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Teaching Presentation Skills to Middle Schoolers

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

Presentation skills are often an important part of a student's academic and social development. This lesson provides teachers with practical and effective methods and ideas related to teaching and assessing middle school level presentation skills.

Teaching Presentation Skills to Middle Schoolers

Many students may slink low in their chairs or let out a sigh of despair when they hear the word 'presentation.' However, presentations, when prepared well, can increase a student's confidence and communication skills in a variety of academic and social areas. When you are teaching young learners presentation skills, it's vital to instill them with confidence and allow room for both errors and growth. Very few people are born with the ability to speak with confidence and authority in front of others. The good news is that the ability to present well can be taught and learned if both the teacher and the student are provided with the right tools. This lesson will show you how to teach your middle school students how to present.

Topic Choice & Research

Before a student even begins to think about presenting, they need to know the subject of their presentation inside and out. If possible, allow students to choose their own topics the first time. If a student is personally interested in a subject, the research may become more enjoyable and thus the presentation process starts out on a positive note.

Choose Audience

After students have completed their initial research, divide them into smaller teams to 'workshop' their ideas and practice presenting in smaller groups. During this process, tell them to focus on the following questions:

  • Who are you presenting to?
    • Students should know their audience. This includes: who will be listening to the final presentation, the academic and language level of the listeners, and the overall purpose of the presentation (informative, persuasive, argumentative, etc.).
  • What is the structure of your presentation?
    • Students should think of a presentation like a written essay. It should include an attention-catching introduction, an informative and supportive body, and a conclusion that leaves the listener with a take-away or some kind of information they didn't know before the presentation began. It's also important to include 'signposting' language, like first, second, next, finally, etc., so that the speaker can orient and guide the listener through the presentation. For example:
      • Introduction: Welcome to audience, reason for presentation and overview of topic.
      • Body: Information about the topic, details and examples.
      • Conclusion: Summary of key points and invitation for audience questions.
  • What, if any, visual aids should I use?
    • Visual aids can help, but they shouldn't be the focus of the presentation. A PowerPoint can be an effective tool, but if the listener is paying more attention to a slide than to the speaker, the visual aid is more of a hindrance than a help. Any type of visual aid should assist, not distract.

Practice

It's important to run through the presentation several times, but students shouldn't try to memorize every word. If a student relies on memorization and then loses his or her place or forgets a word, it's very easy to get derailed. Also, a presentation shouldn't sound like a public reading! To prevent this, students should write their presentation notes in the form of an outline with key points and not as a word for word script.

During the preparation period, give students ample time to practice in their workshop groups. After each small group presentation, students should provide feedback to each other that includes both positives aspect of the presentation and areas that the audience feels could be improved.

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