Posted by: jockmackenzie | May 29, 2009

Speaking – Magic 1

With Alberta’s ‘6 Strands of Language Arts’ (Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening, Viewing, Representing) I am always invigorated when I can emphasize one of the last four. In my opinion, they are given short shrift. I am doubly invigorated when I can offer my students an opportunity to engage in public speaking, a skill that is as much a life skill as any of the others.

Kids get extremely nervous when speaking in front of a group – and especially so if they think they are “public speaking.” I enjoy teaching my classes how to do magic tricks. While the kids are involved in a project or reading (an “anchor” activity in the DI world), I step into the hall and teach one student a trick. Either that day or with a day’s practice, the student can then perform the trick for the class.

I try to get them to add a bit of patter, to build up the illusion or sleight of hand or to just ham it up a bit. When the performance is made, the student is concentrating on getting the job done correctly and not on the fact that he or she is “public speaking.”

Here’s a brief explanation of one very simple trick. We call it Black Magic. A student is asked to step out of the room. Someone in the room is chosen to select any object and point it out to the rest of the class. The student in the hall is asked to return. I then point to a number of objects in the room. When I get to the chosen object, my student magician successfully notes that it is, in fact, the correct object.

I always tell the rest of the class how the trick is done – but not until they have tried to guess the secret. Another reason for doing magic tricks is to get them to think, to figure out how they have been duped. Once we have done a number of magic tricks, some of the kids can see similar patterns being used. e.g. distracting attention, forcing a response, setting up the deck, kinds of signals.

And now the explanation of Black Magic. I point to a variety of objects in the room that are not black. As soon as I point to a black object, the student assistant/magician knows that the next object is the one that has been selected.


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