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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Understanding the Structure of Presentations


By: Caleb Abshire
Student
Columbus Signature Academy New Tech
Columbus, IN

Mark Twain once said, “It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” The reason a good speech takes so long to prepare is that all good speeches tend to be like trees, at least in their structure. Where a tree has a trunk, branches, leaves, and roots, a speech has a thesis, segues (anecdotes or jokes), visual aids, and facts and statistics.  While a tree pollinates the ground, a speech should be planting a seed in the mind of one’s audience. The elements that make a presentation different are also what make public speaking a powerful form of communication: tone of voice and a direct relationship to one’s audience. However, both of these rely on a well-built and sturdy foundation.

The Roots
The roots of a presentation are its facts and statistics. They are what allow a presentation to stand upright and feed the presentation the nutrients it needs to really blossom. Without solid, credible facts and/or statistics, a presentation can easily be toppled and proclaimed to be a lie.

The Trunk
Carrying the facts and statistics throughout the presentation is the trunk of our metaphorical tree, the thesis statement or motif. A presentation must always be focused, well scoped and purposeful. A presentation without a point is afternoon-tea talk. A thesis could be anything from “I like bananas” to “Bananas are going to cure cancer,” so long as you stick to it and make it strong.

The Branches
The main reason trees are so loved is that they provide lots of resources. They provide shelter, shade, food, oxygen, paper, pencils; practically everything in use today has probably used some part of a tree in its manufacturing. Trees can provide so much of this because of their branches. Likewise, a presentation should give food for thought, a place to put our thoughts into words and act on them, a reprieve from having to fight our own fights, and a record of what humanity is thinking through each sentence.

The Leaves
The leaves of the presentation are the visual aids and jokes or anecdotes used throughout to make the
thesis easy to remember. They make a presentation pretty and are what start the fire in people’s hearts first. Leaves are a tree’s respiratory system; visual aids and anecdotes are a presentation’s. A good visual aid grabs the audience’s attention and reminds them what’s going on. If trees were just wide blocks of wood, they wouldn’t be very fun. Visual aids, jokes, and anecdotes provide the volume to cover a wider breadth of material without suffocating the audience. 

Voice and Audience
A tree doesn’t have a voice to provoke emotion in people; it can do so without one. The speaker must be the voice of the presentation. It is important to know one’s audience in order to prune the “tree” directly to them. Some may say that a tree is much prettier when it was planted for them, and in the same way a presentation is much more likely to be listened to if it was pruned for the audience. Trim the bits that the audience won’t particularly enjoy and substitute with something more relevant, and then present in such a way that the audience will listen by using all of the capabilities of expression given to us as humans.

My Trees
Over the years here at CSA I’ve written and given many presentations. At the end of each project (which we have one of in each class every month) we have to present our findings in a concise and followable manner to score points on our “Oral Communication” Rubric. One of my favorites was presenting my idea for clean renewable energy in a project we call “Shark Tank”, stylized like the eponymous T.V. show. That project was fun for me because I was so proud, not only of my shake-to-charge battery, but because I knew I had a solid presentation to back me up. I had a trunk that focused on the need for a clean, renewable energy source. My mathematics became my roots, and my technical drawings my branches. My stories about working with my dad on electronics provided the shade and beauty that my presentation would have otherwise lacked. My presentation didn’t win, but I was still proud to see that my tree’s seeds had been sown. 

About the Author: Caleb Abshire is a junior at Columbus Signature Academy New Tech. He loves his whole family, including his three younger siblings. He enjoys reading and writing and physics, as well as video games and music.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The 6 R's of Summerrrrrr--May 2018

Trisha Burns
Columbus Signature Academy Middle School
Columbus, IN
@BurnsTrisha

Ahhhh...summer.  We are always so excited to see it come, and we are sad to see it go.  As teachers we joke around saying things like “sure we get the summers off.”  The “teacher in the summer” memes make us smile and cry all at the same time.  Regardless if you feel you have a summer “break” or wonder how in the world you ever have time to teach in the first place, there are certain things all teachers should try to do over the summer.
Refresh and Reflect


 I love that I get to facilitate for Magnify Learning in the summer.  It means every summer I go through the steps of planning a project from a beginner’s level.  I love getting to be refreshed on the basics of PBL so often.  It doesn’t seem to matter than I’ve been doing PBL for 10 years and facilitating for 8 years, I still love getting this refresher!  I get to share experiences and my best practices while giving feedback and learning from other teachers across the country. New project ideas are an added bonus to a summer PBL workshop!
 I know not everyone is ready or able to be a facilitator, but throughout the summer we should spend time reflecting on our best practices and refreshing on the basics of our teaching methods.  Maybe you could search project libraries for new project ideas. Maybe you spend time on Pinterest getting new scaffolding or workshop ideas, or maybe you sit down with your team of teachers at a local coffee shop and reflect how your previous year succeeded or failed to live up to last summer’s expectations.  One opportunity that is very beneficial is signing up for a PBL Advanced course. You get to capture the basics of project planning, but you get to do it with a more in depth focus now that you have some experience under your belt.  Whatever you decide to do, take some time to reflect and freshen up on your PBL skills.  
Read and Receive
Hi. My name is Trisha Burns and I am a professional development junkie.  I remember when I
first heard about Project Based Learning.  I was so excited that I was going to be able to go to a week long professional development workshop.  Little did I know it would change my teaching career so significantly.  By taking a week out of my summer, I was able to, with my fellow 8th grade math teacher, plan a whole new curriculum! We had more project ideas than we had time for in the school year. Although 10 years later I don’t still use the same projects we created, I do still use the protocols and planning methods I learned that week.
Summer is a perfect time to learn something new. If you are new to PBL, you should sign up for a PBL Jumpstart course near you, or do some reading through the Magnify Learning blog to become more familiar with the PBL process and culture of your classroom.  Regardless if this school year is your first year of using PBL or your 10th year, there is always something new to learn.  Sometimes you don’t even know what you don’t know, and if that is the case, I suggest Twitter for you.  Follow Magnify Learning @magnifylearning or get yourself involved in #PBLchat and begin to learn best practices from other schools or teachers.  I know several organizations have come together to put a framework around PBL at HQPBL. It would be a great place to read about the research supporting PBL and what experts would say is the framework around PBL.   However you decide to learn this summer, take some time to read and receive new information that will make you a better teacher for the upcoming year.  
Rejuvenate and Relax
 
And the fun part. Don’t forget to take time for you this summer.  Take time to relax; take time to rejuvenate. The best thing you can give your family, your team members, and your students is a happy and healthy you.  As much as I like to learn new things and to reflect on the last year, I also like to be able to pursue passions or adventures that I don’t get to experience during the school year.  
If you look at the calendar you may panic.  The summer is so short, and it will go so fast.  How can you make a plan?  Which of the 6 R’s of summer, do you need to make a bigger priority this summer? If you normally spend your whole summer becoming familiar with your curriculum, or planning your projects, or learning something new, don’t forget to take some time for yourself to relax.  However, if you normally spend your whole summer relaxing, don’t forget to think ahead.  A little preparation can truly help you get the year off to a good start and maybe you can stay relaxed a little bit longer into the school year.  
How do you spend your summer?  I would love to hear about the professional development or “aha” moments you have this summer and that you plan to use to help your upcoming school year be more successful.