Book Review: The Choreography of Presenting

Choreography of Presenting

I attended the 2018 Learning Forward conference with the intent to learn more about PLCs and how I could help our district implement them more effectively. While I learned many valuable lessons regarding leadership and teamwork, I came away with an overall sense of how every presentation I sat through was excellent, and how it all came down to the presenter. Now, my background is in English Rhetoric so it should come as no surprise I value a good presenter. That said, the conference and it’s participants reminded me of how important presenting skills are, and they are skills. No one is born a wonderful presenter. Fast forward to the other fun part of conferences for an English teacher, buying books, and I was delighted to see The Choreography of Presenting by Kendall Zoller and Claudette Landry.

“Like a great dance partner, an excellent presenter leads others with ease and confidence. By showing how verbal and nonverbal communication shape every aspect of a successful presentation, this engaging book helps readers develop the underlying skills for polished, successful public speaking.”

This book uses the metaphor of dance to educate those who don’t know the first thing about presenting as well as remind those of us who could always stand to improve upon existing skills. Along with narratives of both positive and negative experiences from the authors’ presenting past, there are useful charts that provide step-by-step practice on certain elements. Have a presentation coming up? There are places in the book to reflect on your practice. The parts of the book I particularly enjoyed were those focused on movement- hand, eye, and even full body. The “dance” you do while presenting really does matter.

“A still hand gesture is the visual correlation to an auditory pause.”

While this book is meant for educators, I plan on utilizing it with my AP Capstone Seminar students next year. It’s applicable and understandable. New presenters and old alike, I encourage you to read the 124 pages. You won’t regret it, and you’ll come away a more effective presenter.

Tech. Tool #2 – Insert Learning

I too have played with this tech tool and think the options are fantastic. I can’t wait to try things out with students next year. Melissa has already been able to test the tool out with students, so she offers a great intro and review!

Melissa Blake ~ Education & Technology

In my quest for formative assessment tools that allow for more student involvement, I came across Insert Learning (https://insertlearning.com/).  As I am about to embark on a unit that focuses on reading informational texts in preparation for a persuasive research paper and extension project, I thought the timing was perfect to implement this tool in class.  Basically, Insert Learning allows a teacher to take any webpage and add sticky notes, discussion questions, quiz questions, and highlights. Additional resources can be added to help supplement comprehension or differentiate, such as videos or links to other websites.  For those who are a bit more technologically inclined, a list of 60+ tools to embed (Flipgrid, Quizizz, memes, and Quizlet, for example) is available on the website, some with tutorials and most with explanations of how the tools benefit students.

All data and responses are sent to the…

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Speaking to Share

Speaking and listening support for students is essential – the skills support all of the other work kids need to do when they are reading and writing. But most people have a fear of public speaking, including teachers, so we can forget to scaffold the skills with smaller tasks.

A great way to use to give students practice speaking in class is to let them read aloud a short selection of their reading for class. If the expectation while they read is to mark the text, then marking something they loved – a turn of phrase, a descriptive detail, imagery, etc. – can easily be shared. As a teacher, you are then assessing reading while assessing speaking.

Once the passage is chosen, have students whisper read to themselves, or read with a partner. Practice reading out loud in different ways helps avoid embarrassing mispronunciations or other issues that would reinforce public speaking as a scary experience. Practicing also helps student read more fluently over time, demonstrating to them the need to practice in order to improve.

I often have students record themselves since I had a BYOD policy in effect. That way they can troubleshoot their own voice performance through an audio recording, or record with video in order to critique themselves or critique with a partner.

Finally, have students read their passage to the class! You can create a specific list so they know when their turn is or you can have them “popcorn” read so they can jump in. More than one student can have the same favorite passage and passages can be read in any order.

This activity is great because it’s informal but gives students exposure to reading and public speaking. There are lots of ways to extend it as well: FlipGrid readings, writing a rationale for the selection, found poems from the passage, pastiche, etc.

new blogger!

I’m so excited to announce that my friend Traci Espeland is going to start blogging here with me. In her final year of graduate school, Traci started her teaching career with me, as my student intern. This was seven years ago and, even early on, she brought with her a solid training in pedagogical methods and English/language arts, along with great energy and enthusiasm. Traci brings exciting new ideas to life; I’m confident that she will continue this momentum as she seeks out new challenges and opportunities in this blog.

Traci impresses me with her commitment to lifelong learning. She successfully collaborates with other educators in the school, and takes advantage of professional development opportunities offered in the district. She was the 2017 PBS Digital Innovator, representing the needs and talents of teachers throughout all of Alaska with PBS. This year she has been an integral part of the Innovations Team here in the Anchorage School District, supporting educators in technology integrations and innovations. It’s this commitment to growth and the well-being of her students that makes Traci an outstanding educator who empowers her pupils and those around her.

You can follow Traci on Twitter @TraciEspeland

Love connections (through tech)

I know a lot of people only see how technology wedges in between people, noting how groups will sit together and stare at devices rather than speaking. It’s a problem, I get it. But I am a proponent of using technology to bring people together, to see how it can be used to connect, and I love stories about how that happens.

I was lucky enough to catch a story on NPR’s Morning Edition with Rachel Martin and Newberry Award winner Kwame Alexander. Back in January, the segment asked teachers to share a prompt with students. It was just a simple “Love is…” but the show received responses from over 2,000 classrooms across the country.

https://www.npr.org/2019/01/28/688284226/what-is-love-teachers-share-this-prompt-with-your-students

And then… magic happened. Like he has in the past, Kwame Alexander wrote a crowdsourced/paella/casserole/GUMBO poem for Valentine’s Day. “‘Kids finding their voice and lifting it up, for love,’ he tells NPR. “Nothing more powerful than that.'”

