Guest speakers can create greater interest and knowledge in a particular topic. The guest may give exactly the same information as you but the novelty of having a different person in the room often leads to a greater retention of ideas and information. Guest speakers are particularly useful in high school subjects where the teacher wants to link the subject to its real life applications.
I have used many guest speakers successfully during my career. What follows in this article is the 'who, when, why and the how' of using guest speakers.
How do you choose who to invite to speak to your class?
They should be:
- Persons with special expertise or experience in the area you are teaching;
- University lecturers, parents, education officers from outside organisations, people from industry and so on;
- Other teachers.
Always try to pick people you have heard speak and speak well or someone recommended by a person whose judgment you trust.
When is the time to use a guest speaker?
These times could be:
- To introduce a new concept or idea. This might occur following a syllabus revision.
- As a talk during an excursion;
- As part of a guided tour;
- As an extension to a topic;
- As a resource for an alternative assessment task or a real life investigation;
- As an introduction to a topic where you need support.
Why would you use a guest speaker?
These are the reasons:
- A different voice / personality adds interest to the topic.
- Their love and enthusiasm for what they do can / will enthuse your students.
- They have the latest data available.
- They have real life stories to tell.
- They have a real life perspective.
- They will use the correct language / terminology of their subject.
- They will increase your own personal knowledge of the subject.
- They can review any assessment task for authenticity or help create one appropriate to the topic.
- They can be a source of resources both physical, hard copy and online that
could be useful in the future.
- They could be a source of teaching ideas / strategies or teaching aids.
How do you go about organising the guest speaker?
Below is a list of all the items you need to consider. They are not in order of importance.
- Try to make the 'talk'a multi-class affair to spread the benefit.
- Instruct students on how to behave for their guest so that they can be invited back again if their talk is well received and of real benefit.
- Organise some students to ask some prepared questions as well as encouraging the class to ask ones during or after the talk.
- Invite other teachers in your area to come as well.
- You may need to ask questions along the way to keep the speaker on track or to guide them to gain the greatest benefit for your students.
- Set a time limit for the actual talk so that there is time for questions. Tell your guest you will give him / her a cue when the time is almost up.
- Organise a vote of thanks from a student as well as a school certificate of appreciation and / or a small gift (usually school memorabilia).
- Arrange some refreshment prior to or after the talk (perhaps with the teachers involved or even your principal. Many principals like to be included in these occasions.)
- Photocopy beforehand any documents the speaker wants to give the audience.
- Organise an overhead projector, video / CD / DVD player as requested. Do not forget chalk, white board pens, eraser pointer and so on.
- Write a letter to confirm your telephone arrangement and / or any late changes. Include a map showing how to get to your school plus a map of the school showing where you will meet him / her. Indicate the building and room you will use. You might give them an estimated time to travel to your school as well as where to park. Include a summary of the work unit you are doing to help concentrate the talk on the topic you require. An assessment task might help also.
- Ring your guest the day before to confirm all arrangements and ask if there is anything more you can do.
- Write a thank you letter. Include some positive feedback. You might also discuss how it went immediately after the talk to get some feedback from your speaker on how they felt and to give some advice to them from your observation of the proceedings.
- Pass on any data to other staff who teach this unit for their edification.
Please note: You normally will need to seek permission for outsiders to come to your school. Each school will have its own protocols for this. Make sure you follow them to the letter.
Always do a review of the guest speaker 's presentation.
Here is what I would do:
- I would have an evaluation sheet, a simple one for students and a more elaborate one for teachers.
- I would consider suggestions for improvements that come from these evaluations.
- I would decide if the exercise is worthwhile.
- I would decide if we need to give the speaker more guidance to make a future talk better fit what we want?
- Then I would ask myself these three questions. "Was our speaker a good communicator? With extra guidance will they be better? Would I use this speaker again?"
- I would give the guest a copy of the positives evaluation comments.
- Finally, I would decide how we would change our planning for next time to create a better result.