For years I have modeled, advised, and coached students through oral presentations only to observe the same nervous, read-from-the-screen speeches that fall flat no matter how interesting and accurate the topic. A few years ago, I discovered the Ignite format and began to implement it into my curriculum. Not only is the format dynamic and interesting, but it forces students to move from “reading aloud” to actually “presenting.” When I coupled it with the senior level Social Advocacy Project, I found that individual students became highly vested in the project and their classmates actually listened and engaged with the presentations. The Ignite talks have proven to be one of the most provocative classroom learning experiences I have shared with my students.
Ignite Talks consist of 20 slides, pre-timed to advance every 15 seconds for a total, non-negotiable time of 5 minutes. The slides are not full of text; they are primarily photos or visuals. As the student creates the presentation, they chose and utilize visuals that cue their speech. I allow them to use notecards, but urge them to prepare, become experts on the topic, and then present to their peers in a personal, conversational tone.
The Social Advocacy Project requires students to choose a cause or issue they are interested in, research it, and present their findings to the class. I urge them to choose a topic they are vested in, something they or a family member has experienced first-hand. My students have chosen topics ranging from personal experiences with diabetes, depression, homelessness, and death of a family member. They are encouraged to share personal anecdotes, interview family members (if appropriate), and include personal pictures. The results are quite powerful and students gain experience in creating and producing effective and interesting presentations. The presentations also feel “safer” to the students because they are personally vested and knowledgeable about the topic. They aren’t working to master a topic and a presentation; they are sharing something they are interested in with their peers.
This lesson contains an overview of the project, links to Ignite talks to preview with your students, an article about social advocacy, a proposal, a brainstorm graphic organizer, a storyboard graphic organizer, a rubric, and peer critique sheets. All documents are fully editable. It is a student-driven, challenging, effective, and extremely authentic and useful project that will prepare students for college or career.
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