This post is the second part of an article first published in WQ August 2010 – a publication of the Queensland Writers Centre. You can read Part One on the link below.
How to Maintain Interest:
● Know thine enemy: Okay – so that’s a bit drastic, but it does pay to get to know a few names – most especially those students who you’ll quickly identify as disruptions to your session. They are chuffed to be known so quickly – and generally try to please in return.
● Eye-see-you: Make eye-contact. Rove your glance around the room and include all your listeners.
● Make your move: Don’t feel you need to be glued to the spot. Move comfortably around the room so you and your audience have good visibility. This helps to maintain kids’ attention – and is also an effective behaviour management technique for students who may be distracting others by fidgeting or talking. Moving to stand near fidgets is often enough to draw them back on-task.
● Express yourself: With voice and actions. Use dramatic pausing. Vary pitch and pacing. Pause for effect. If your presentation is quiet or monotone, children will become restless. (And restless children spell t.r.o.u.b.l.e.)
● Cater for a range of learners: Some children learn best by listening, others need visual representations, while some need to be doing. Try to cater for all students throughout your talk. This may include: PowerPoint show, diagram/notes on a whiteboard, writing exercises, tangible props (puppets, character replicas)… even costumes! Talk, show and involve.
If using charts/PowerPoint, they should not duplicate what you’re saying. Rather, they are bite-sized bits to catch at a glance. Clear and concise; dot points, visual images, or an example of a writing technique… Great tips for ‘teaching’ with a PowerPoint can be found at: http://writinglectures.suite101.com/article.cfm/using-technology–to-enhance-lectures.
● Show as you go: Demonstrate your point with examples then check for understanding. If describing a technique, model it. Read a passage of text. Work with students to contrast a good and bad example of writing. Work on something collaboratively. Get them writing short pieces. Involve the audience.
I have seen Leigh Hobbs guide 120 Prep to Yr 3 students through a drawing of Old Tom and friends. Step-by-step, model and do, the children were actively engaged – and their artwork was amazing!
● Intersperse humour throughout your talk – but don’t make it the sum total of your presentation.
● Keep things moving. Don’t get bogged down on details.
Kathryn Apel is a teacher and children’s author. Kat has attended author talks with her class and organised whole school (Prep to Yr 10) participation in the Curtis Coast Literary Carnivale. As an author, Kathryn has conducted talks face-to-face in schools and at writing events, and via Katherine School of the Air, and Eluminate Live online.
Kathryn is willingly available for author talks. Click on the Kat to School tab above – or on this link – for more information.