One of my least favorite trends in education is hatin’ on PowerPoint. Visual presentation in and of itself isn’t the problem! A quick glance of Google search results for “PowerPoint meme” sums up the anti-PowerPoint narrative sweeping the web:
PowerPoints can be dreadfully boring, and relying solely on teacher-centered instruction is problematic. That being said, PowerPoints can also be engaging, and can include student-centered interactivity. So what does PowerPoint look like in a student-centered, inquiry-based, classroom? Here are 6 ways to make PowerPoint more engaging and interactive in the classroom:
1. Ask your students to brainstorm speech bubbles on slides!
Using images in PowerPoint slides isn’t enough to create engaging, student-centered visuals. What are students being asked to do? Are they only passive participants in the lesson as they view visuals? Insert blank speech bubbles into images of people. Ask students to think about the point of view of the people depicted on the slide, then use an equitable calling strategy to have a share out of responses.
After learning about the Munich Conference in 1938, students can imagine some speech bubbles:
(Click on any slide in this post for a larger view.)
Some more examples:
If you have the capability to leave the bubbles blank and have students use a digital pen to come up to the board and write some in, even better.
2. Have student design I heart t-shirts!
A similar task to brainstorming speech bubbles is inserting slides that ask students to design I heart t-shirts for people studied in a lesson. The teacher can create many and have students choose the correct shirt as a selected response question, or have students design their own completely based on the background knowledge and analysis. I used the slide below with a Promethean Board to have students come up to the Promethean Board and click and drag the correct t-shirt on to Hoover.
3. Have students annotate PowerPoint slides!
Many of us now teach with Chromebooks, iPads, laptops, or other web-based individual learning devices. Rather than only projecting one image for 30+ students to view in the front of the classroom, share that PowerPoint out to the student devices. Not only will that allow students to view the presentation more easily, students can also “take notes” in the PowerPoint presentation itself. The “presenter notes” function doesn’t only need to be for presenters!
Here’s an example of a PowerPoint file shared with students through Google slides, using the presenter notes” function for students to individually take notes and answer questions.
4. Insert videos into PowerPoints, with video questions!
Brief video clips are are a fantastic instructional tool. Oftentimes we play video clips through our projectors full screen, so any questions students need to answer need to be copied and distributed, or students need to record them before the clip begins, or worse yet, students just have to remember what a teacher said verbally.
You can insert Discovery Education videos into your PowerPoint, then insert video questions next to the video frame. Use the download link above the video player. Then right click on the clip’s link, and “save link as.” In your PowerPoint file,
5. Ditch the clip art!
Don’t take my word for it, research shows irrelevant clip art is counterproductive in the classroom. Laura Edelman and Kathleen Harring from Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pennsylvania have concluded PowerPoint slides with irrelevant graphics decreases learning compared to slides with no graphics at all!
That is not to say slides should be solely text. Use primary source images, use relevant photographs, artwork, video clips. But refrain from the clipart gallery.
See the difference below? Use of primary source material is more engaging, more relevant, and much more higher-order. Discovery Education Streaming has a plethora of images, like the poster below, in addition to the online videos.
6. Build in instant formative assessment!
It is not enough to stop lecturing every 10 minutes and ask “any questions?” Teachers ask about 300–400 questions per day and as many as 120 questions per hour. How many are pre-planned? How many are higher-order? How many do the teachers answer themselves? How many are used with equitable strategies? Pre-planning questions and building them into your presentations to formatively assess understanding is not only a sound assessment strategy to guide your instruction, it makes the lesson more interactive and engaging.
Numerous web-based apps and websites allow teachers to do this, like polleverywhere.com. Student responses automatically pop into your PowerPoint in real time.