I used to dread giving oral or class presentations in school. I would stress about speaking in front of my peers and be unable to focus on what the other students were saying. I was always so nervous. Did I learn anything from preparing for and completing these stressful presentations? Yes, I learned that I hate speaking in front of a group of my peers. I also learned that I sweat in strange places when I get nervous. I’m not sure those two standards are listed anywhere in the Common Core. So then, I’m forced to wonder, Is there value in having students present a project or learning to the class?
After months of preparation, the students shared their I-Search Project Presentations with the class today in Humanities. The students played their movies, read their Prezi slideshows, and walked around with their posters like Vanna White. Meanwhile, the rest of the students shuffled around in their chairs, played with their pencils, had their heads on the desks, and seemed genuinely uninterested in what was being said. Of course, being the diligent and controlling teacher I am, I did monitor the situation and reminded students of the fact that they are being graded on their ability to stay focused and engaged throughout class. I had to refocus several students and remind others to stay on task throughout the period. After three reminders, some of the students invested a bit more focus and asked questions following the presentations. However, only a few of the boys did that. The rest still seemed disengaged. So, what’s the point? Instead of wasting class time, we could have been covering new standards, working on a different project, reading, or doing something else more engaging. What’s the benefit in having students present something aloud in front of their peers? What skills could the students possibly learn from an exercise like this?
- Oral Speaking Skills
- Public Speaking Skills
- The Power of Practice
- Risk Taking
Yes, the theory behind class presentations make sense. However, in action, they seem to cause more stress and anxiety for our students. Despite having modeled, practiced, and discussed the keys to public speaking throughout the academic year, most of the students made use of none of these strategies during today’s presentations. So, why bother? While we need our students to be effective global communicators, are presentations the only way these skills can be practiced and learned? No. What about group work? What about projects? These are both great examples of ways students can learn to communicate with their peers. While we do want to celebrate the great work our students do in the classroom, I question the validity of class presentations. They seem to be a time waster and promote unfocused behavior. Any activity during which I spend more than 50% of my time monitoring and redirecting, is futile. It’s no good for the students or me. I want the students to be engaged with what they are learning and see the relevance in what we are doing in the classroom. I don’t think many of the boys were engaged or saw the value in what their peers had to say today. I say, no more whole class presentations. There are many other more exciting and interactive ways to have students share their learning and accomplishments with their peers. Let’s take a risk as teachers and close the door on class presentations so that we can create many new learning opportunities for our students.