Tips on Teaching Tykes (and Grownups, Too)

13 02 2010

My daughter, Dr. Wendy Hunter, a pediatrician, gave a talk at my granddaughter’s elementary school this week, and

Dr. Wendy Hunter

Dr. Wendy tells a second grade class fascinating tales of bones

the presentation reminded me of some good principles for giving successful presentations for kids. In fact, since adults are just grown-up kids, these principles could also make your talks at the local civic club or college class more successful:

  • Bring your energy. Enthusiasm is contagious, and if you show your own enthusiasm for your subject, the audience will catch it. You might be used to low-keying your scientific talks, but being restrained for a public talk lowers audience interest. Dr. Wendy’s animation and energy helped grab and hold the kids’ interest.
  • Bring interesting props. Dr. Wendy found an accurate model skeleton at Carolina Biological Supply that was the perfect demonstration for bones, how they fit together, and how they can break.
  • Give the audience a job. She passed out plastic skeleton kits for the students to assemble as she talked about the various bones and how they fit together. Doing while they were hearing helped the kids remember the lessons.
  • Bring “real” things. Dr. Wendy showed cross-sectioned cow bones to give the kids a chance to see and touch real bone marrow, memorably showing them where blood cells are made.
  • Personalize your presentation. For example, using a volunteer, Dr. Wendy showed how the kneecap “floats.” She also explained how it can be knocked out of joint, and how it can be repositioned.
  • Give useful tips. She explained how people fracture their forearms by “foosh”– falling on outstretched hand–and how people can avoid that fate by bending their arms to catch themselves if they should fall forward.
  • Give the audience a mystery to solve. She passed out x-rays of various bone breaks and dislocations and challenged the kids to identify the part of the skeleton shown and the abnormality.
  • Learning can be loud. The sound of learning in kids can be cacophonous. It’s hard for presenters used to respectftul silence in their adult audiences to remember that fact. Dr. Wendy’s class reverberated with excited chatter as the kids assembled their skeletons, crawled around looking for a lost (model) foot, and poked around on themselves looking for various bones.

So, heed these tips for both your young and adult audiences, and they will, indeed, feel your presentation in their bones.

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