This is the best advice, tips, and tricks for speakers at an elementary school career day. As collected from educators, friends, and colleagues.
My girlfriend invited me to speak to her 2nd grade class at their Career Day.
I immediately thought: How do I speak to children? What do elementary school kids want to hear at a Career Day?
I’ve been reading a lot about charter schools, so I was excited to finally visit one. And I was especially excited to talk about entrepreneurship to Kindergarten, First Grade, and Second Grade classes in New York City.
About Me: I’m an author, investor, and the Founder of Museum Hack. Also a 40 year-old man who lives in Austin, Texas USA.
Best Career Day Speaker Advice
I got lots of tips and advice for today’s talk from my friends. Here’s what I used:
Sit At Their Level
Sit at their level. Either on a little chair or on the floor. Grownups can be scary! — Jason Hackett
My friend Jarrod suggested that I bring some props. I brought large printed examples of some objects at the museum.
Props are a great way to keep the students engaged and allow them to look at and fiddle with something while they’re speaking with you. — Ecka
Have High Energy / Be Excited
I think my girlfriend told me this: Get excited! Kids can feel the energy. Be animated and expressive with my body and face.
My friend Danielle said: “Be silly, yet firm.”
I asked the kids to sit and talk to a partner about the question: If you were going to start a business and sell something to your friends, what would you sell and why? I blurred out their faces to be extra careful with privacy.
Ask Them Questions
This was one of the best pieces of advice, and a lot of people suggested it.
Make sure there is a back and forth. Ask them questions, encourage them to ask questions. — Sarah Marsom
Ask tons of questions. I start by asking them if they have ever been on a field trip and then explain that I plan field trips for adults. — Theresa
Ask questions throughout!!! It will empower them to feel like they are part of the conversation and promote active listening throughout!!! — Camellia
Another speaker talking to 2nd grade students for Career Day. I blurred out the faces again for privacy just to be safe!
Questions That I Asked The Kids
- Who here has ever been to a museum? (raise your hand)
- Who can name a museum in New York City?
- What are some things that you find inside of a museum?
- Entrepreneurship: If you were going to sell something to your friends, what would you sell and why?
Think about a game or activity about your job. Allow the children to role play as if they are in a day of your career.
Bring a Box of Snacks
Check with the teachers beforehand to get approval or dietary restrictions, but this can be a big win! Kids love snacks.
Tell a lot of stories
Kids also love stories. Imagine you’re telling a bedtime story: how would you talk about your career? What is one of your favorite memories from work? What was it like when you first started your job?
Give the students examples
One of the things kids can relate to is toys. Bringing up one of the best toys like SLIME can surely make the whole class excited! Ask them what type of slimes would they like to put if they have a Slime Museum?
Give out handouts or prizes
Do you have any brochures from your job that you can pass around, ideally with photos? Are there objects that you could pass around the room? Bring those to your career day speech to make it more interactive.
Sample Career Day Speech
Here’s what you could say for a sample career day speech. It is based on my own presentation to a group of 2nd graders when I introduced myself as a museum tour guide.
Hello everyone! My name is Nick Gray and I am a museum tour guide. Who here has ever been to a museum? Raise your hand if you’ve ever been to a museum before.
My job is to be a museum tour guide. That means I walk people around as a guide at an art museum. I tell them about the works of art.
Who has ever seen a paining before? Raise your hand if you have ever seen a painting. Keep your hands up. I am going to call on someone now to ask you about what painting you saw, or what you remember.
(ask a few students about any painting they have seen before, and what they liked about it)
The times that I work for my job are 10AM to 6PM every day. Sometimes I even have to work on Saturday and Sundays, because those are very busy days at the museum. Do you think you would want to work on the weekend?
My favorite parts about my job are meeting new people, and doing research about the new works of art. To do my job, you have to be very good at talking to people. Who here likes talking to people? Raise you hand if you like talking to people.
Speaker Feedback: From The Teachers
In two of the classes that I spoke to, I asked the teachers to fill out these “Comment Cards” for my presentation. I love to get feedback whenever I speak.
Class 1 — It was effective when:
- Positive narrating good behavior.
- Contextualizing your occupation with a fun launch that engaged kiddos.
- The harmonica was captivating!
- Introducing pieces from the museum, but pushing kiddos to inquir & think critically of the pieces.
Class 2 — It was effective when:
- You brought resources.
- You brought tons of enthusiasm!
- Gave many opportunities for the kids to speak and share.
- Good job sounds! (That was when I played my harmonica.)
Areas for improvement:
- Limiting students called on for each question in the interest of time (time conflicts that are not your fault, though). Nick’s note: I can certainly improve a lot here. There were just SO MANY kids wanting to participate. I didn’t want to make kids feel left out by not calling on them, so I think I tried to call on everyone. This wasted a lot of valuable time.
- I have lots more things that I could improve on! But the teachers were too nice not to critique me more.
Presenting at Career Day as an elementary school speaker was challenging, rewarding, and fun.
In summary, my best advice for career day speakers is:
- Sit At Their Level
- Bring Props
- Have High Energy / Be Excited
- Ask Them Questions
- Interactive Play
- Bring a Box of Snacks
- Tell A Lot Of Stories
- Give The Students Examples They Can Relate To
- Give Out Handouts Or Prizes
There are many differences in speaking to kids compared to speaking to adults.
- The kids were very participative. They gave many more questions and interactions and interruptions than I’ve ever had with an adult audience.
- If I was asking a question to the audience and getting answers from multiple people, I had to remind each student of the question. In a presentation to adults, if I ask a question, I can just point at different adults and quickly get multiple answers around the room. Today I found that I had to repeat the question each time I pointed at a new student in order to help them remember what I was specifically asking for.
- The kids all sat on the floor. To raise engagement levels, it was helpful for me to also sit on the floor or in a small chair.
I have a newfound respect for teachers at all grade levels. To deal with so many active students for hours every day… wow. It was tiring after one hour and I can’t imagine a whole day of being “on” like that.
What advice do you have for someone who is presenting to elementary school kids on Career Day? Send me an email and let me know.
Thank you to KIPP Infinity in Harlem for inviting me to speak, Zach for organizing and managing the morning, Rachel for proof-reading this post and inviting me, and all my friends on my private Facebook who gave tips and advice.
Bonus: Example of Teaching Style
This is the best video I found online showing classroom management by a teacher. It was helpful to watch and try to emulate some of these things when I presented to the students for Career Day.