From a simple prompt to a love poem for families, teachers, pets, movies, food, and expectations. This prompt, and this technology, a radio program, brought people together and made connections through words and feelings. It created a shared experience and published creation for students and teachers across the country.

Listen to the poem – or read it to your class – and see how your students connect to the writers and the common experiences.

https://www.npr.org/2019/02/14/694635029/love-is-_____-more-than-2-000-entries-filled-in-the-blank

Annotate in Google Docs

Google’s Applied Digital Skills lessons for students are amazing. They just released one on annotating (note taking) with Google Docs that teaches students WHY and HOW to annotate. This is a great resource if you are working on creating a paperless classroom or if you just want students to develop their annotation skills in a variety of ways (because they can also annotate paper, annotate on sticky notes, take 2 column notes, etc.)

Check out the Applied Digital Skills lesson to see how you can apply the learning in your own classroom!

Best-in-Class Resources–You Decide — Ask a Tech Teacher

Every year, I review a large number of websites, apps, and resources that help educators blend technology into their classrooms. I get lots of feedback from readers sharing their experiences, asking questions, and clicking through to see if a particular tool will serve their needs. But, I often don’t hear how the product worked in…

via Best-in-Class Resources–You Decide — Ask a Tech Teacher

Leading the way for students

Twice in the last few weeks I’ve needed to write about my leadership experiences – I always list Every 15 Minutes as the one I am most proud of. As leaders (and all teachers are leaders) we lead our students by example.

In August of 2013 two high school students, Brooke McPheters and Jordyn Durr, were struck and killed by a drunk driver while walking home on a sidewalk from the mall. I didn’t know either of them, though I knew kids who did and teachers who knew them well in classes at South and Service. Too often as teachers we are used to tragedy but there was something about them, these two girls, that made me want to do something more.

They were killed right by where I used to work when I first moved to Anchorage. They were killed on a sidewalk I biked or walked on several times a day for months as I commuted to my job teaching preschool. I felt at some level like I could relate to them – I found out that many kids I knew well did relate to Brooke and Jordyn, either through friendship or experience.

So, I recruited students to co-lead the program with me and we were able to pull off an event that was effective and true to the origins of the national program while showcasing the talents of South’s new video production class. I am so proud of the work Shelby, Amanda, Jordan, and John did as student leaders and how our student body received that work. I’m thrilled with how we coordinated with police and fire (it’s hard!) and the video class. I’m relieved still that my colleagues and administration supported our efforts and guided us when necessary. But mostly I am proud that we stepped up and actually did some small thing to try to prevent an accident like that from occurring again. 

When I read the comments adults make on the work and efforts of protestors, teenagers who are not too different from the kids I’ve always taught, I feel sick. These teenagers have the ability to change the world, as generations before them have had. I hope that all of us educators who have helped lead small changes recognize that how and why we have taught and led students has made the world a better place and has helped show our students how to do the same.

Flip the parent teacher conference

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For the last few years our parent teacher conferences have been held during the week of President’s Day. This means there is no school Monday, no school Friday, and two half days. Not surprisingly, a lot of families travel that week and skip conferences all together.  Teachers still have a long week of conferences though.

There are a number of alternatives to parent conferences that schools could try and, after chatting with a friend this afternoon when I swung by my old school, I decided to put together and publish a list of ideas I’ve been accumulating for the last few years – especially since I used to have a lot of time on my hands during the night of conferences.

The other thing I noticed, at least from my teacher perspective, is that the families who attended conferences were usually the ones whose children were successful in school while the struggling students didn’t have anyone attend.

From Alternative Models for Traditional Parent Teacher Conferences, Tammy Jackson’s idea to use the evening as time for student credit recovery is great. “Our attempts to develop non-traditional uses of contractual PTC time were not meant to diminish the importance of communicating with parents. Positive relationships with parents are the single most important aspect of a healthy school culture. Working directly with students is what we do best and should always be our number one priority.”

I love the idea of showcasing some student talent in the auditorium and in the hallways – kind of like a gallery walk or showcase of work from classes. Some of it could be digital or recorded so it will continue to live online.

Invite parents in for a showing of a film like Screenagers or Most Likely to Succeed in order to continue the conversations about school.

But here’s my idea. Last spring I brainstormed a few ways to let parents be more involved in my classroom. I’d already had success flipping back to school night so parents could come in and talk to me instead of just listen to me. In a typical PTC there is very little depth of conversation or of understanding the learning that is taking place. So…

Flip the conference. Parents check grades online with relative frequency and have easy access to teachers through e-mail. Some teachers have websites or learning management systems that parents can check out to view the assignments, or send out regular newsletters with updates on the overall learning that is taking place in classrooms. So why not take it a step further? We may have plenty of rigor and relevance in our classrooms, but we need to develop our relationships with parents and families, not just students.

A week or so before conferences send parents a brief reflective survey on their child’s learning and collect it via a conversation at parent conferences. For parents who can’t attend, or for the purpose of collecting qualitative data, you could collect information electronically via a Google Form. Make sure there is a way to include questions, to make the flipped PTC inquiry-based rather than just an assignment parents complete. If you collect digital work from your students, have them accumulate it into a simple folder in Google Drive or a fancy Google Site as a digital portfolio for parents to check out ahead of time.

You could take it a little further and build in time for students to reflect on their learning (standards, college and career readiness, mindset, etc. would all be great places to start) and then share those reflections with parents so the conversation can center around metacognitive learning.

In my opinion, as both an educator and a parent, this would be more fun and thought-provoking than our traditional high school conferences. Since parents and students are coming off the more dynamic model of student-led conferences at middle school, it could be a great opportunity to build on that collaborative, student centered culture.