Step Away from the Slide Show

In my experience, there are two kinds of slide shows: the TED Talk kind and the Oh-My-Gosh-How-Much-Longer-Can-This-Go-On-And-Why-Are-They-Reading-Every-Single-Word-To-Me kind.

Elementary students tend to do the latter.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are situations when slide shows are appropriate – but Genius Hour presentations generally don’t fall into that category.  In a matter of 20 minutes, a presenter can easily take a topic that he or she was insanely passionate about and reduce it to the least interesting subject ever in the history of time.

So, a couple of years ago, I started to really encourage my students to make their presentations more interactive and to branch out from slide shows.  By displaying the “101 Ways to Show What You Know” options and brainstorming other possibilities, we have ended up with a much more diverse program of final projects.   You can see some examples from last year’s batch here. (Two more sites you can use to generate presentation ideas are 200 Ways to Show What You Know and The Differentiator.)

It’s that time of year again, and my students are once again finishing up their research and beginning to present each week.  Last week, one of my students presented about breast cancer.  He barely spoke to the class at all – except to give them instructions for accessing a game he had programmed using the Hopscotch app.  Through the game, the students learned about the symptoms of breast cancer and side effects of treatments.  Then they were able to try to apply their learning by answering questions. (If you want to check out the game in the Hopscotch public project gallery, it is called, “Breast Cancer,” by Understanding Taffy. You may be surprised to see that there are several Hopscotch games about breast cancer.)

There was a bit of confusion about some of the directions, but his classmates were much more engaged than if the student had tried to approach this subject with a slide show of somber facts.

The presentation wasn’t perfect.  It could have used more “earth-shaking” revelations that were new to the students, and the presenter forgot to cite his sources.  But there is no doubt in my mind that this student spent his Genius Hour time productively and the class will remember more from his project than if he had chosen a less interactive way to present it.

If you are going to require your class to endure a number of student monologues, I recommend you give them some alternatives that will be less snore-inducing than the typical slide show.  It’s a win-win for you and the students.  And the rest of the school benefits, too. The custodians will discover that rarely-used bathrooms stay cleaner and have less toilet clogs.  The admin will marvel at all of the extra time they have gained to do their jobs instead of dealing with a revolving door of discipline referrals. Even the nurse will thank you for the reduction in headaches and other mysterious illnesses that seem to materialize during boring classroom lectures.

For more Genius Hour resources, check out this page.

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