Core elements of a classroom visit
- Introduce yourself and provide context for your visit. Do you know someone in the class, are you a friend of the teacher or otherwise connected to the school?
- Demonstrate that you care who the students are, too. Consistently ask for student names whenever they speak. Repeat student names when you address them or ask questions.
Icebreakers / Tone Setting
- Your first few minutes with the students should focus on establishing comfort and trust with you. By the end of the icebreaker, they should know who you are, have had a chance to laugh, and to have interacted with their classmates in a new way. Try to connect the icebreaker activity to the overall purpose of the lesson. Be aware that younger students may get fidgety or have a difficult time paying attention if every student introduces him/herself. The resources list includes some icebreaker ideas.
- Communicate your core message in a way that appeals to multiple learning styles. Beyond lecture or question and answer style presenting, you may engage students with video, drawing, or hands-on models. Review the resources list for some image and video files you can use while presenting.
- Group activities can be an excellent way to encourage student creativity and autonomy, allowing them to independently engage with the subject matter. Always consult with the teacher to be sure that a group activity is appropriate for the students. Be sure that students have a clear understanding of group work goals before they start working independently; if additional clarification is required, it can be difficult to get the whole group’s attention again. Each topic summary contains ideas for group activities.
- Save at least five to ten minutes at the end of the session for a review of the activity. It may be helpful to prepare closing questions that parallel your opening questions. This is also a great time to include their teacher, if appropriate. Their teacher can check for understanding and draw connections to other course material. This is a great time to collect student questions for further exploration, and set goals for future action. Older students may be able to present their group work as a closing activity.
- Remember to take a group photo! This is a great way to remember the experience. Please share your photos with us here at GRID!
Approaches to different age groups
- Younger students learn a great deal from observations and direct experiences. When approaching this age group, focus on helping them understand how we harness and use energy from the sun. Cultivate their sense of wonder, and encourage them to remember what they have learned about solar as they learn more about science, technology, and energy throughout school. K – 8 Classroom Activity Guide Introduction & Presenter Tips.
- Students in grades 3-5 are developing more sophisticated thinking skills and learn well with simple models that explain observable phenomena. You can explain how solar energy and energy efficiency works in greater detail, but avoid highly specific vocabulary that students may not yet be familiar with. They are ready to think about solar in society – solar jobs, energy conservation, and transitions to using more renewable energy. Keep students energized with lots of questions and active dialogue.
- Students in grades 6- 8 will have more developed vocabulary and familiarity with basic scientific concepts, so you may be able to provide more abstract and detailed models and explanations about how PV solar energy works, and the role solar energy plays in our society. They will be able to work together in groups to address more complex, open-ended questions. Allow time for students to work independently, along with discussing concepts as a larger group. Activities for this age group can focus on engaging their investigative, problem-solving, communication and presentation skills.
Suggestions for presenters
Students may or may not remember the new vocabulary or retain a complete understanding of the concepts you elaborated – this is OK, and not your responsibility as simply a guest to their classroom. Your role is to invigorate their ongoing processes of learning and discovery with their teacher by facilitating a simple moment of excitement and discovery.
Focus on why solar matters.
As a professional with a connection to the solar industry, you have a unique perspective on how solar energy works outside of the classroom. Ask plenty of questions, and share your own experience in a relatable way so students can see how these broader concepts may relate to their own lives and even shape their future goals.
It’s OK to not have all the answers.
Students may ask questions that exceed your range of knowledge, and this is excellent! There is no need to research every intricacy of solar energy prior to your classroom visit in anticipation of
a tough question, or to struggle with answering something you do not know. It’s far more powerful to acknowledge the student for asking a great question, and clearly owning the fact that you don’t know the answer. You can even keep a running list of questions on the board so students can take their explorations further after your visit.
Remember that children are natural investigators, and resist assuming what they do or don’t know.
As we age, the new things we encounter on a daily basis become fewer and fewer. Adults, far more than children, may fall into habit and routine that overshadows the ongoing sense of curiosity and wonder that characterizes childhood. Step into the classroom’s shoes and embrace the lines of questioning that emerge organically, while honoring the knowledge and wisdom that children already have. Ask a lot of questions and encourage all students to participate and take action.
Approach the classroom with humility and vulnerability.
Students may not know about your company or what your job title means, so try starting off with a question or “hook” that excites and engages them in the topic matter.
Seeing a new face alone will make them curious about the lesson. Sometimes opening with a question, image, or demonstration can be most powerful.
What makes an idea “sticky”?
Six key traits for high retention: Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Shared through Story.