A typical assignment students in school receive is to present on their home country using Powerpoint. The typical results can range from the brilliant to the cringeworthy, but more often than not, this is down to an inadequate process of preparation. Some common errors include: too much text, time wasted on visuals, and insufficient speaking practice. I recently had to prepare some beginner to intermediate-level students for an exam in which they must deliver a four-minute presentation on their country, before answering audience questions. Aside from linguistic limitations, the students were technologically ignorant. Here’s how I helped them.
- Give students a country project planner with a breakdown of key information to include (e.g. geography, people, and culture) and space to write their ideas next to each potential slide. Help students think about what could be included and where their own ideas might fit.
- Have students begin by retrieving information from one or more of the following websites: www.ducksters.com/geography, simple.wikipedia.org, www.factmonster.com/country, and www.kids-world-travel-guide.com. They can also use bing or google for images.
- Ensure that students record their information and photos in a document first. This cuts out the concern with layout and design. It also postpones the hassle of creating slides.
- Both steps two and three should be modelled by the teacher, providing a computer linked to a projector can be used. (The country of the weakest student can be used as a model, so that various content can be used.) Each section of the list can be shown and then students can copy what they see. Sight problems may be a hindrance here, but the teacher can monitor progress.
- Any quick students have the freedom to add more content each step of the way, especially while the teacher shows computer functions such as copy+paste to others.
- After all the content has been collated, again model to the students how to open Powerpoint, add slides (preferably with title and text), and transfer their content from a document to individual slides.
- Give those who are faster in the last task the support to enable visual enhancements such as changing the theme, font, and picture properties.
Having followed these steps with a class recently, I can confirm its validity. It helped avoid the common errors I mentioned and left students with far less text than if they had created it by themselves. Furthermore, some would have failed to create anything by themselves without assistance. Instead they began to enthusiastically explain to me the different pictures in detail, which I assured them was exactly what would make their presentation more of a success. It’s worth noting that this process took three hours to complete, and we have yet to practice the actual presentations.