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How to make your presentations awesome

I had a conversation several days ago with a teacher who was asking all the right questions. She wanted ideas of what works, what the research is saying is great for kids. In her first year, she was using primary sources and other kinds of evidence. She was having kids address deep questions. But she was still concerned about lecturing too much.

And I had to agree. She was probably lecturing too much. It’s an easy habit to fall back on – it makes it seem like you’re doing your job. It fills the time. It covers the content. And it’s often a “great” classroom management tool . . . in the sense that kids are busy “learning” so they’re not setting stuff on fire.

But for a lot of reasons – most of them accurate – lecture as an instructional tool is seen as a bad thing. And for the most part, I agree. Kids need to be solving problems. Working in groups. Messing with evidence. Creating products. Communicating solutions. It’s tough doing that when they’re sitting in rows listening to you.

But I will also suggest that short, interactive conversations between you and your students can be one way for kids to collect foundational knowledge that helps them do those other things. Short and interactive being the operative words here.

Another word that needs to be added to the mix?

Visually appealing.

If you’re going to use lecture as a tool for building foundation knowledge, commit to short, intense, interactive, and visually appealing presentations. There is a ton of research on why visually appealing works better than, well . . . ugly.

And I know many of you use PowerPoint or Keynote. Others swear that using something Prezi or different types of mobile presentation tools makes their presentations so much better. But it really doesn’t matter what software or platform that you use, if your presentation deck or slides suck, your lecture won’t be as effective.

So . . . a few things to remember:

  • Keep your slides clean and crisp – limit your use of colors and fonts.
  • Avoid unnecessary animations and sounds
  • Embed videos and photos directly into your slides
  • Keep your fonts to sans serif and larger that 24 point
  • Your slides should have minimal text – one idea per slide
  • Use a consistent style / color families / fonts  throughout your presentation

Need some visually appealing examples?

Start here. Then here.

Finally browse through some Slideshare how-tos. Then go back to your presentations and make some changes. So that when you do lecture, your visuals are selling ideas, concepts, and big ideas. And you’re not putting kids to sleep.

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