Career Day: Tips and Tricks for Speaking at Elementary School

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 at her school for 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.

Man (me) wearing a suit and sitting down and holding up a sign that has a color printed image of a Goa Stone Case, made of solid gold

Me presenting to students about one of my favorite objects at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

About Me: I’m a 37 year-old man who lives in New York City. I’m the founder of Museum Hack, a company of renegade museum tour guides. Because I’m no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of the company (Tasia Duske is our CEO!), and for the purposes of this presentation, I introduced myself to the students as a Museum Tour Guide and Entrepreneur.

Man standing in front of sign that says Career Day inside a classroom

Me at Career Day at an elementary school in Harlem, New York City

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

Bring Props

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.”

Students sitting on floor carpet
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
Person at head of room talking for Career Day
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?

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.)

Area 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.

Conclusion

Presenting at Career Day as an elementary school speaker was challenging, rewarding, and fun.

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? Tell me in the comments.

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.


Share this Post 👇

Comments

comments

2019-06-20T08:08:40-04:00 June 19th, 2019|General, Speaking|