How She Teaches Presentation Skills

I really like helping my students practice their presentation skills in my science class. Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating information is a science and engineering practice in NGSS. From time to time we do a research project and class presentations.

Students already know what a good presentation looks and sounds like. They just need to be reminded. So I do this Presentation Skills discussion with students before we do presentations in class. It is crazy how much of a difference this short exercise makes. If students have a vision and some goals in mind, their presentations are much, much better.

The Strategy

I learned this strategy around my 4th year teaching. I was always getting help from an excellent teacher coworker of mine. He taught science for over 30 years in the same district. He had a huge knowledge base and he also truly loved learning and the science of learning. When I complained about stuff like, Wow, some of these Body Systems presentations were really bad! He would go, Well, did you teach them presentation skills? He was always right! So he explained to me how he teaches presentation skills and I’ve been doing it ever since.

Strong Vs. Weak Presentations Skills

It’s super straight forward! We have a whole class discussion around Strong vs. Weak presentation skills. I record their ideas in a T chart under the document camera. Usually students come up with most of the ideas themselves. If they get stuck, I can act one out and they can easily guess. Like I said, they already know what good communication skills look like and what they should be doing. They just need the reminder.

If the timing works out, it’s great to do this the class period before the presentations. After our presentation skills mini lesson, they know specifically what to go home and practice. Their homework is to prepare for presentations next class.

My students actually have a lot of fun doing this activity, so I look forward to doing it with them every year. This T Chart makes an excellent classroom poster. It’s great to remind my students and help them practice their communication and presentation skills throughout the year!

Strong Presentation Skills

  • Annunciate, or speak in a clear voice
  • Project your voice
  • Eye contact
  • Appropriate gestures
  • Energy
  • Good posture
  • Basically project confidence!

Weak Presentation Skills

  • Mumbling, covering your mouth
  • Speaking softly
  • No eye contact
  • Inappropriate gestures
  • Low energy
  • Slouching

Grading Presentation Skills

For a project and presentation, I think a rubric is a nice choice. I can give students a copy of the rubric at the same time we go over the project criteria before they begin. That way, they are envisioning their presentation and what they will say from the beginning. Grade wise, the presentation skills are only worth a fraction of the points of the overall grade. Their ability to communicate information with the content of the slides, the images, and the information and references is the majority of the grade.

I spent a lot of time on this rubric. It was inspired by a lot of different teachers and internet research I did on learning and teaching science over the years. I made it out of 50 points, but it could easily be out of 100. So it can work for a Weighted Grading System or Total Points Grading System. For me a rubric works great for projects and presentations, about once a quarter! This is a great general rubric for a project and a presentation, I hope it helps!

This is a good rubric for a slide presentation project. The grades really reflected their effort and knowledge well, in my opinion.

Practice At Home!

I rarely give homework, but special occasions call for some extra time devoted to science outside of class. Studying for tests is one thing I might assign for homework. And things like moon cycle observation charts can only be done outside of class. Something else I might assign as homework is to practice your presentation in front of the mirror.

Back in the day, I remember following my teachers’ instructions at home. I would use my flashcards, and rehearse my presentation in front of the mirror. It was a lot of extra work, but I always felt so prepared for those presentations. I continued to practice my presentation skills over the years. I even received compliments on my speaking skills from my teachers!

At the end of class, I tell my students to practice their presentation at home. We talk about it at the end of class so it is on their mind when they leave. They need to make final touches on their slides and practice at home. It is written on the homework board. Presentations are next class.

Take Notes!

Students should take notes during the presentations. It keeps them attentive and focused. They record information in their notebooks and have it to look back on. It will help them remember everything better in the long run! Students may need to ask questions and get the presenters to repeat information so they can complete their notes. They should wait to ask questions until the end of the presentation.

Taking notes is an essential classroom routine of mine. It is great for learning. It helps students channel their energy and thinking, and they learn from each other. There’s no doubt that taking notes helps with classroom management during presentations. For some ideas on different note-taking styles, check out my blog post 5 Ways to Take Notes Without a Worksheet.

These were great notes for the infectious disease projects. It was a great review for the immune system test and a great resource in their science notebooks!

Some Presentations Are Just Bad!

Even with my presentation skills mini lesson, some students just go nuts when it comes to presenting. They can’t handle it! I have had students straight up laugh uncontrollably or mumble incoherently for 5 minutes. And despite my best efforts, sometimes students are just not going to do anything. I don’t want to embarrass them and I don’t want to waste more of anyone else’s time. When someone is presenting and it’s not going well at all, I know when to cut it short.

At the end of the day, it’s about what they learn and how they communicate the information to their peers. I have had students who were able to talk about something much better than they could make slides. In that case, I would take their ability to communicate what they learned into account for their final project grade.

Thank you for reading this blog post on presentation skills! What is your favorite way to teach presentation skills? Let me know by leaving a comment! I would love to hear from you! For science project and presentation ideas, check out my blog posts How She Teaches Body Systems and How She Teaches Infectious Diseases and Pathogens.

Published by How She Teaches

I teach Biology and Earth and Space Science in high school and middle school. I want to share my personal experiences and teaching milestones with anyone who wants to learn.

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