No audience ever complained about a presentation being too short.
What makes a presentation great? In the wonderful book Minds Made for Stories, Thomas Newkirk writes a bit about his time on the school board. If you’ve ever served on a school board, you know the work includes sitting through presentations. Lots of presentations. Too many presentations! Tom notes that the meetings were always televised, so all the board members had to look attentive, even when their eyes were glazing over. The experience made him think about what kind of presentation style drew in the audience. Good presentations didn’t depend on the perfect structure or killer graphics. A strong presentation inspired him to action by the end of it. He writes:
Form . . . is not simply a structure or a plan or outline; it is a deeply embodied invitation to movement.
The best presentations begin with a tension, issue, or problem that gets your attention. The tension is linked to a need to improve, with something important at stake. Only then are possibilities for resolution shared. If you’ve hooked your audience, they are ready at the end to go on a quest to explore those possibilities for meaningful change.
Tom’s explanation of the form of powerful presentations made me think about how many awful presentations I sat through as a school board member or in professional development workshops. The form Tom describes was inverted. A new program was presented that had already been adopted, the problem it addressed was then offered up in a simplistic or cursory way, and the quest was over before it had even begun for the audience.
We’re starting the summer season of workshops for teachers. You may even be putting together a few of these presentations yourself. If you’re a presenter, here is the critical question:
Does my presentation end with a deeply embodied invitation to move?
In other words, does the problem you’re presenting have flesh and blood? Is it deeply embedded in your experience, in the stories you share from your classroom or school?
Is it invitational, with not one solution but a few possibilities, any of which might be accepted or rejected? Because it’s not an invitation if there is no opportunity to reject it.
Do participants know how to make a first move once the presentation is over? More important, will they be itching to get moving and start a quest for a solution after you’ve finished presenting?
The worst presentations I had to sit through all announced a change that I was going to be a part of, like it or not. It’s human nature to want to sit like a lump and resist when you’re being told you’ve gotta move. On the other hand, one of the most surprising pleasures for a teacher is to go to a presentation and leave not just with inspiration, but itching to try something new. A well-designed presentation is a gift, and what an honor you have if you’re someone who gets to give it.
This week we look at strategic instruction in small groups. Plus more as always—enjoy!
Founder, Choice Literacy
Please Note: We’ll be off the next two weeks for our annual summer break, and back starting July 12 for new content all summer long.
Tara Barnett and Kate Mills discover giving “compliments and wishes” aren’t enough when it comes to useful feedback for revision in peer groups. They implement a more structured response process for writing groups.
Heather Rader synthesizes recommendations and provides examples of how grouping structures work in classrooms.
Melanie Meehan shares some of her favorite tools to have on hand for small-group instruction.
In The Limits of Levels online course, Cathy Mere demonstrates a range of strategies for understanding and meeting the needs of young learners. The course runs June 18-30. Choice Literacy members receive discounts of 20-40% on the course fee.
New members-only content is added each week to the Choice Literacy website. If you’re not yet a member, click here to explore membership options.
So many needs for small groups, and so little time. Dana Murphy finds that a strategy “easel” notebook is invaluable as a teaching aid in her groups.
Shari Frost is surprised to see guided reading used for proficient fifth-grade readers. She considers some strategic alternatives.
This week, we conclude our video series on student annotation strategies in Franki Sibberson’s classroom. In this installment, Antonio shares his Google Slides.
In an encore video, Bitsy Parks helps a small group of first graders engage with the library early in the year by introducing a series with companion stuffed animals.
Lead Literacy now has a new home as the Leaders Lounge at Choice Literacy. We’ll be posting the new content updates here in the Leaders Lounge section of the Big Fresh newsletter.
Teachers often ask a principal or coach to read a draft or help with writing. What do you do when the adult writer needs a lot of guidance? Jennifer Schwanke finds herself in this position, and considers the moves she makes.
In this demonstration lesson with a sixth-grade group, Tammy Mulligan brings a chart of ideas from students in another school to jump-start the discussion of what’s “talkworthy” in book clubs. The lesson includes a prebrief and debrief with the classroom teacher.
Ken Downer explains why when it comes to establishing trust in a leadership team, it may be the little things that matter most.
None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.
That’s all for this week! Remember, we’re off on summer break the next two weeks. We’ll be back with new content starting July 12.