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Soldiers, Headshots, and Water Bottles

A Culmination of Learning

Project Showcases are one of my favorite events in schools. The showcase is the culmination and celebration of a unit where students have learned deeply and present their understanding in a variety of interesting and creative ways. I have seen students act out a significant part of a story, recite a poem, engage in a debate, share artwork, and even dance. Families and community members get to listen, ask questions, encourage, and learn.

I’ve seen hundreds of student presentations over the years, but there are a few presentations that, in my opinion, were extraordinary, yet easily replicable. The students were simple in their approach but sophisticated with the phrasing of their presentations. The students described below were incredibly knowledgeable but it was the way they presented that made a lasting impression.

Use Artifacts to Enhance Your Students’ Presentations

  • A group of students gathered over a map of Europe at a World War I showcase. Atop the map were army men representing soldiers in each country. The students explained the Battle of Somme. As the students described the strategy of the battle, they moved the toys, using a dice stick to push and collect the soldiers, illustrating advancements, milestones, and effects on the larger war. Each move was deliberately choreographed to engage the audience and highlight important details of the battle. The presentation was understandable and enjoyable.


  • During a Roaring ‘20’s showcase a student I observed was standing in front of headshots taped on a wall. The pictures were of influential women from the Harlem Renaissance. The student discussed how a variety of artists conveyed the Black experience during the 20’s, 30’s and ’40’s and set the stage for the Civil Rights Movement. She used her hand to gesture to each artist. Lastly, she focused on a central figure and shared the positive influence that artist had on her personally and how she was motivated to make a difference in her community. The student was an effective docent and inspiring storyteller.


  • Finally, at an under-the sea themed showcase, one student studied bottle-nosed dolphins. He added construction paper fins to a recycled plastic water bottle. He stood in front of a mural of an ocean that the class had painted.  The student moved the “water bottle dolphin” to different parts of the mural to explain where the dolphin migrated, where it found its food, and how the dolphin used its adaptations to survive. The student used cues from the mural and the movement of his artifact to keep the audience engaged.


We all know public speaking is not easy. These simple moves can engage the audience and improve the quality of students’ presentations.  Using artifacts, rather than note cards, can boost student confidence and help them become more effective public speakers.

Share your project ideas and presentation tips with us!


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