Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Power of a Target

Reading strategies, presentation skills, and slideware best practice--I wanted to reinforce all of these in 4

 periods with 10th graders who had just finished reading Cry, the Beloved Country. Oh, yes, and the second of the periods was a 25-minute sliver of a crazy half-day filled with school bazaar doings. Was it possible? I decided to see what would happen if I focused on a limited target, communicated it clearly, and provided an environment conducive to making it happen.


  1. Explore information that would be helpful background or interesting extension for the reading of Cry, the Beloved Country.
  2. Practice basic verbal and non-verbal presentation skills.
  3. Create 1 slide that is error-free, easy to read, and memorably reinforces your presentation.

Format: A 1-minute presentation with 1 slide.

Question: How will you use the 25 minutes of today’s bizarre schedule to help yourself and your neighbor be ready to present on Tuesday?

Actual interactions:

Student: “So can I use 4 slides?”
Me: “What do the directions say? You wouldn’t want to show more than a slide a minute anyway! Words are what you’re already giving they from your mouth. How can 1 slide illuminate and make memorable your words?”
Student: “Can I use a picture?”

“Is it enough of a presentation if I just teach them how to say some Zulu words?”

“I just searched ‘crime in Johannesburg’ and there have been 2 news stories in the last hour, 12 in the last 24!”

Student: “Is this good information?”
Me: “Your classmates will be hearing this and 25 other presentations in the course of 1 period. Will they remember this when they walk out of the room?”

“Is Desmond Tutu still alive? My friend met him.”

Student: “So if I picked ‘mines in South Africa’ do you want me to do like back in the time of the novel, or now?”
Me: “As long as you can connect it to the book--historical would explain the setting of the novel, and current would show to what extent Paton’s hopes and fears have come true. That’s what ‘background’ and ‘extension’ mean.”
Student: “Ooooooohhh!”

An assessment does not always need to involve huge amounts of time and effort to provoke learning and target achievement--that's what I'm learning. What is needed: know the target, communicate the target, and provide the environment for students to focus on the target. 

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