There’s so much teachers can do with PowerPoint in the classroom. Illustrating a complicated scientific process, playing “Jeopardy” as a topic review, showing slides of a recent school activity – the possibilities are endless. PowerPoint is a very flexible instructional tool, and it’s main purpose in the classroom is enhanced learning.
To achieve this goal, create presentations that improve students’ attention and concentration. Listed below are five tips to get you moving in the right direction.
1. Too much information hurts
With a tool like PowerPoint, it’s tempting to try sharing every bit of information you can. After all, you can simply type the appropriate text into your slides and throw them up on the screen. Don’t do it, though. It just isn’t an effective approach, because it only results to information overload: a kind of stress students experience when they can’t easily grasp a topic due to being hit with too much information to absorb and process.
During a lecture, students use short-term memory for information storage. Unfortunately, scientific studies have proven that this memory type can’t hold onto very many different concepts over the period of a normal presentation. So in preparing your slides, emphasize only the most relevant facts or ideas. Stick to the “6×6 Rule”: No more than six lines of text per slide, with no more than six words on each line. This also prevents students from reading your slides without listening to your explanations.
Once you’ve assembled your presentation, you might find there are useful and important points that you weren’t able to include. These can be covered in a supplemental printed handout, for homework or optional further study.
2. Colors have a language of their own
History, culture and nature have significantly influenced the way we interpret colors. Green is linked with soothing plants, purple with royalty, red with luck. White conveys purity, while yellow brims with happiness.
These connotations and many more suggest that hues, if appropriately used, can reinforce the points you want to convey to your class. In choosing and combining colors, remember the following:
- Choose a subtle background color. If it’s too dominant, it will distract the students from the main point of the slide.
- Background and text colors should have a high contrast, to make the text readable.
- Color combinations should be pleasing and comforting to the eyes, unless your message is better served by using a jarring or slightly disturbing combination.
In a nutshell, base your color selections on aesthetics, and on relevance too.
3. A single stroke for different folks
One advantage of using PowerPoint in the classroom is that it can cater to all three learning styles: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Taking full advantage of the software’s features, you can come up with engaging slides for every type of learner:
- Customize your own slides based on your topic and your students’ preferences.
- Add photos, videos and music to illustrate an idea or emphasize key points.
- Create charts and tables using SmartArt rather than overloading your slides with text.
- Add transitions and animations to emphasize important facts and concepts.
Precaution: Do not overdo use of such features to the point of distraction. Keep your presentation substantive but simple.
4. Interactivity is key
Using a PowerPoint presentation in the classroom has sometimes been criticized as a “disengagement strategy.” When a teacher uses such an audio-visual aid, students may simply listen and look, but take no active part in the learning process. No engagement. With such inactivity, it’s difficult to assess whether students are actually learning from a lecture or not.
As the main facilitator in the classroom, a teacher can prevent such a lack of engagement. Ask questions and solicit ideas from your students every now and then, as an engagement tool and comprehension check. Design your slides in a way that brings about class discussion. For example:
- Ask a question with a slide, rather than stating a fact.
- Include a chart and ask the students to interpret it.
- Include a debatable photo and ask for explanations, thoughts or reactions.
5. Over-reliance on a presentation is a big no-no
A PowerPoint presentation, no matter how cool it might look, doesn’t always guarantee comprehension. Just like traditional instructional aids, it is only a means to an end. It is still the teacher who has the most powerful impact on students’ learning. A presentation only becomes effective if the teacher using it demonstrates in-depth knowledge, credibility and confidence.
Further, when using a presentation in the classroom, don’t get too caught up in the mechanics of presenting. Pay attention on students’ responses. Are they enjoying your lecture? Do you see some nodding asleep in their seats? Be quick to notice responses and adjust your approach as necessary.
About the Author
Toke Kruse is the CEO of Slideshop.com, a leading provider of pre-designed PowerPoint templates. Toke is a graduate of Copenhagen Business School and has launched nearly a dozen companies since entering the world of entrepreneurship at the age of 18.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, marfis75.