As the students enter the room, they take out their journals and respond to the prompt: What are the key components to an interesting presentation? While the students work on the prompt, I circulate through the room reading their answers. After students have had a chance to respond, I ask them to discuss their lists with the other members of their group (my students sit in groups of five). Once they have had a chance to discuss, I ask them to share their responses with the class.
I ask the students to share their journal responses, one component at a time. As the students share a component, I demonstrate good and poor examples. For instance, the students mention the importance of eye contact. As I explain eye contact, I make eye contact with a student for too long, demonstrating that extended eye contact makes the audience member feel uncomfortable. Then I scan the room making only brief eye contact with each student, again causing enough awkwardness to get the point across. I suggest to the students that they make eye contact with a classmate for a few seconds and then look at someone else. Other presentation techniques that I model include proper pacing of speech, volume, movement (hands and body), and posture. I try to be as dramatic as possible in order to help maintain student interest and to get the points across in memorable fashion.
After reviewing techniques for good presentations, I review the science fair presentation guidelines. These guidelines provide students with an outline for developing their presentation. I also remind the students that they should not memorize their presentations. I do not allow students to use note cards or to read from their boards (as this tends to end up with them reading in a monotone voice, making multiple presentations difficult for the students to observe without becoming bored). I explain to them that they are the ones who completed the experiment and they have spent enough time working on the information that they should have no problem discussing it with the class. I do share a Sample and Suggestion with the students to help them remember the parts of the presentation. To help ease their nerves a bit, I also tell the students that I know they get nervous when they are speaking in front of their peers, but that if they mess up or say something wrong only they and I are aware of their mistake.
I also review the presentation rubric with the students. We discuss the qualities of a presentation that will help them achieve high marks. If time allows, I share clips of presentations with the students and ask them to use the rubric to evaluate them.
After reviewing the rubric and guidelines, I provide my students with time to prepare their presentation. I ask them to begin by determining which person will discuss each item of the presentation. This can easily be accomplished by writing the speaker's name down beside the various topics listed on the presentation guidelines. From there, the students are expected to determine what they are going to say and should then begin practicing their presentation. While the students are working independently, I meet with individuals to discuss their presentation. As I meet with partners, I begin by asking which partner will be discussing each item. I also ask the students if they have any questions about the presentation process. This individualized time allows students to ask questions specific to their topic and provides me with the opportunity to make sure the students understand what needs to be said during the presentation.
The students' preparation of their presentation during this time addresses NGSS SP8 - Obtain, evaluate and communicate information - as students are preparing to communicate information they have collected and analyzed. Preparing for their presentations also addresses CCSS SL.8.4 -Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation and SL.8.5 - Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest - as students will be expected to use their display board as a visual aid while they speak clearly and utilize proper presentation techniques.
I conclude the class period by reminding the students of the importance of practicing. I provide them with a list of practice opportunities. I suggest practicing while they are babysitting, because babies love to smile, find humor in many things, and cannot walk. I suggest practicing in front of pets, especially older, friendlier pets. I also tell the students that practicing on the school bus on the way to an away sporting event can also be useful. While my aim with these suggestions is meant to be humorous, it also serves as a reminder of the importance of practicing as a way to build confidence.