Keys to the Perfect Presentation

Raise your hand if you hate student presentations. Every year, at the beginning of the year- I’m right there with you, with my hand raised up high in the air, as if it were a white flag, surrendering my time and sanity. Sitting through a middle school presentation is torture. To many, they are completely pointless…. who’s getting anything out of this? The presenters literally have their backs turned to the audience and are reading word for word off a PowerPoint slideshow (you know what I’m talking about) and the audience members are completely unengaged thinking about their own projects. But in their defense, students are mostly just expected to know what to do. They aren’t taught how to give a proper presentation. More and more teachers are forgoing classroom presentations because it’s just an overall awful experience (Maybe I’m being a bit overly dramatic…), but the lack of presentations is actually the problem. Every teacher knows the value of this skill and how important it is to be able to effectively communicate thoughts and ideas. Communication is a skill that needs to be practiced, and practice makes perfect. If they aren’t practicing, it’s no surprise why your students may be terrible at presenting.

Here are 5 keys to get your students to give the perfect presentation. I go through all these before our first couple of presentations. (Remember… they have to be taught these things!) It is great if you can model a good version vs bad version for students to see, hear and experience.

1. Set Expectations for the Presenters

Presenters should be facing the audience and speak in a loud tone so their voices reach the back of the room. They should speak slowly and clearly so that the audience can understand them. They should engage audience members with their eyes by making eye contact. Presenters in a group should know when it is their turn to speak.

Some things to consider… Is it a requirement that everyone has a speaking role? Can they read off a paper, notecard, or do they need to have it memorized?

2. Set Expectations for the Audience

Audience members should be actively listening to the presenters and not cause a disruption to the presenting group by making any unnecessary sounds or movements. There should be no items around them to distract them. Audience members should be thinking about questions they may have for the presenters to be asked at the end of the presentation.

3. Give Students an Opportunity to Rehearse

Give your students time to do a run though with their group members. Although they may practice at home, it is important to get the order and flow down prior to getting in front of the class. This is also an opportunity for presenters to get some last-minute feedback from their group. Remind students this is not the time to be working on their project, but running through their presentation.

4. Use Sentence Starters

Sometimes when students don’t know what to say, sentence starters can be a great tool in assisting students to a great presentation. Here is an example of a way to start and end a presentation.

“Hello, my name is _______, _________, and ________.  Today we are going to present ___________(topic). We chose this topic because _____________.”

“Thank you for listening to our presentation. We hope you enjoyed it. Are there any questions we can answer for you?”

5. Give Affirmations and Feedback to Groups

Presentation skills cannot improve without feedback. Just telling a group “Good job” and having a round of applause will not make a good presenter. You can write feedback on a sheet to give to the group/ individual and shout out all the positive things you see in a presentation. At the end of all the presentations, ask the class what were some great things and some things the class as a whole still need to work on.

Practice makes progress, and consistency is key! If you keep at it, your students will be a pro at presenting, and that will go a long way, not only in your classroom, but in the real world and workforce.

The Science behind Escape Rooms

Have you ever gotten to experience the excitement of trying an escape room? I still remember my first time completing a real-life, in person escape. I remember the nervousness of trying to enter codes that would hopefully open locks as timed ticked away and the feeling of success when we broke out with just seconds to go. The escape room forced my team to use our critical thinking skills and gave us an opportunity to bond after working so closely- each person contributing in their own unique way. You can bring that same excitement and thrill to your students with a classroom escape! Classroom escapes are not new, and if you haven’t gotten on the bandwagon, here’s why you need to try one out!

1.  Standards Aligned

Content is key! All EzPz Science Escape Rooms are aligned to state standards for grades 6-8. They are editable so that you can modify or change questions to meet the needs of your students. 

2. Higher Level Thinking

Students will need to apply what they have learned to answer questions. The higher level questions challenge students during the Escape Room.

3. Builds Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Communication Skills

Escape Rooms are the perfect activity to develop the 21st century skills that work places are looking for. When students work in groups, they need to use collaboration skills and need to know how to communicate to move though the Escape Room. There are puzzle locks at each station that make students use those critical thinking skills.

4. High Retention

Students retain information best when they are involved in an activity they enjoy. The competition and time crunch will help leave an academic impression on your students.

