Allow me to demonstrate…

Original Art by Tyson

Most school districts are out for the summer. Do you know why we have summer break? The myth is because we were once an agrarian society, but alas, it is more akin to our consumer society, (myself included), and schools are just too dang hot in the summer months. A few weekends ago my areas saw temperatures in the 90s, although this weekend it’s back to cool and  cloudy. Just in time to sit in a breezy amphitheatre to watch graduation ceremonies.

So–my post may be a little late. This is one of those end-of-school-year projects (and I use the word project loosely) you may want to tuck away from next year, including the beginning of the year as an ice breaker. It’s not original, and depending on your class structure and community, may fly or flop. That’s immaterial, however. It’s the “Demonstration” project.

This took over three block classes:

  1. Preparation:
    • Students brainstorm what they are good at and could demonstrate
    • Students could have an ‘assistant’ but not a partner– individual grades. Their assistants were just that — an extra pair of hands, etc.
    • Some students used their time to research quick and easy things to demonstrate.
  2. Rehearsal:
    • Rehearsal, filming, backdrops, screencastings
    • Students produced a wide variety of demonstrations: everything from card tricks, ‘how to draw’  certain things, how to hack a game (with screencastings).
    • Make sure they use a time device to track to ensure 2 minutes in length.
  3. Finally: presentation day!
    • All backdrops and videos are ready to go
    • Students named are called in order

What goes wrong:

Namely, student egos.

I have one student who is unaware of how much he mocks others. He made one comment before a student showed his demonstration, and the presenter came up to me and asked if he could drop out seconds before, all because of this one comment. This is one of those things where no matter how much you prep students, “tell” them what to do or not to do as audience members, there is always one who doesn’t get it. I even had one student who packed up early because another teacher has put the fear of being tardy so deep in their psyches, (and this colleague does not support one or two minutes of being late if something runs long) she packed up before the last presenter got to present.

Timing, too: it was clear students did not use any timing device to time their presentations, so some didn’t get a chance. That was a relief for some, but quite frankly, when those who are hesitant to present see that others jump right in, it bolsters all.

One schadenfreude moment for me came when one student had clear instructions for a fortune teller paper-folding demonstration, and the audience was quite squirrely. This young lady has, on occasion, disrupted the class herself with her dabbing at Youtube videos. It’s the thing this year, suddenly seeing children tucking their faces in their arms, whilst throwing the other one to the sky, like a choreographed sneeze. I looked at her and asked, “It’s not that easy, is it?” She nodded.

What goes right:

Far more than what goes wrong. Students participated, threw paper airplanes, danced, clapped along, etc. The card and magic tricks still have me mystified (but then again it doesn’t take much). One student demonstrated how to push a needle through a balloon without popping it. One boy demonstrated lacrosse, while another hockey stick handling. Yes, I even had the inevitable ‘how to tie shoes’ but hey, if that can be a TedTalk, it’s certainly appropriate for seventh-grade students.

What would I do differently: 

  • Start earlier in the year.
  • Intersperse humorous ‘how to-s’ throughout the year.
  • Have a rubric.
  • Have them brainstorm a list of ideas for the whole class.
  • PRACTICE NOT BEING A JERK. (You know who you are.)
  • Possibly put the best ones on a classroom blog….hmmm… me an idea!

Well, onward. We have until next Friday, and I’m taking discretionary days for my son’s graduation.

PS The above illustration was a result of how to make a face from words, in this case the word “boy.”

PPS The best performance? A very wonderful young lady who has a soul and heart as open as the sky, who performed, in costume, the fluffy pink unicorn dance.

Adore that girl.


2 thoughts on “Allow me to demonstrate…

  1. This sounds so much like my end of the year presentations. Mine aren’t as active, and maybe next year I will insist on a ‘hands on’ component. Students in my classes fight and fight, some of them, trying to find ways to avoid it. I just make it the biggest factor in their grade for the quarter, and that motivates most of them to complete it, and get over the fear of doing it. You are right, as more of them do it, less of them fear it.


    1. I think next year knowing how kids undermine themselves and others will be helpful — it’s hard to anticipate different personalities that may sabotage these presentations, but often the kids are their own worse enemies. We are going to be formidable next year!


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