr. Nussbaumer made suggestions for improvement afterwards, they knew exactly what he was talking about because they knew the rubric. Over the course of their two years in 5th and 6th grades, students work hard to improve their presentation skills based on expectations defined in the printed presentation rubric. Mr. Nussbaumer told me that their progress is remarkable. Just as the rubric suggests, they learn not to fidget nervously, to make good eye contact with their audience, to smile when their partner is speaking, and to speak audibly and not too fast. 

The result is a group of 6th grade students with spectacular presentation skills!! No kidding, the very best of them are more poised, captivating and informative than most adults who I hear make presentations. Several of them reminded me of game show hosts with their charm, presence and command of their audience!!

Wow!!! I was so excited after hearing the presentations and so proud of what we are accomplishing with our student presentation skills that I told everyone I saw!! Now I am telling you!! Even more impressive, presentation skills are integrated throughout the entire curriculum from the lowest grades to seniors. How important do you think it is for our children to be confident, competent, relaxed presenters? What does it mean in school or the workplace to be able to make a quality presentation and impress your audience (or your boss)? Does any school do a better job teaching presentation skills than Gaston Day? 

Gaston Day School's mission is "to educate our students and prepare them for academic success and responsible, productive lives." Teaching presentation skills is one way that we are doing that. I hope you get a chance to see your students make a presentation here at school or elsewhere. When they dazzle you with their presentation skills and leave you wondering how they could be so good, the answer is that Gaston Day has taught them to follow the rubric to excellence.