Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Great Galesburg Shake

Handshake is just the start

One thing I have been working on with my students is something, often times, we forget to consider in the mist of lesson plans and EVERYTHING we have to get accomplished in one year. I have taken time the past few months to really work on presentation skills, conversation skills, and just overall presence. Personally, I never really had the opportunity to work on these when I was in school and looking back I wish I did. I remember having to give a speech my 8th grade year and just shaking in my boots knowing that I had to stand in front of my class, students I have literally known all my life, and speak. Since that experience, and many more throughout high school and college, I have started making presentations a strong part of my class. During the school year I have them present on things they have learned and have them share during morning meeting. I also push for students to ask questions of each other and teach them discussion techniques to use during Lit Circles. All of these things prepare them for spring when the toughest challenge arises, The Great Shake.

What is this shake? No, it's not the newest milk shake found at your local Steak and Shake, though their shakes are quite delicious. It is a new competition that had its inaugural year last year. So get to the point Megan, what is it? It's a competition that involves students from 4th to 12th grade putting their ability to converse and present to the test. Students compete in rounds that consist of them meeting and conversing with community members and professionals. Each round is different and students are eliminated as it progresses. It all starts with each school selecting 10 students to represent them.

Now to how I prepare them for this amazing competition. I typically have students practice eye contact and handshake to begin. It's surprising how hard it can be for students to do these two things. The students who typically do the best are the ones who already have that inner confidence. So to help those who are struggling I normally stand outside the door of my classroom every morning, starting at the beginning of the school year, and shake every students hand saying good morning. This is great practice and a great way to start the morning.

Another way I prepare my class is I invite a few community members and college students to my classroom to interact with my students. I always prepare my students and let them know that I am bringing people from the community to help them practice their ability to have a discussion. Students are typically nervous, but after finding common ground such as talking about t.v., food, or sports they tend to relax. They often surprise me  with the questions they ask the visitors.

I recently invited a few college students from a multicultural club to my class. They shared the importance of education and their back story with my students. When I asked my students if they had any questions they said nothing. I then grouped my students into 4 small groups, one group for each of the visitors. The students had to introduce themselves, shake hands, and ask questions to provoke discussion from the visitors. I know it can seem simple, but some students have never really done anything like this before. I could tell they were nervous, but to be honest it made them great listeners. They wanted to impress and really tried hard to come up with questions for the guests and think before they spoke. One student even ask, "What degree will you end up graduating with after your final year?" What!!! That is an incredibly awesome question! I was beyond impressed with them.

Every year I try to find ways to insert practicing these conversations and presentation skills into my classroom. They are so vital and are such a big part of future plans like getting into college or getting a job that I feel students need to learn them early. Not only that it creates a sense of respect and recognition for the students. No matter where they stand academically or what is going on at home they, themselves alone can take pride in their ability and growth. They can make people take notice, not with straight A's or even bad behavior, but instead with the words that flow from within.

I do have to say that we borrowed and put our own spin on this competition based on an extraordinary one put on by the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Ga. If you haven't heard of it you definitely need to look it up! No seriously, please do!
If your interested in following our students journey this year follow on twitter @205GreatShake !!!
So excited and truly can't wait to see how far they go! I am excited to say 3 of my students were chosen to advance and be apart of our schools top ten students! YAY! Go Superstars!!!

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