5. Fun and Engaging

No more boring worksheets! EzPz Escape Rooms will have all students working together and actively engaged in learning science. There is a place for every student to shine, whether it is helping to answer the questions, solving the puzzle locks or operating technology.

EzPz Escape Rooms use digital locks for students to pass from one room to another. There are several options to complete the Escape Room, including 100% digitally, without technology, or a combination of printed station cards using digital locks. Set up is a breeze and the 100% digital version is no prep- just share a link with your students. Check out the complete list of EzPz Science Escape Rooms.

5 Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day in Your Classroom

Could there be anything worse than combining the hormones of middle school students with Valentine’s Day? For some teachers, it is a total blessing if Valentine’s Day falls on a weekend- but Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be all that bad. Don’t get me wrong- I totally despise carnation sales and cringe every time I see giant oversized stuffed animals and balloons being paraded down the hallway. Not to mention trying to teach kids while they are overloaded with chocolate and conversation hearts and who only have love on their minds. I mean, can the day be any more dramatic?? I know it seems like it would be best to just pretend that Valentine’s day doesn’t exist and go on with your normal teaching day, but by acknowledging the holiday, you are bringing everyday real-life into the classroom and you show that you can be the fun teacher too. Here are some ways to celebrate (or acknowledge if you don’t want to go overboard…) and make Valentine’s Day work in your favor.

1. Have your students show their love for their teachers

Have your students write notes to their teachers about why they love their class. This is a great way for your students to take a moment to think past themselves and to show some love to their teachers. A couple of days before Valentine’s Day, I print heart shapes out on pink and red colored paper and pass them out as a warm-up. It starts with the sentence starter “I love your class because….” and the students just write in their own responses for whichever teacher they would like. If they want more hearts, I gladly pass out however many they want. At the end of the day, I have students group them by teacher and tape them to the teachers’ door. You could also just place them in their teacher mailboxes. It is always a pleasant surprise to those teachers. You can get the FREE Valentine Heart Printable here. 

2. Fully immerse your students into Valentine’s Day with an Escape Room

Hmmm… An escape room? – ain’t nobody got time for that…. Well, you do if it is a Science Escape Room and it is content-related. One of the best ways to teach on Valentine’s Day is if you are doing an activity where students will be completely engaged. Seriously- they will totally forget all the drama of Valentine’s Day if they are working together as teams to make an escape! This EzPz Science Valentine’s Day Escape Room can be completed in the classroom or virtually. The 100% digital version makes the activity No Prep- Easy Peasy! You can get the Valentine’s Day Escape Room here. 

3. Play a game of Bingo with Conversation Hearts

My kiddos love playing Bingo- but near Valentine’s Day, we do a little twist and we use conversation hearts as our markers. I’m a sucker for buying candy after a holiday so I’ve had these huge bags of conversation hearts just waiting for this special occasion. In past years, I always had a bowl of heart candies in the middle of a group and students just grabbed them to play with- not to eat! Of course, you may find yourself in the middle of a pandemic and this isn’t possible due to safety concerns. In that case- you should try digital bingo. It’s just like playing regular bingo, only students use digital chips to cover their boxes. You can check out a full line of Bingo Science Topics here. They come in print and digital versions. 

4. Show them what real Chemistry is.

For a middle schooler, there is so much excitement, intrigue and drama with anything that has to do with Valentine’s Day- because you know, hormones. Why not use that to your advantage and have your students do science with a Valentine theme? Here’s are some activities that combine Matter and Chemistry and Science Process Skills with all the Valentine’s Day mushy stuff. Try this Valentine’s Day Chemistry worksheet, Physical and Chemical Changes in Valentine’s Day Tips, Valentine’s Day Conversation Heart Messages and Scientific Measurements for Valentine’s Day. Your students will still be learning science- but your students will think you are so cool for letting them celebrate! 

5. Give them (or yourself) the last 10-15 minutes of class

If you have some spare time or you need something for early finishers, you can always give your students an activity that is holiday related. Try these Valentine’s Day Fun Puzzlers. There are 6 Fun Puzzlers to choose from and your students will be fully engaged (while you try to do the attendance you were supposed to submit 20 minutes ago…..) You can also have them color this FREE adorable Valentine’s Day Color Sheet

Teaching on Valentine’s Day isn’t completely hopeless. In fact, if you choose the right lessons, it can be quite engaging. Middle school students love the drama and if you add the drama into their lessons- it may be a match made in heaven.