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