(This post is a more updated version of my previous 2010 post titled 'Making a Perfect PowerPoint Presentation'.)
By the time children reach Year 6, I would expect that my children would have a good understanding of the tools available in PowerPoint and be quite capable in making a straightforward presentation in it to convey some information about a topic that they had researched.
It would therefore be quite boring if I dedicated our Year 6 ICT lessons to repeating stuff that the children already know and can do - I need to find some ways of teaching them some of the more advanced things you can do using the software instead.
Towards the end of Autumn 2 I took some time to teach them how to properly use the custom animation tools to retell the nativity - see this blog post here - and I've just spent the last four weeks teaching them how to create a non-linear, interactive presentation in the program linked in with their history work about the Titanic disaster of 1912.
To start, I dedicated the first lesson to getting them to create some master slides for their presentation. These are 'template' slides that store information about the look and positioning of objects which help to ensure design consistence across each slide in the presentation. They can be created by going to the 'View' tab and then by clicking on the 'Slide Master' icon. Indeed, it is my opinion that one of the main contributors to improving the effectiveness of a presentation is making sure the slides within it have an attractive and well-laid out design that complements (not distracts from) the content.
The most creative way of doing this is to first ask the children to spend a short time creating a photo collage that can be applied as the background on the master slide (and therefore all the other slides in the presentation too):
To speed the process of doing this up, I put together a collection of about twenty or so Titanic-themed images beforehand that were resized to a width of 250 pixels - this meant that when the children inserted them onto a slide they could then spend their time productively spreading/rotating them around rather than wasting it constantly resizing everything.
Once the slide had been saved as a PNG image file, I next ask the children to apply this as a background picture onto a master slide in a new PowerPoint presentation file. I demonstrated the process that I wanted them to follow to then design their master slide before letting them spend the remainder of the session repeating my instructions. Once children had finished, I then just let them do some Internet research on the Titanic whilst I went around ensuring that those who needed support were given it (as this stage in the presentation creation is quite crucial).
In the second and third lessons, I then asked the children to: add seven slides to their presentation, apply a variety of slide layouts onto them (as specified below) and to add the necessary text/image content onto them.
Since they had spent all of lesson 1 developing the look/appearance of their presentation, these two lessons were quite straightforward and accessible since all that the children needed to do was to: research for some useful information online, type it up onto the relevant slides in their own words using bullet points and then insert some pictures alongside it as illustrations. I did try to prompt them to find their facts from one of the sites I had previously bookmarked - including
own History Encyclopedia website - as I found that last year a lot of the normal sources children go to like Wikipedia contained information that was a bit too technical/detailed for their level. I also encouraged the more confident children to also add slide transitions and apply subtle entrance animation effects onto their work to display it in a more creative manner.
'The Titanic disaster' is one of the more interesting topics of history for children to learn about and so they all seemed quite motivated and engaged when creating their work - it also helped that it is basically a narrative of events that I find children understand much more easily than the more abstract elements of history sometimes (similar to the Great Fire of London or the attack of the Spanish Armada).
In the fourth lesson I finally showed the children how to make their presentation more interactive for the viewer by inserting action buttons onto it that can be clicked on. By default, all PowerPoint presentations play in a linear fashion (slide 1 > slide 2 > slide 3 etc.) but I instead wanted their presentations to play in a non-linear fashion in which the viewer clicks on the action buttons to go to any slide of their choosing. Whilst you can get them to apply action settings to an inserted image to do this, I've found that they think that it's much easier and convenient to just insert one of the buttons available from within the AutoShapes collection on the drawing toolbar instead:
You'll notice that I've used yellow buttons here - this is to make the children be aware that their buttons need to be visible and stand out from the background of the slide. I do of course let them choose what colour they fill their own buttons in with and allow the more confident children to put a word in them too if they so desire (e.g. 'home'). You'll also notice that steps three and four ask them to tweak some settings in PowerPoint - these basically stop the slide advancing when the viewer clicks anything on the screen but one of the action buttons.
Having done this, I then gave the children a short time to go back and: modify, refine and improve their work. This included: changing any font colours/styles/sizes, checking the action buttons hyperlink to the correct slides and ensuring that custom animations play automatically (you might have noticed that tried to get them to choose the 'advance after previous' option on the LI slide earlier).
To finish off the project, I lastly got the children to peer-assess each others work using the 'two stars and wish' framework, in relation to the: 'good', 'great' or 'super' criteria I had displayed on the board. This hopefully made them appreciate what was perceived to be effective/worked well in their presentation and in what ways it might be improved upon in the future.
The whole presentation creation took just four one-hour ICT lessons to complete and, as expected, all the children found the designing of master slides a very useful time-saver. Indeed, I presented a demonstration on their use at #tmbpool3 just over a year ago and had several teachers comment to me how about how amazed they were that such an easy tool wasn't more widely used in the classroom.
Hopefully this post has helped you appreciate some of the ways to make creating PowerPoint presentations easier as well as some of the tools available to make them look more attractive and appealing to viewers too. If you want to see some examples of children's work created using these instructions please click here - I'm sure you'll be amazed by their quality!