Oral presentations are not unusual and most kids get started with them as early as kindergarten when they bring in their latest toy and get to "show and tell" in front of the rest of the class. However, what amazed me about this particular assignment was how relevant it was to my son's future. Sure it is nice to be able to name all the state capitals and maybe it helps to develop basic memorization skills but is it really worth the time and energy involved? Many times I think that the tests and evaluations in grade school are created just so that there is an easy way to figure out the grades at the end of the semester. As a college professor myself, I know it is a lot easier for me to give my class a quiz with right or wrong answers than it is to grade an essay or try to put a number on class participation. Now take a look at the grading guidelines on Exhibit A, level 4 for the category Enthusiasm for example. "Facial expressions and body language generate a strong interest and enthusiasm about the topic in others." In the case of the 4th grade report, the topic here is a book review but let's replace that with an interview where the topic is your child and his or her application to a job. If your son or daughter can generate a strong interest in the topic with an interviewer through their facial expressions and body language they will increase their chances of getting the offer dramatically.
A big challenge for kids in school is getting themselves motivated to learn something they see as useless. OK, let's see a show of hands from all those parents out there who use trigonometry in their lives on a daily basis? Anyone? I remember asking teachers (more than once), "When am I ever going to use this?" The typical refrain was that I probably would never use it since I would end up getting a low-paying, unskilled job if I did not study harder. Perhaps this works on some kids but I don't recall feeling any more enthusiastic about the class than before I asked. Maybe what my teachers could have said (specifically related to trigonometry) was that most employers want new grads with "problem solving" skills. Trigonometry helps to develop those skills and doing well in the class will help me get a job.
As parents, we cannot delegate the education of our children entirely to their teachers nor can we assume that they will be able to explain the benefits of learning in a practical sense. Follow along with your kid's studies and whether it is an Oral Presentation or Trigonometry, explain to them how it will help them in the future. Talk about how you actually use the skills that they are learning on a daily basis at work like problem solving, communication and team work.
I like these guidelines so much I am thinking of adapting them into my own "Interview Rubric" to hand out to candidates. Maybe I will give a copy to my clients and suggest they use it for evaluations in interviews as well!