Saturday, December 15, 2012

Presenting to Your Students

In Brain Rules, author John Medina shares a suggestion for maximizing an audience's attention when presenting a lecture.  He suggests the “10-minute rule,” where a presenter has ten minutes to hook his/her audience into a presentation by giving them the gist of his/her ideas because the brain processes meaning before details.

A popular summarization strategy that can support this rule is GIST.  In short, you identify the Who, What, Why, Where, When & How, and then write a 20 word statement that embodies the key terms/concepts.


In presenting the gist, the purpose and direction of the lecture should be clearly mapped out and where the talk is in relationship to the map should be liberally repeated throughout.  This prevents multi-tasking (figuring out where the lecture is going and understanding what is being said), which takes away from a listener's ability to digest the material.

In addition, the 10-minute rule requires that the presenter re-engages with their listeners every ten minutes.  To maximize attention, these hooks need to trigger an emotion, be relevant, and either summarize or present the material in a ten-minute module.  Telling a relevant story, sharing a youtube clip that makes connections, or simply presenting an opportunity to turn-to-your-neighbor and discuss the material are meaningful ways to give the brain a break and enable the mind to process.

Finally, presenters need to be mindful that their listeners are not experts and that in order to understand, more time needs to be “devoted to connecting the dots,” as opposed to “relating too much information.”

In my practice, I am guilty of putting my students to sleep with endless powerpoint slides that conveyed very little meaning and lots of content, which I once thought was relevant.  Even when I stared into my clearly disengaged students' eyes, I plugged away, determined to prepare my students for district assessments or AP exams.  Nothing was learned during those sessions and my lofty goals of having my students master a ridiculous amount of material, in hindsight, was comical.  But that was the 20th century.  The 21st century will not put up with instructional strategies that waste time, one of our most valuable commodities.

How do you keep the brain in mind when presenting to your students?

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