#PKD - What Is PechaKucha Day?

In January, I went to Houston for the Texas Council of Teachers of English Language Arts (TCTELA) Conference. I learned a lot of great strategies while there, but there were two things that happened that made a major impact on the last 10 weeks of my teaching life.

The first thing that happened was I heard someone say the bizarre word "PechaKucha," which - let's be honest - is just a fun word to [attempt to] say. When I heard it, I had to learn more about what it is. There was a session on PechaKucha at the conference, but the session itself didn't interest me (it was about using PechaKucha in college lectures - gross). So I did some quick Googling and learned:

PechaKucha (Japanese for "chit chat") 20x20 is a simple presentation format where you show 20 images, each for 20 seconds. The images advance automatically and you talk along to the images. The presentation format was created by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham architecture because - believe it or not - architects talk too much. Klein and Dytham also realized that you can give just about anyone a PowerPoint and a microphone and they'll have the same problem. PechaKucha Nights have stemmed from the format. PKNs are fun, informal gatherings where creative people get together to share their ideas about anything in the PechaKucha 20x20 format. (from PechaKucha.org)

From a teaching standpoint, I really wasn't interested in the idea of the 20x20 lectures themselves because I don't really lecture. Which leads me to the second thing I learned...

I attended a session on school-wide conferences by three Paschal High School teachers. This presentation really did grab my interest. The annual conference they put on is called PIP Talks and is done completely outside of school and available to anyone attending the high school. I love the idea of reaching out to kids beyond my classroom, so the wheels were already turning for putting on a CHS version of PIP Talks.

Fast forward to almost a month later as the English II Pre-AP learners were wrapping up reading their historical fiction selection and my team was discussing what the capstone of the unit would be. In the past, we have done websites that explore the historical validity of the novels read (the learners had 16 choices). I have enjoyed this website project because it ties research into literary analysis very effectively, but honestly it was missing a "So What?" factor. What I mean by that is that we were examining the past (which is important), but weren't using any of that exploration to think about or influence current and future problems.

As I was thinking about how to bring the "So What?" factor into our historical fiction unit, I realized that it was the social injustices of each novel that connected them all. Each novel may have focused on a different social injustice (racism, ageism, gender discrimination, classism - the list goes on), but each novel shines a light on the historical perspective of a variety of social injustices - none of which have been eradicated today.

And there was our "So What?" factor - if history shows us our mistakes, why aren't we correcting them? How can we use the lessons from history (and historical fiction, by extension) to incite future change?

With all of these questions swirling, it hit me - the the learners could use the PechaKucha 20x20 format to explore and ultimately answer these questions in individual presentations, and then we could have our very own PechaKucha event to showcase our top presentations (our very own PIP Talks, if you will). Bam. Two exciting ideas from TCTELA combined into one invaluable learning experience for our kids.

The Process

Two of the English II Pre-AP teachers got on board right away. Alexis Glover, Alex Holmes, and I began designing lessons to prepare our kids for PechaKucha Day (#PKD).

Our first step was to help our kids understand just what social injustice is, and to identify it in their historical fiction novel and in the world today. We did this through what we called "Mastery Stations," which are a fun way to get the kids up and moving while they learn in a variety of different formats. The first set of stations worked so well that we ended up designing our entire unit around the concept. We had 6 different areas of focus, as seen below:

(The colors don't mean anything other than that's the color paper we printed the station QR code on.)

We used a spreadsheet similar to this to track student achievement throughout the process and ensure each learner was getting the help they needed. We simply used highlighters to check off each station - red indicated that a learner did not master the skill at all and would need one-on-one or small group help, yellow meant they were almost there but would need a little more work, and green meant they had mastered the skill and could move on.

This system allowed us to group learners by ability so that they could get the help they needed or could be pushed to extend beyond the scope of the skill.

All in all, we spent six weeks in class getting ready for the presentations. However, we were also working on Nonfiction Analysis throughout these weeks, so we spent roughly 20 class days on the presentations.

We did not present to the class as that would have taken a minimum of five days of instruction, so instead, learners submitted recordings of their PechaKucha. From there, each teacher submitted the top presentations of each class period as a nominee for finalist. All three of us met together to narrow it down to the top five presentations of the period, which were the #PKD Finalists. In total, we had 30 presentations with 41 presenters (some worked in groups) going into Finals.

In order to keep all of our learners engaged in #PKD, we created committees so that each learner had a role in making the competition as successful as possible. Some learners served as MCs, others ran the computer and microphone on competition day, some acted as ushers, while others wrote thank you notes to our judges. Every learner, Finalist or not, was a key component in the success of #PKD.

The Product

On Friday, April 24, we had CHS's first ever #PKD (modeled somewhat after PechaKucha Nights). Each class period, the English II Pre-AP learners gathered in our school's Lecture Hall to watch the five Finalists of that period. The Finalists had a choice whether to present live or share their video. (The live presenters were the most compelling.)

Our wonderful school community was so supportive - we ended up having an almost-full house every period. Different teachers from different content areas brought their classes to watch presentations each period, from science to teen leadership to Spanish. In addition, we had three judges each class period consisting of teachers, principals, counselors, and instructional coaches who generously volunteered their time to help us.

To further engage the audience, each presentation had a custom hashtag so that the audience could tweet their support. These hashtags were created by the presenter and a committee of learners and included in the program.

Alex, an Excel pro, tabulated the judges' scores throughout the day and entered them into a spreadsheet which calculates the totals. In addition, we used a Clap-o-Meter app to track audience applause at the end of each presentation, which was included in the score totals.

At the end of the day, everyone was invited to return for a short Awards Ceremony, where the top winners of the day were announced. I have to say, while all of the learners did an incredible job on their presentations (whether they made Finals or not), I was blown away by our winners.

You can view the winning presentations and see all of our Finalists here.

All in all, if you want to pour your heart, soul, and time into an invaluable learning experience, I highly recommend you try having your own #PKD! Questions are welcomed!

5th Period Finalists Brooke, Niki, Brooklyn, and Alex (not pictured)
6th Period Finalists Kolbe, Faith, Sam, and Lauren (not pictured)
7th Period Finalists Anjana, Samir, and Leila


  1. So awesome! You know I am loving the "So What?" factor! :-)

  2. I knew you would like that, Jill!


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