Want Better Student Presentations in Your Classroom? Take Away PowerPoint.

When I first started assigning presentations in my classroom, that was all I did: Assign presentations. The students were given guidelines, but they were essentially left on their own to figure out how to plan and perform their presentations. And for most of my students that meant creating a PowerPoint that had every word they were going to say scripted on each slide because their plan was to read it to the class while facing the screen.

I welcomed the break from having to be the one up front, but those presentations were so painful. And I wasn’t the only one suffering. The students were too. The speakers and the audience.

Since those days, I have learned how to actually teach public speaking–as opposed to just assigning it. But even when I started teaching public speaking, I wasn’t seeing growth in all my students right away. When I was puzzling over this, one day I had an epiphany! Take Away PowerPoint. My students were relying on their visuals too much. They were hiding behind their slide deck. What they needed was to learn how to be the most interesting thing in the room. Continue reading “Want Better Student Presentations in Your Classroom? Take Away PowerPoint.”

Presentations: How 2 Sources Transformed Public Speaking in My Classroom

How has your experience been with assigning presentations in your classroom? Inspiring? Fun? Or does it sound more like how mine use to? Before I made significant changes, my students would make PowerPointⓇ presentations with busy slide decks. They would stand up in front of the class, face the projected image, and talk to the board instead of the class. When it was all over, we would all clap.

If your classroom presentations look like that, then it’s time for you to say “Enough!” I am still in the middle of learning how to teach my students to be better oral communicators, so you won’t see anything magical in my classroom, but you will see confident students, facing the class, note cards in hand, transitioning from topic to topic, with relevant visuals (and almost no text) on their slides. They have impressed me in ways I never thought possible with me as their teacher. I used to think that it was the job of another more competent teacher to get students ready for public speaking. But I have found that anyone can do it.  Continue reading “Presentations: How 2 Sources Transformed Public Speaking in My Classroom”

2 Small Things Completely Changed How I View My Students

I just had THE BEST first day of school of my entire career, and it had nothing to do with my circumstances. And I don’t just mean that the quality of my first day of school notched up slightly above other starts. I mean this was off the charts amazing! Like Takeru Kobayashi smashing the world record for eating 50 hot dogs in 10 minutes, when the previous record was 25, kind of amazing!

Okay, I’ll get on with it.

Before I jump in, I need to say upfront that not much about my circumstances changed from last year to this year. Last year, I was teaching . . .

  • 3 sections of English IV ERWC (with a per class student count of 36, 37, 36) and
  • 2 sections English II Honors (with a per class student count of 27, 27)

This year I am teaching . . .

  • 4 sections of English IV ERWC (with a per class student count of 36, 36, 36, 36) and
  • 1 section of English II Honors (with a per class student count of 36)

Never mind the high numbers in my classes, I want you to notice the similarities. Same courses, with just a few more students. The caliber of students under my care isn’t significantly different. So what made this start so much better? Continue reading “2 Small Things Completely Changed How I View My Students”

This Tiny Change Had a Big Impact

When it comes to New Year’s Resolutions, I never win. Well, except for the last New Year’s Resolution I ever made, which was “Resolved: I will NEVER make another New Year’s Resolution for the rest of my life.” So far, I have been holding to that one flawlessly!

But why am I talking about the New Year? For us teachers, it might as well be the new year. And it is the time when many of us take our reflections from the previous school year, the wins and loses, and decide what we want to tweak, add, throw out, or change (or, as I teach my students how to revise their writing: Replace, Add, Delete, and Reorder).

Last year I made one tiny change to my day-to-day, and was able to do it all year long. Every. Day. It pushed me and challenged me. It has shown me that I really can set goals for self-improvement and make real changes, really! The thing is, the goal I set is kind of stupid. I’m almost embarrassed enough to not talk about it at all. I thought it was so silly when I decided to do it, I did NOT share it with anyone. I kept it to myself. But it was such a success, I think I want to share it. Just promise not to judge me. Continue reading “This Tiny Change Had a Big Impact”

My FREE Online Course: Why You Should Sign Up Today!

ELA teachers, when it comes to writing instruction, I have found no other method, tool, or program that has as much impact as The Writer’s Notebook. Yes, there are great strategies around every corner, many of which you and I are currently using in your classroom. But how would you like to amplify their effect, taking them further than you thought possible?

Here were my top pain points as a writing teacher:

  • Students would learn a writing lesson, but they were not applying it in their writing
  • Students were not transferring writing lessons from one assignment to the next
  • Students didn’t keep their learning organized, which made recall a challenge
  • I never felt like they were writing enough

==> I’M SURE YOUR STORY’S GREAT, BUT I WANT TO SIGN UP FOR THE COURSE RIGHT NOW!! <==

Before I really figured how to use The Writer’s Notebook with my students, my students weren’t retaining my writing lessons at a level that I found satisfying as a teacher. I worked really hard to create engaging lessons that held their interest, assuming that this method would have lasting impact on their writing habits. Although I did find there was incremental improvement in my impact on student achievement, I was still left unsatisfied.  Continue reading “My FREE Online Course: Why You Should Sign Up Today!”

Why I Almost Quit

In my seventh year of teaching, when I was really hitting my stride as a classroom instructor, I was ready to quit. I didn’t want to. I loved teaching. The best way to put it is that I had hit a crisis. In plainest terms, people experience crisis when their behavior and choice patterns no longer work work for them, requiring some kind of change. Another way to put it is, “What has “worked” up until this point WILL NOT work from here on out.” That was me. I felt stuck in an endless loop that was wearing me down more and more each day.

My crisis centered around guilt. And this was no ordinary guilt, where I found myself going between two sides. This guilt loop had three elements, one for each of my main roles at the time: teacher, spouse, and parent. I had responsibilities for each role, and I wasn’t handling any of them well. Maybe I had people fooled, or maybe they were just being kind to me, but inside I was all tangled up in knots. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do next for any of those roles, and felt like I was frantically running from one to the next. That caused a lot of stress, and I was exhausting. I was at quit point. Continue reading “Why I Almost Quit”

The Transformative Power of the Writer’s Notebook

Over the course of this past academic year, I tasked my students with writing 150 entries–at least 150 words per entry–in their Writer’s Notebooks. I assigned specific topics, theme-weeks, story starters, and a lot of free writing over the span of those entries. I collected their work every three weeks (calling these due dates “checkpoints”), checked up on their writing, and gave it right back so they could keep going.

For the final checkpoint, I was burnt out and recently spent almost all my energy grading big inquiry-based argumentative essays and co-creating a live action role playing game inspired by Fahrenheit 451 (This will definitely be a post later on). I didn’t plan anything special for their final submission, so it was unassigned free-writing. But I received quite a gift from a few of my students! On their final entries, many of my students decided to treat it like a yearbook and leave me notes of appreciation, some thanking me for making them do all that writing.

Don’t take it from me, let’s hear from Robert:
Continue reading “The Transformative Power of the Writer’s Notebook”