Learning through Presentations

“How many of you have done the 18 minute, right before class, copy and paste, plagiarized, bullet point, turn and read off the screen PowerPoint Presentation? Be honest.”

Every hand in the room goes up.

We know it as educators, kids know it as students. The presentation really is about finding information, putting it on some slides, add some transitions and then telling the rest of the class what it is you found.

Then there is the audience who is suppose to take notes on the information. A.K.A. copy the bulletpoints in bulletpoint format onto a piece of paper. Because there is so much learning in copying words from the slide to paper….NOT……and of course as you are busy copying the words you’re not listening to what the presenter is saying…not that it matters they’re just reading the words off the slides anyway. 

 

Pecha KuchaWhat if there was a different way? What if the presentation was a story, a journey, an in-depth look into some aspect of a book, a time period as told through images and the research of the storyteller. What if the preperation of making the presentation was about learning? What if it was about crafting a story and understanding a topic to the point where you could stand and without notes, without bulletpoints tell your story. 

That’s exactly what I’ve been working with in partnership with one of our high school English teachers. Let me give you the outline.

Students in 9th grade English are reading To Kill a Mockingbird. A classic read for many students in high school. To help students understand the novel and the time period in which it takes place. Each student researches some aspect of the 1930’s. Students are given a list of topics or are free to come up with their own. Some topics include, Adolf Hitler, Fascism, The Great Depression, FDR, Women in 1930 America. 

Students have free range to choose a topic (Autonomy) as long as they can tie it some how to the book, or how this might have affected the characters in the book in that time period. 

Once they have chosen their topic and had a conversation about the angle they are going to take with it and how it ties to the book, they are set free to research (Mastery). 

The Purpose is to craft a story on how or why they feel their topic ties to Kill a Mockingbird

Students use a modified Pecha-Kucha format. Because of timing instead of 20 slides 20 seconds a slide. We went with 15 slides x 20 seconds for an even 5 minute presentation.

Time Period: 2 Weeks (including 2 weekends)

Why a Pecha Kucha:

  1. Equality: Every student gets exactly 5 minutes. No 3-5 or 5-7 minute presentation. Everyone gets 5 minutes to tell their story.
  2. Style: The style of a Pecha-Kucha which is very much telling a story through pictures allows students to think both literally and symbolically about the pictures they use to tell their story. The focus is on the story not the slides. The slides act as a visual representation of the story and are not the story themselves.
  3. Content Knowledge: When using the Pecha-Kucha format there is no faking content knowledge. Students need to know their content to a depth that they can stand and deliever a story using pictures as a visual trigger to the story telling process.
  4. Examplars: Using the Pecha-Kucha.org website students have a vast array of examplar presentations to learn from and get ideas from. 

Assessment:

Because telling a story is all about whether or not you made your point, the audience (students) rated each presentation right after it was given. We created a form in Google Docs. Kids would listen to the presentation and takes notes. Once the presentation was over and as the next presenter was setting up the students would fill out the rubric on the presentation, hit submit and get ready for the next presentation.

Questions on the rubric. Answered on a 1 – 5 scale of 1 = Stongly Disagree to 5 = Strongly Agree

  • The presenter has answered the ‘so what’ factor effectively
  • The presenter has a clear thesis statement
  • Vocal features (tone, pace, volume) are present
  • The presenter has used visual images symbolically and has linked them clearly to the thesis statement
  • The presenter has utilized eye contact and not referred to notes
  • The presenter has provided a handout with sources and a Works Cited page
  • The presenter has shown creativity in their use of Pecha Kucha (15×20 – 5 mins)
  • The presenter – answered questions from the audience with confidence
  • Comments to the Presenter

Use of Class Time: The research and the creating of the actual presentation where done outside of class. Class time was used to teach about creative commons pictures, creating compelling presentation, research skills, a clear thesis statement and answering the “so what” factor as the presentation related to the book. In other words class time was used to teach skills and context of the presentation. (Reverse Instruction)

Student Reaction:

  • Hate it: A lot of work for 5 minute presentation. (Love it!)
  • Hate it: Had to come up with my own topic, just tell me what to research. (Love it!)
  • Hate it: Finding pictures and thinking about how they fit with my story was tough. (Love it!)
  • Like it: I really learned what it was I was researching and in some cases ended up going in a different direction then where I started.
  • Love it: Being in the audience you really had to listen and figure out how the picture tied to the story. 

Teacher Reaction:

  • By far the best presentations I’ve seen from kids hands down.
  • The bump up in learning was amazing.
  • Watching some kids who struggle in class shine blew me away.
  • Will never go back to an “old” presentation style for this project again.

Lastly invite every administartor you know to come in and watch. You can’t help but listen to a couple of these presentations and go WOW. The level of learning, the content knowlede, the creativity and use of pictures is far beyond what even I expected. On top of that some of the angles students took on their research and how they believed it tied to the book was far beyond my own comprehension. Kids are at all different parts of the book as they read To Kill a Mockingbird. More than once students were caught whispering to one another “I haven’t gotten to that point in the book yet…..I need to get reading.” The teacher, loving the format and the learning he was seeing also did this same process with 11th grade IB students. What they produced was college level thinking and the depth that some of them with their thinking can’t be put into words. Simply an amazing project that I believe has changed both classroom practice and student knowledge for years to come.