22 April 2012

Using Powerpoint in the classroom

What's so special about using Powerpoint in the classroom?

Occasionally I read something that really resonates strongly with my current thoughts about teaching practice: what I do in the classroom, and what I'd like to do better.

Rob Lewis, writing for the British Council, has encapsulated what all of us could use with very little additional training and equipment. His reasoning: you don't need fancy interactive white boards nor many more typing skills beyond what you might have with Microsoft Word already, to sit down with your learners (and a handy cordless keyboard and laptop) and bring their (and your) ideas and language to life with a projector.

Rob says: '... it's easy to prepare before lessons. In class it can also give an extra dynamic, especially with the 'clickability' it gives you - the chance to quickly click through slides....'


To get started, he identifies basics you need to know: how to add and delete slides, how to change layouts, how to start a presentation, changing font and background colour, custom animation, keyboard shortcuts, plus some general Microsoft Word 'tricks' such as copy and paste.

Activities in the classroom

So sit back and watch the videos: don't be too harsh on yourself by measuring what he does against your current skills. Something there may be quick to pick up and trial - or it may lead into a cul de sac. I initially created a summary slide for each day, typed after the event, which allowed us to revise together, as a whole class the next week or even later, perhaps the following month. Now I've branched out into taking notes whilst students brainstorm a topic. Certainly the cordless keyboard took a little getting use to, and it helps being reasonably fluent with typing, if not a touch typist.

Some preparation beforehand is valuable, especially if you're not a particularly fast typist. And you'll reap the rewards of early investment of time, as you speed up and gradually increase your repertoire of keyboard shortcuts. As we teachers know and preach, practice reinforces learning.

Some teachers are reluctant to type in the classroom for fear that their students will judge their technical skills -  I think that we are actually modelling behaviours that demonstrate our willingness to take risks in order to learn something new. And typing gives time for students to think and reflect. In a class of young students, you could also 'delegate' the scribing by passing the keyboard round the room.

From the videos, which activities grab your attention as being of immediate value or applicability to your practice? What skills are a priority for you to master?

Skills - some links to further resources



  • Some really fancy techniques are demonstrated here: how to move things into a slide with a HAND (moving hands animation technique): http://www.screenr.com/yjd

Practical skills 

The following blog posts, from Moyea, explain skills with text and screengrabs (content is self-explanatory from their titles):

And for a bit of light relief:

Life after Death by Powerpoint (and don't take to heart what they say about people who use lower case all the time, Michael): http://youtu.be/-wmSHbDkHJ8

Jill did a Powerpoint presie with narration and animations (basic) over here at CNLCStaff wiki (originally intended for low level ESL learners with no computer skills): http://cnlcstaffroom.acfe.vic.edu.au/Power+to+your+Powerpoint+skills