Teacher Reflections on the Value of Pre-Search and Presentation Zen Style for Student Learning

I’m excited to team up again this month with Deborah Frost, one of the most experienced and talented teachers here at Creekview High School.   Deborah’s 9th Honors/Literature Composition students are in the library for the rest of the month as they inquire into a controversial/hot topic of their choice and craft a persuasive research paper on that topic as well as an oral presentation.  Through trial and error over the years, Deborah and I have learned much together as instructional partners as we’ve reflected long and hard about what has worked and what hasn’t in each collaborative project we’ve endeavored to do with her students.

Last year, Deborah was more than willing to implement two new aspects to the research design we were crafting.  As part of my effort to make a more concentrated effort to frontload the initial connecting, wondering, and investigating stages of inquiry, she agreed to let me build in a larger initial chunk of pre-search time with the students to help them:

1.  gain background knowledge about their controversial/hot topic and determine if that was really the topic they wanted to explore or to see if there were other topics of more interest to them

2.  read more intentionally and thoughtfully to help them begin discerning big ideas from facts

3.  to begin building background knowledge to develop research questions and to determine if the articles really spoke to their information seeking needs

The students worked for approximately six weeks as they researched, submitted research questions, and collaboratively composed a persuasive paper in Google Docs.  The other new component of the learning experience was teaching students skills and concepts associated with the “Presentation Zen” style PowerPoints for a class presentation to compose an oral presentation supported by those visuals that helped tell the narrative of the learning and insights.

Because that design was so rich and successful, we are doing it with this year’s freshmen.  We’ve made a few tweaks to the new and improved pre-search graphic organizer (see below).

We’ll also be incorporating some new search skills to the students as well.  The other new component for the project is the use of EasyBib in place of NoodleTools since EasyBib allows us to more easily create citations for our database articles.   We will once again do the Presentation Zen style presentations, and in April, I’ll blog a few new minor but helpful modifications I’ve come up with this past year to help support the learning curve for the skills associated with that endeavor.  Finally, we’re being flexible with the schedule/timeline of learning activities to be responsive to student needs; while we have a working calendar, we’re letting it be fluid so we can be responsive to the students if they more or less time for a specific skill or learning activity, then we can do that without feeling married to “the calendar”.   I’m appreciative that Deborah Frost is willing to experiment and to be improvisational as needed within the larger framework we’ve co-designed for the students.

I invite you to check out our research guide and to take a few minutes to listen to Deborah’s reflections on the value of pre-search and Presentation Zen style for student learning!

Media 21/Learning 21 Students Reflect on Presentation Zen: Praise and Suggestions for Their Peers

On Friday, November 12, we had about 10 minutes at the end of 4th and 7th period after Day 3 of student presentations in which our Media 21/Learning 21 students are sharing the findings of their “Issues in Africa” research and reading experiences.  I thought it might be helpful for us to take stock of our first three days of presentations, so we used that 10 minutes to reflect on the 12 presentations each class had seen and to offer both praise and constructive criticism for the presenters this upcoming week.  Here were the directions for reflection:

1. What qualities have you seen in the first three days of presentations that have been exemplary or well done?

2. In general, what suggestions might you have for next week’s presenters to be effective speakers/presenters?

Feel free to look to our rubric and presentation guidelines to consider specific suggestions and praise.

Here are the results of the astute, honest, and insightful observations (also cross posted to our daily agenda on our class site hosted at Google Sites):

Our pathfinder I created for students is below if you would like to explore the resources, guidelines, and rubrics.  I’ll be highlighting some additional video from the presentations and slidedecks in the next few days here on the blog (with student permission).