Pushing the limits of presentations with 5th graders

Toward the end of every school year the 5th graders embark on their Capstone Projects. They choose an area of interest, develop a main inquiry question and related sub-questions, seek out experts in their field of interest, conduct interviews, go on site visits, and do a ton of traditional book and web-based research.

It is an awesome undertaking and the students are immensely engaged. It is a project that they drive, based on an area of their interest. It’s part traditional research project, part passion project, and an epic culminating activity.

In the past all their hard work resulted in traditional tri-fold board. Printed pictures, printed slides with questions and answers, and students waiting for people to come around ask them about their project during a parent open house…


In 2016 it doesn’t seem fair to give students the freedom to choose projects and pursue their passion but force them to all demonstrate their learning in the same, flat way..

This year we’re tossing the share part on it’s head. No more tri-fold boards.

Students will be documenting their experience on their blogs and they have a choice of “presentation” options. Their blogs, which they independently manage and curate via the Scarsdale district-wide Campus Press license (the same platform this blog is built one), will serve as the main conduit for the Capstone experience. Their Capstone blog posts will cover topics such as

  • developing their questions
  • the research process
  • documenting their interviews
  • documenting their site visits
  • reflecting on the experience

But their their blog will also serve as a place to house the projects they make such as

  • art work
  • infographics
  • movies

For students who want to tell their story verbally we are offering two presentation style formats, presentations the students will do live, in the auditorium, for fellow students and parents. The students can choose to do

  • Ignite-style talk
  • TED-style talk

Both platforms will slightly modified requirements; student Ignites will be closer to 3 minutes, not 5 and the student TED talks will be closer to 6-8 minutes as opposed to the 18-20 of traditional TEDs

We are trying to make the final product of the Capstone project be as individual and meaningful as the process itself. We are certainly pushing boundaries of the Capstone experience, but thus far the students have embraced the challenge and are excited about the flexibility.


the following appeared in a recent post as a guide for students

This year we will do Capstone a bit differently. The tri-fold boards are no more. We are presenting our projects in more engaging ways…

Two modern presentation styles are TED Talks and Ignite Presentations. TEDs are usually 18 minutes and have very little visuals or slides. Ignites are 5 minute presentations with slides auto-advancing every 20 seconds. TEDs are more conversational, Ignites are more fast paced. Use the links below to read more about each style as well as watch various examples…

TED Talks

some TED talks appear repeatedly on all the links above, but each list is worth looking at regardless.

Ignite Talks

5th graders will be blogging throughout their Capstone experience, possibly adding pages and resources to their Google Sites portfolios, and following the traditional Capstone framework. The difference this year is the presentation will not be in the form of a tri-fold board but rather as an actual presentation. The full requirements are still to be worked out, but the culminating activity will be a live, in-person presentation in either TED or Ignite styles.   The presentations will be recorded and the students will be able to add their videos to their final blog reflections after Capstone finishes.

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