When Students Have Questions

Monday, January 31, 2011

I don't know about you but when I give presentations I pack all the information I can into the alloted time frame with little left over for student's questions. Consequently, students bombard me at the end only to be whisked off to their classrooms before I can answer. This always bothered me. I felt something had to be done. Here is my secret to solving this problem.

I no longer take questions during my presentation/s but instead build in a "Student Press Conference." It is one of the components of the package I offer schools, i.e. two large group sessions, one small and a "Student Press Conference." I have to admit, teacher's LOVE it!

Here's how it works:

Prior to the visit, each teacher is asked to hold a brainstorming session in their classroom. They challenge their students to come up with a list of questions to ask me, the visiting author. This enhances the visit for students by expanding their questioning techniques as well as learning what might or might not be an appropriate question.

Each classroom teacher selects TWO Student Reporters. These Reporters will bring the questions from their classmates to the Press Conference

This small group of Student Reporters, 2/classroom, will meet with me at the end of the day to ask their questions in a press conference format.

It is the Student Reporter's responsibility to report my answers back to their respective classrooms.

During the Press Conference, I will sit with the small group (two/classroom) and go from student to student answering their questions one at a time. We will go around and around the room until all questions are asked or time runs out.

The "Student Press Conference" is held at the END of the day in whatever time frame is available. I've had anywhere from 20-minutes to 50-minutes. I stress the end of the day for good reason. If you have it in the middle of the day, students will be asking questions that you will be addressing in your presentation.

Additional tidbits:

1. The small gathering of Reporters might range in grade level from K to 5th or even 6th grade. All grade levels meet with me at the same time. This age/grade span has never posed a problem for me. In fact, some of the younger students ask more in-depth questions than the older students. And often older students will help the younger ones record my answers.

2. Some questions will be duplicates so you have to caution the students to listen carefully and ask a different question.

3. I've done this session on closed-circuit TV and/or allowed for it to be taped for selective viewing later. (Some teachers aren't interested in the Q&A session.) I've even had a class of gifted students record the session as part of their video/film making class.

4. On a few occasions, interested classroom teachers requested to have their students return to the auditorium to LISTEN IN on the press conference. In this case I sit on stage with the Reporters as they ask their questions. What is really great about this situation is that if you run out of questions, you can turn to the audience and take additional questions. This has happened on several occasions, much to everyones delight.

The "Student Press Conference" idea evolved out of a need to allow students to have all their questions answered, questions that go beyond the, "what is it like to be an author?" ones. You never know who you will touch in the audience. Something you say might just be the motivation that produces a Putlizer Prize winner or Newbury recipient down the road.

I just felt there had to be a more educational way of giving more to the students. "My Student Press Conference" fills the bill.

And as I said earlier, Teachers/Administrators/Parents LOVE my "Student Press Conferences." And I must admit, it's the best part of the day for me also.

If you try this, let me know how a "Student Press Conference" works for you.


Gretchen said...

What a great idea! I like the "across the ages" concept with different age groups represented.

Mary said...

Hi Sandra,

Thanks for sharing. This is a great idea.

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Hi! I’m Sandra Warren, a writer with very eclectic writing tastes. I’ve been fortunate to have publications in multiple genres including children’s, gifted education, parenting, how to, poetry, journal, educational activity guides and biography as well as audio and video production. I'm a city gal recently transplanted to the mountains of NC where glorious mountain vistas inspire latest renderings.

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