Student Presentations and Engagement

This post is in two section: one was written during lunch and the other was written after school.

Lunch
My first period class was very well behaved during the class presentations.  I think posting and constantly reminding them of SLANT (Sit up, Listen, Ask questions, Nod your head, Track the speaker) helped considerably.  Students would turn to face the speaker when I reminded them of SLANT and having is posted up near the board helps them to see it when people present.  Thanks to Ms Perez (and Teach Like a Champion) for the idea.

While I like that they are behaving, I still worry that the group presentations make the learning experience too passive in the current state.  Everyone gets a chance to go up and be an active participant, but most students were still just sitting and listening during this time.  I would like to find a way to help them start asking questions more and make the presentations have more of a discussion component.  In my next two periods I’m going to try making the presentations more like a speed dating format that involves two circles that rotate so each group presents to a new group and presents multiple times.  This might get chaotic, but it will get everyone out of their seats and the passive component for a given person will only be one presentation worth of time at one time (if that makes sense).

I was able to pick up some cut outs of the planets in our solar system with pictures and basic facts to help decorate my room a bit more.  Several students have shown at least some interest in astronomy and maybe more will vocalize any interest they have given the new decorations.  It still isn’t much and is only in one corner of the room, but I think it is a step in the right direction.  It also helps put a little more of my own personal touch on the room since it is near my desk and astronomy is a big passion of mine.

After School
I tried out the multiple presentations (speed dating) style of having groups present in my last two classes today.  In my physics class (last period of the day) almost everyone said that they preferred this style of presentation better to the one group at a time at the front of class style.  It wasn’t too difficult to explain the procedure of moving around and they followed it pretty well.  I don’t know for sure how on task they were since I couldn’t listen to every group at once, but I could tell that some groups definitely did present to each other and some groups were off task at least some of the time.  From what I can tell so far this solved the energy problem in my room, but I need to figure out if the students are actually engaged in the presentation process and are able to learn.

In my 3rd period class (MESA) I also used this process of presentation and had very mixed results.  Some students reported that they really enjoyed moving around and talking to people.  They liked spending more time talking and they liked moving rather than sitting.  Other people did not like presenting multiple times and reported that they would prefer to have the normal one group at a time in front of the class style of presentation.  Some people said they really did not like presenting at all, but preferred the smaller group presentation to the full class one.

I also made a point in this class to give students time initially to think in silence before talking with the people at their table.  I wanted to give a quiet space to the students who really like to think and focus for a while before sharing with others.  This also had mixed results.  Some people said they liked it, while others did not.  Some people asked for more time in silence than I provided them.  This class clearly has a lot of different learning style preferences and will definitely take work on my part to make sure everyone gets the space they need to think and learn.

My overall impression of the day was that everything was higher energy.  The first class, with the more traditional presentation style had more students engaged in the process, but it was in short doses when they presented.  They did not ask each other many questions or get involved with any discussion with other groups.  When I changed things after lunch there was much more energy and discussion between groups.  People asked each other questions about their graphs.  My last period physics class all agreed at the end that the amount of mass does not affect a pendulum’s period, and almost everyone agreed that the length of string did affect the pendulum’s period.  Students seemed to hear and remember other presentations better.  However, there was also more off task behavior.  MESA will be a challenge since there are very different learning styles and mixed feelings about each style of presentation.

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