Saturday, May 20, 2017
If a student is asked about their English class, the first things that pops into their heads are reading and writing. However, English has proven to be much more than this. Communication plays a big role in the course. When being interviewed for a job, employers are looking for communication skills. These skills are extremely important for not only getting a job, but for succeeding in life in general as well. This fact begs the question: if communication is so important in the real world, why isn’t it being stressed upon in schools? School is supposed to be the time where young adults are being prepared for the real world. Even though communication is considered one of the most important skills needed to succeed in life, it is often lost to other important subjects like reading or writing.
It is very difficult to practice these skills effectively. Oral presentations are a very common method to train students in this skill. However, presentations only have an impact if executed correctly. “Making a good oral presentation is an art that involves attention to the needs of your audience, careful planning, and attention to delivery.” (www4.caes.hku.hk) Just recently in my English class, I was given the assignment of creating an oral presentation in the form of a rap or a motivational speech. We were to write these presentations on our own with a loose set of guidelines to go upon. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this project would prove to be a perfect example of a great oral presentation assignment. At first, this task seemed very daunting. When I attempted to write my own rap, I was completely out of my comfort zone. I had never written anything like it. To make matters worse, we were to perform our creations in front of the entire class. Although my class is only made up of only twenty-six students, in my mind it felt like a hundred.
This problem plagues today’s classroom. In fact, this is the main reason students despise oral presentations: they are horrified by them. Most fear the fact that they will have to stand in front of their peers and deliver a short speech. Social pressures play a big role here. Embarrassment for not creating a good presentation or looking like a fool is one of the main reasons why presentations have become such a pain in the lives of student’s. Most of my early presentations had me terrified for these reasons. My fears only grew exponentially once I started to speak. I could feel the bored, blank expressions digging into my chest like daggers.
However, this presentation for my English class felt different from the start. The concept of rapping for our classmates was so unique, it almost didn’t feel like a presentation. My definition of an oral presentation was to create a ten-slide PowerPoint and then click through it for the class to see. Most of these presentations came with a strict rubric that had to be followed in order to receive a good grade. This rap was so different because I could literally do whatever I wanted with it. It was a nice change because I was able to let my ideas flow without worry of receiving a poor grade. All presentations should be like the rap. They should tailor to the creative ideas of the student piecing it together.
Before we presented our products to the entire class, we were given the opportunity to practice in front of other students in our class. We would deliver our creations to a partner, who then gave feedback required to improve. After exchanging ideas, we rotated partners. The method of practice was ingenious because it eliminated many problems with presentations. Once I realized that everyone was nervous, my own nervousness melted away. “To deliver your presentation you will have to overcome your nervousness and deal with room conditions. Good preparation should allay most of your nervousness; realizing that everyone feels nervous before a presentation should also help.” (go.owu.edu) Working with classmates eliminated the fear of presenting something unknown. Once I went around and pitched my rap to every single member of my class, the social pressure of the situation melted away. It was almost like I had already given the presentation already because everyone in my class had heard it. Practicing with my peers also helped make my rap better. They gave their honest advice and helped boost my presentation to greatness.
When I presented my rap, I felt like I had used my knowledge and communication skills to deliver a great presentation. Oral presentations are a great way to practice communication skills if executed properly. However, these skills can only be increased when presentations are accomplished the right way. Presentations are only bolstered when students can work with each other and their teacher in order to improve. This extensive preparation made my presentation feel like second nature. “Preparation is the key to giving an effective presentation and to controlling your nervousness. Know your topic well. You will be the expert on the topic in the classroom.” (go.owu.edu) The rap that I wrote utilized all of these methods. After I completed my presentation, I felt that my communication skills had improved tremendously. When the problems that plague oral presentations fade away, communication skills are truly improved.
ITIP Team, The English Centre, HKU. "Oral Presentation." Oral Presentation. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2017.
Peoples, Deborah Carter. "Guidelines for Oral Presentations." Guidelines for Oral Presentations. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 May 2017.
Sunday, May 7, 2017
Stress is present in almost every student in today’s classroom. Constant pressure from various sources make school and extra-curricular activities the most strenous of enterprises. This never-ending pressure can come from anything that expects something from a student. Students today are obsessed with being perfect in every way imaginable. This expectation of perfection is a breeding ground for stress that weighs down students on a daily basis. Normally, feeling a little bit of stress is good for developing young adults. This can teach them healthy work habits and how to manage time wisely. However, too much stress can become a problem. “If you start feeling stressed out on a regular basis, this could lead to greater health problems, and could negatively interfere with your relationships and everyday life.” (studenthealth.georgetown.edu) It is almost impossible for students to perform to their full ability in the classroom when under this level of stress.
Teachers themselves can play a role in decreasing the amount of stress students experience. Even though they are not the ones experiencing the pressure that surrounds their students, there are many ways that educators can ensure that their classroom is as stress-free as possible.
Have students see the big picture: If a student is feeling very stressed out about a certain assignment, it is a good thing to remind them that their one assignment is very small in the grand scheme of things. Keeping students lighthearted is essential for every classroom.
Have music play during class: Relaxing music is a great way to calm nerves. Playing music during classwork, exams, or silent reading is a great option.
Give constant feedback: Students should never be surprised about their grades. Keeping them informed makes sure that they are always ready for the next opportunity to improve or maintain their grades.
Allow communication: Communication is the most important thing a teacher can provide for their students. Teachers should always make sure that their students know that they can come to them for support and advice.
Teach time management: Keeping students organized with their time can help prevent future stress. When students possess these skills, it allows for them to keep themselves organized and ready for future challenges.
Educators should always know how their students feel. They should know how their behaviors and expectations affect the stress levels of students. Educators should know how to counteract stress caused by their own policies and teaching methods. However, great teachers are professionals in helping students manage outside stress that they don’t cause. This stress plays a big role in harming a student's focus while learning. "A tiny amount of pressure - even the simple anticipation of such pressure - initiates a whole cascade of constricting physical and mental reactions." (centerforembodiedwisdom.com) Once the stress level of the student has been reduced through various methods like the ones listed above, real learning can begin.
"Overcome with Stress?" Student Health Services | Georgetown University. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 May 2017.
"The Impact of Stress in the Classroom." The Centre for Embodied Wisdom. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 May 2017.