Teaching Presentation Skills

Please take a minute to respond if you have insight, feedback, or strong feelings about teaching presentations. I could use some help.

My ninth graders gave presentations this week. Here are some things I noticed:

  • They talked to the screen (SMARTBoard) instead of to their audience.
  • They appeared to be reading their presentations for the first time; they didn’t have a facility or familiarity with their topic.
  • They crowded their slides with clashing colors, animated gifs, and too much text.

I realize that students should be taught how to present, but everything I learned about presenting I dug around and found online. Here’s a good example.

I admit I feel frustrated because so much already falls on the English department, and I cannot be the only teacher who is asking students to present. I just don’t believe that. I also admit it didn’t occur to me to do direct instruction in teaching presentations—a mistake I will not make again, I assure you. So how would you recommend teaching students good presentation skills?

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Embedding YouTube Videos in PowerPoint Presentations

I learned something new today.  I found a really good YouTube video about the Bayeux Tapestry.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDaB-NNyM8o[/youtube]

I was sharing some historical background on England from 1066-1485 with my students, and I wanted to show them the video, but I hadn’t thought about the possiblity of embedding it, so I wound up switching from PowerPoint to the video and back.  Not a huge hassle, but later on as I was reflecting over the lesson, I wondered if it might be possible to embed a video in PowerPoint, so I did a Google search and disovered this helpful video:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yzUxNbi1h4[/youtube]

Even though I have Word 2007 on my computer at work, I was able to figure out how to embed the video following the instructions.  Here’s what’s different:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hChq5drjQl4[/youtube]

You must be connected to the Internet for this to work.

Here is the PowerPoint I created.  It is licensed under an Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share-Alike Creative Commons License.

The Middle Ages in England

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: tapestry bayeux)


I strongly recommend downloading this presentation because it probably won’t work for you on Slideshare, or at least all the features won’t work. I cannot get embedded videos to work on my Mac.  Does anyone know why or how to make them work?  It’s not a huge problem, as my work computer is the one I use for my SMART Board, but I am curious as to how it might be done. If you have any problems downloading it, please let me know, and I can work on it from my work computer tomorrow. Our dinosaur desktop here at home won’t allow me to open the PowerPoint without freezing, my husband’s Windows laptop doesn’t have PowerPoint, and my daughter’s already let me hog her computer enough.

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Week in Reflection, April 28-May 2

Our Spring Break was last week, so I didn’t post a reflection.  As this was the week of our return to school, and we have also entered that final stretch of the year, I’m not sure either I or the students were as plugged in as usual.

My seniors basically have two weeks left because our school allows them to finish early.  Next week and the week after, they will be working on a final paper for me.  This week, we finished watching A Streetcar Named Desire, and I was struck again by Brando’s performance.  You probably know this bit of trivia, but Brando was the sole member of the core cast not to receive an Academy Award, though he was nominated.  Vivian Leigh won Best Actress for her portrayal of Blanche; Kim Hunter won Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Stella; and Karl Malden won Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Mitch.  The Best Actor award that year, however, went to Humphrey Bogart for his performance in The African Queen.

My ninth grade students are working through grammar.  One class finished up phrases and started on clauses.  The other class learned about active and passive voice and began discussion of Toni Morrison’s first novel, The Bluest Eye.

The tenth grade writing class I teach presented Power Point presentations.  So often our kids add animations, busy backgrounds, and too much text, then read the text rather than use it as a guide for the audience.  Despite my instructing students on the perils of Death by Power Point, a few of their presentations included some of the problems I’ve mentioned, and I am frustrated that I somehow was not able to communicate how to avoid these issues to my students.  Also, I am frustrated by the fact that in order to be successful, they had to unlearn bad Power Point habits, which may explain why all of them weren’t successful.  We need to teach kids how to use Power Point correctly from the start.  I think too many teachers are a little too impressed by all the bells and whistles and actually reward students for making cluttered, busy, and ultimately unreadable presentations because they themselves don’t know how to do some of the things the students do, thus the teachers assume it’s hard and took a lot of time and effort.  Let’s face it, our students have become accustomed to being rewarded for style over substance.

The last two days of the week, my writing class began a unit on SAT preparation and practice.  I have evaluated SAT essays in the past, and as I haven’t done so for quite some time, I suppose it’s safe to disclose this fact.  Students generally find this unit to be very helpful.  I have been using Sadlier-Oxford’s helpful Grammar and Writing for Standardized Tests as a guide; I highly recommend this book, as it focuses on the SAT’s writing section (error correction, sentence and paragraph correction, and essay).

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Week in Reflection, April 14-17

This time of year, I find that I’m not blogging as much as I would like because I’m so exhausted.  You know, people talk about what a perk it is for teachers to have breaks in the winter and spring and a longer one in the summer — usually people who don’t teach, by the way.  These breaks are absolutely necessary to rejuvenate.  I think teachers put a lot of themselves into their work.  Having to be “on” so much of the time wears me out, and I don’t think I’m the only one.  Every time I take any sort of Myers-Briggs test, I always come out INFP.  If you aren’t up on the parlance, that basically means I am introverted, and I find social situations tiring.  People suck the energy right out of me, and you can’t get more people-oriented than teaching.  This article in The Atlantic actually did a lot in terms of helping me understand why I’m so tired at the end of a school day, and as the end of the school year ends, it seems to get worse.  As a result  of this exhaustion, blogging is one of those things that tends to go by the wayside.

I read the blogs of other teachers and feel inspired by what they are doing — especially descriptions of lessons and ideas for teaching –and I want to contribute, too.  Maybe this week will afford me some time to do so, as I am (finally) on spring break!  Why so late?  Passover falls late this year in the Jewish calendar, and my school, as a Jewish school, follows the Jewish calendar.  Our break starts tomorrow.

Teaching the week before spring break is always difficult.  I came home today and took a nap. This week, my seniors finished reading A Streetcar Named Desire, and we began watching the excellent Elia Kazan production.  One forgets how attractive Marlon Brando was.  Every time I watch that movie, I am amazed all over again by his embodiment of the role of Stanley Kowalski.  One of my students pronounced the play her favorite piece of the year, and another quickly agreed.  I really enjoy teaching the play, too, if for no other reason than the opportunity to see the excellent movie again at the end.

My writing class was creating Power Point presentations.  I have seen a lot of death by Power Point lately, and we can’t very well blame the presenters if they are never effectively taught how to create a Power Point presentation that works.  A cursory glance at my students’ works in progress tells me that most of them understood not to cram too much information on a slide or use busy backgrounds, but I’m not sure all of them heard this message, and I am puzzled — I thought I really emphasized that part.

I have been teaching verbals, clauses, and misplaced modifiers.  I struggle with this part of our curriculum every year — not because I don’t understand it or because I don’t impart it with some success.  I struggle with its usefulness.  If a student is using gerunds correctly when he or she writes, is it imperative that they be able to label them as subjects, direct objects, indirect objects, predicate nominatives, and objects of prepositions?  Yet, it is part of the curriculum, and therefore, part of my teaching.  I find it much more useful to spend time on the nuts and bolts of writing that students struggle with — commas, for instance.  I thought I created a fairly effective unit for teaching commas, but I find over the course of the year that students are still not consistently applying rules for using commas.  Marking comma errors hasn’t done much to help my students learn to use commas.  Suggestions are welcome.

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