Oct 21

Poignant Presentations

My Classroom Presentation Philosophy

Being a history teacher, at times I have to heavily rely on the “lecture”.  I hate to do it, but sometimes its the only way to get the students to fully grasp the material in the time allotted.  I’d love to dig into every concept via inquiry learning or engaging activities, but I have not yet mastered the balance of hitting all the standards in just 2-3 block periods a week. Thus, the lecture still remains part of my history curriculum, and it probably always will.

When I started making powerpoint presentations for my first year of teaching, I found myself heavily relying on the textbook. This caused very wordy powerpoints.  The fact that my students didn’t have good textbooks also influenced my verbose presentations.  My students were pretty engaged with the powerpoints, but mostly because they were trying to copy everything down.  This led to very….slow….presentations, and I couldn’t cover the material I wanted.  In following years, I printed out the powerpoint slides on handouts, leaving out key words for the students to fill in as we went along.  They could also take notes on the side of each slide.  This technique sped up the lecture process, and my students also had better books to refer too.

In recent years, more of my students have had lap tops and now we have a 1-2-1 program in the high school.  This allows me to upload my powerpoints to my website, and students can download them during class and follow along.  I still leave out key words, definitions or charts, so students will have to pay attention in class and not just download the lecture.  I still run into the problem of the students being so intent on filling in the blanks that they tune me out when I ask the a question that is related to the text.  But, this is a simple enough problem to work around.

When it comes to the material I present on the slide, I do think that an educational presentation should have a bit more material presented on the slides than a presentation given in a lecture hall or business forum.  The purpose of using powerpoint, keynote, prezi, Google, or other types presentation devices in my classroom is to present information to students, connect ideas, and prompt instruction.  I can do this through the use of pictures, charts and other minimized slides, but presenting text is also needed in some cases.  When I use bullet points or simple slides to promote complete ideas, I encourage my students to write additional information in their handwritten notes or in the presenters notes section of the presentation.

I do believe that presenters need to be careful not to overload their audience with too much information on the powerpoints/keynotes.  But, I reiterate that the classroom presentation is different than the business presentation, and needs to be addressed differently.  My presentation style has adapted over my 7 years of teaching, and I am using my presentations in more powerful ways.

Ways I use Presentations in the Classroom

Reviewing Information:

After students had read information, I may use presentations to help them remember what they read and make deeper connections.






Synthesize Information:


To trigger students’ prior knowledge before presenting a new concept, I use blank slides and have students come up with information.  Later, I reveal the information on my presentation and we compare how correctly they remembered the information.  From this exercise, we discuss where the information could be leading.

Making Connections

Before entering a complicated topic, I give my students a chance to see how our discussion will fit together.  By establishing connections early, students can better internalize the information.






Getting Students to Pay Attention

When my students read the textbook (if they do the reading), they tend to forget to read the information in the boxes and margins.  They see pictures or charts as something that takes up space, giving them less to read.  Thus, they miss some key information.  In my presentations I sometimes encourage my students to “think inside the box”, and remind them not to miss key information.


Reflections on Using Presentations

I realize that I don’t give the “perfect” presentation.  There is much for me to learn, and I am constantly adapting how I present information to my students.  It’s a strange balance though, giving too much or too little.  If you have the perfect ratio, please let me know.


  1. Avatar of Josee Marshall
    Josee Marshall

    Hey Rebecca, you should be really proud of your presentations. Any teachers who have to cover so much in so little time, with a minimum amount of prep time, and still takes the time to create visuals like you have is to be commended. I’m an ESL teacher and I value visuals – especially visuals that help students review, focus on key info and make connections. Well done!

  2. Mary Fish

    Hi Rebecca,

    I really enjoyed reading your post. I agree with you that sometimes educational presentations require more text than ones given in other forums. A keynote speaker’s goal in a presentation, for example, might be to “wow” the audience, and therefore he/she might use many bold images with very little text, whereas a classroom teacher’s goal might be to provide important information related to a historical event, and therefore, he/she might use more text and fewer images than the keynote speaker. I think it all boils down to figuring out what the desired outcome is before you decide what type of presentation to give.

    As an English teacher, I often include far too much text on my PowerPoint slides. All those words just seem so important! One thing I have tried to do lately to remedy this take the full sentences on my slides and whittle them down to just one or two key words. Then, when I present to the class, I say the full sentence, and the students focus on the image and the keywords. I know that they enjoy this more, and it seems they are more engaged, which suggests to me that they are taking in more of the information than before when I had full sentences on the slide. I pasted a few of my “new and improved” slides on my recent post “Killing My Students Softly….with PowerPoint (link to coetail.asia) if you are interested. That said, I think the slides that you included in this post look great. They are visually appealing and certainly not too text heavy, so don’t be too hard on yourself! I wish I could sit in on one of your classes. :)

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