Supercharge Students' Slideshows

Student presentations supported by Google Slides can be a good way for students to learn by teaching, but they can also be pretty boring for the student audience. Here are a few tips to increase engagement and mastery of learning outcomes for all students involved in class presentations.

Tip #1: Create an authentic reason, aligned to an essential question, for students to engage with their peers' presentations

This is the single most-important factor in making student presentations a valuable learning activity for the whole class. Students should have a specific purpose that makes them actually need to listen closely, ask questions, and interact with their classmates' presentations. This should be more than a feedback form: students should be actively engaged in each others' presentations because they're learning critical information that will help them answer the essential question. This structure also gives presenters an authentic purpose: they're providing essential information and trying to influence an audience.
  • Less engaging: In a science class, each student presents the features of a different biome. Students give each other feedback on one thing they did well and one thing they could improve in their presentations.
  • More engaging: Presenters take the role of biologists testifying before a United Nations committee, made up of their peers, tasked with answering the essential question 'Which biome is most essential to preserving the world's biodiversity, and is most in need of $50 million in conservation funds?" Students take notes in a graphic organizer during each presentation, then ask questions, have a discussion, and vote on which biome best meets the criteria for conservation funding.

Tip #2: Tighten up student presentations Pecha Kucha-style or with Screencasts

Pecha Kucha is a presentation style in which each presenter has 20 slides that automatically advance every 20 seconds, keeping the presentation concise and engaging. This format also forces presenters to practice their presentation and get the timing down pat. You can replicate this in your classroom by allowing students a limited number of slides, and using the 'publish to the web' feature to make them automatically advance. Here's how.
Another option to reduce the amount of time spent on whole-class presentations is to have students record a screencast of their presentation, then share the link in a Schoology discussion, instead of having in-class presentation time. You can put a time limit on screencasts (3 minutes or so) to keep them concise. Then students can use class time to watch each others' presentations to gather information to answer the essential question, reviewing or skipping ahead as needed.

Tip #3: Teach students the elements of an effective presentation

Students should be taught and held accountable for creating high-quality presentations that clearly convey their message. Carefully selected, high quality images following fair-use guidelines; consistent fonts and other design elements; and minimal text are key to good presentations.  Here are a few design tips from the pro's at TED Talks. 

Bonus Tip: Have students use the built-in laser pointer in Google Slides to emphasize their points. 

Did you know Google Slides has a laser pointer tool that you can control from your trackpad? They also added a feature allowing the audience to ask questions, which the presenter can review and respond to at the end of the presentation. Check both features out in this video.


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