October 23, 2009
Tips for Presenting to Children
Creating Successful Classroom Presentations
Animal control professionals and humane educators agree: It’s not enough to correct the problems of irresponsible pet ownership through law enforcement. It’s also essential to educate the public about proper pet care. Of course, many animal care and control professionals make educating the public part of their daily routine. But even the best-intentioned officer usually reaches only a small portion of the population. What’s needed is to educate the public on a large scale. How?
Why not in the elementary school classroom? Teaching children respect, responsibility, and compassion for all animals is time well-spent. It can form the basis of a lifelong commitment to responsible pet care. And because children love to share what they’ve learned, humane education lessons may change their family’s behavior toward animals as well.
"It's better to spend one hour today teaching someone how to care for his or her pets than to spend three hours sometime in the future processing a case of animal cruelty or neglect." Humane educator and former animal control officer Mary Ultz, Huntsville, Alabama
Developing classroom presentations for your community’s elementary schools may seem like an overwhelming task, especially for an already busy animal care and control professional. But it can be done! The presentation tips below will help you develop exciting and successful presentations that leave students and their teachers wanting more.
Grab their attention
The key to a successful presentation is to capture the audience’s attention from the start and hold throughout. You might want to start with a little magic trick, story, or mystery that introduces your topic. Have students guess what the topic of the day will be by playing a quick game of hangman or giving them clues until they guess correctly. When presenting to younger children, consider wearing an apron or vest with many pockets. Fill the pockets with items that will be relevant to your presentation. For example, a lesson on responsible pet care might include a leash, grooming comb, water bottle, packet of birdseed, empty kitty litter bag, etc. Remove one item at a time. Have students name it and guess what the theme of your lesson will be.
Helpful Hint: Don’t distribute handouts until you’re ready to use them. You want to be the students’ main focus of attention, not the awesome bookmark you’ve just given them to take home.
Set the ground rules
Now that you have their undivided attention, it’s time to set down the ground rules for your visit. Children love to tell stories—especially about pets. If given the slightest encouragement, your audience will fill your alloted time with story after story.
Begin by saying, "I’m going to be visiting you for only a short time today, and I have a lot of interesting things to talk to you about. So, even though I know you have stories you’d like to share about your pets, we won’t be able to hear them today."
If a child asks a question that turns into a tale, gently interrupt and say, "That’s very interesting, but it’s starting to sound like a story. Think about how you would like to ask your question, and I’ll come back to you." Be sure to go back to that student later.
Begin by covering information children are most likely familiar with, such as basic pet care. Expand on those topics to include what you are planning to teach. Relax and have fun. When you’re enthusiastic about your topic, your students will be too. Here are some tips to help your presentation go smoothly.
- Make eye contact.
- Be animated, but don’t let your actions distract from your words.
- Make it active! When possible, have students participate in the demonstration.
- Use a friendly, conversational voice.
- Speak confidently; remember, you are the animal protection expert.
- Ask questions to get the students involved and check that they understand the points you’re trying to make.
- Use props and other visual materials to add interest and reinforce your points.
- Conclude by summarizing the main points you want students to remember.
Provide children with opportunities to learn more
Leave behind handouts for children to take home to share with their families. You’ll find fun and informative handouts that you can reproduce in the KIND News Online Teacher Zone and printable humane lesson plans on our Lesson Plans page.
Kids are curious
See our Kids' Frequently Asked Questions for a list of the questions kids most often ask humane educators—and how you can handle them.
Thanks all around
Be sure to thank the students, and especially their teachers, for allowing you to visit. Tell them that you hope theyll invite you back again soon.
To learn more abut teaching preschoolers, take our online course: Simon Says, "Let's Be Kind to Animals!"