Until fairly recently, I would never have counted myself as an advocate of using slideshows when teaching. I’d always thought that they would take a long time to create, and that the rewards would be minimal. However, when I started using them in some of my classes I found myself oddly more confident about the lesson–sure that it would be a success.
Read on to find out why slideshows are useful when teaching, some tips for making effective slideshows quickly and easily and, also, some backup options if you find yourself suddenly without the option of using your presentation.
Or, if you’d just like to see a sample slideshow that I used for my IELTS class, you can gain access by clicking on the button below.
What Will Using Slides Do For You and Your Students?
One reason that slides help you as a teacher is that everything is all laid out for you. It’s sort of a taboo in the industry to look back at your lesson plan in the midst of a lesson. In contrast, slides will always remind you what your next planned step was, and will save you from moments where you either skip an activity or need to go back and explain something further. This, while making you look more professional; not like a bumbling idiot who forgot what they were going to say as they flip through a notebook.
Another benefit for the teacher is that if you create slides, they are reusable and sharable. If you spend the time creating a great way to present the present perfect and some activities to go with it, you’d better believe you’ll be able to use that with another class at some point in the future. Simply copy and paste relevant activities into a new slideshow you’re creating. Also, if you have a good community of teachers, you can easily share the resources and slides you create, which will save you time in the long run. I’ve been teaching for ten years, imagine if I’d saved all of my lesson plans on a cloud…I’d never need to spend more than five minutes planning again!
For your students, slides are a way to help them follow along with a lesson. Class transitions become quite a bit easier to discern when they are accompanied by a new slide heading or picture to give context. Likewise, students are able to use multiple skills at the same time. Instead of just listening to you give directions or explain a concept, they will have bullet points to read to help them understand.
How to Make an Effective Slideshow
Just like any lesson planning, I suggest first making the aims of the lesson clear. Once that is done, I usually use the slides as my lesson plan. Outline your lesson by creating headings for slides at different points in the lesson, then fill them in as you go.
Keep your slides simple. I know that earlier I mentioned that an added benefit of using slides for students is that they can practice multiple skills at once (i.e. reading and listening), however you don’t want them to stop listening to you completely. Keep your bullet points simple and to the point. Make sure that there isn’t so much text on a particular slide that they stop paying attention to you and just read the slides.
Adding pictures, music, videos and animation is a great way to improve your slides. Most teachers use these different forms of media in the class. Having the media either embedded in the slide, or including the links in the slides makes this process more fluid. For example, if I want to set a five-minute timer for an activity, I will already have a link to the google timer on my browser (click here if you don’t understand). If I want to randomize my students for an activity, I can go to this great site. If I want a random number or word, there are sites for this as well. Basically, your slideshow can become a gateway to any browser-based program.
Another tip is to animate lists when brainstorming. If I’m trying to have my students come up with something, it doesn’t do a lot of good to have all of the answers on the screen to start with. Either animate the list so that you can see if it matches what your students came up with, or simply create a link to a Google doc so that you can brainstorm together there.
There are a number of free presentation tools to use instead of Powerpoint. My favorites are Prezi and Google slides. Prezi is great for making beautiful presentations, but I find that it takes me longer to make something I’m happy with. For me Google slides is the easiest interface to use, and has the extra benefit of being cloud based. If I make something on it, it is available anywhere!
Dangers of Using Slides and Backup Options
Previously, I stated that slides can sometimes draw students’ attention away from the teacher. Another similar danger is that the teacher might simply read from the slides instead of putting it in their own words. This will make the lesson seem a bit dry. The work around for this is, again, keeping the bullet points simple so that you as the teacher must necessarily fill in the gaps.
Another problem is sometimes technical issues. Let’s say that suddenly, the internet or power goes out (more of a problem in Vietnam than I’d like). If this happens during my lesson, I might be in serious trouble if all of my activities rely on slides.
To keep this from being an issue, make sure to check that everything is working before the class starts. I’d also recommend making sure that you have a written copy of your lesson plan so that you’re prepared to adapt if necessary. As long as it isn’t video or audio, there is probably a backup solution you can come up with on the spot.
If your school doesn’t have a computer in the classroom, but there is a TV, you can still easily use slideshows. You’ve got a few options here. One, you can put your slides onto a USB and plug it into the TV. This isn’t the best option as you won’t be able to use any external links. The other, and better option, is to purchase either a Google Chromecast or similar device (about 50usd). This will plug into the TV and allow you to cast the screen of your phone, tablet or laptop. This allows you to use your phone to present, and you’ll still have access to any browser-based programs.
I hope that this makes a strong case for the use of slides in your classroom. If you’d like to take a look at a sample slideshow that I’ve used for one of my IELTS classes, you can gain access to it by clicking on the button below.