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K-12, Teaching Tools

Templates and Tools for Designing Presentations

First of all, to all of my teaching friends who have started back to school, I just want to say from the bottom of my heart how much I appreciate all that you do. I hope that this school year will present fewer challenges than last. Many of you probably have mixed feelings about beginning another year, and my wish is that we can all support each other as much as possible. With that in mind, I wanted to publish this post of some tools that can help make things easier.

Last year, I posted this article that is chock full of interactive slide templates designed by myself and others, and are ready for you to copy and download for free.

Though many of you know about the SlidesMania website (which is very supportive of educators), you may not know that the author also has an IconsMania website where you can download free icons also. She also has a Facebook Group and Wakelet collection. And if you really appreciate all that Paula does as a community service to educators, click on the coffee icon in the bottom right corner so you can buy her a mocha or two. I put one of Paula’s recent slides, Funfair Exit Ticket, at the bottom of this post.

Another site I like to visit for free slide designs is SlidesGo. One fun tool that I recently discovered by clicking on the More button at the top is Storyset. On Storyset, you can find customizable illustrations that you can download for free (with attribution), and it’s easy to use the online tools to change colors, select certain features of the illustration to hide, and decide the file type (svg or png). If you really want to explore the rabbit hole of free design options, click on that More button at the top of SlidesGo yourself, and investigate some of the other sites.

SlidesCarnival has been a long time favorite of mine when I need some inspiration, and Canva is another spot where I find them (some options are limited on the free plan, though).

Matt Miller of Ditch that Textbook has Social Media templates ready to go for you. (Be sure to check out his ULTIMATE Google Slides Teacher Resource when you have time for a really deep dive!)

Of course, Canva has tons of presentation templates specifically designed for educators right here.

If you want to play around with color on your presentations, I highly recommend the Coolors tool. I recently published this post with some other options, too. It includes a link to a Slides activity where students design their own color palettes – which would be an awesome “Getting To Know You” lesson!

To add some interest to your presentation, you can include animated GIF’s. Or, find free images with Pixabay, Unsplash, All4Ed, Photos4Class, Pexels, or Pics4Learning.

Whenever you can, make your presentations interactive using PearDeck or Nearpod.

Lastly, if you need some reminders of what NOT to do in a presentation, you can chuckle at this Worst Preso Ever that was crowdsourced several years ago. It was always a favorite for my students when we started working on Genius Hour!

3-12, Apps, Education, Research, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Websites

Google Slides Templates (Updated)

This week, I’ve decided to reblog some of my more popular posts with some updates. Since I’ve posted this piece on Google Slides Templates, I’ve found some other resources to add to the list.  You will find most of the updates at the bottom of this post.

Now that our campus has a set of Chromebooks, my students have been delighting in exploring Google Drive.  One tool that has been an asset is the Presentation tool also known as Slides.  Similar to Powerpoint, the Google version has a few advantages in our environment: automatic saving (extremely helpful when the network isn’t always reliable), the rockin’ Research Tool, and the ability to use Google image search within the presentation. Even more importantly, a shared presentation invites collaboration.  I’ve enjoyed having the students work on slides in the same show simultaneously, such as the metaphor presentation I’ve embedded below. (UPDATE: Alice Keeler has a great post on how students can submit work on a collaborative Google Slide Presentation.)

There aren’t a whole lot of themes available in Slides.  But a growing number of templates are popping up online.  You can start with Google, itself, for public presentation templates that are free to download. Another fun resource, though somewhat limited right now, is Slides Carnival.

One of my favorite templates that I’ve run across recently comes from the DavidLeeEdTech blog.  This virtual museum template is so cool!  Scroll down to the comments section on his blog to get the direct link for downloading the template.

from David Lee's Virtual Museum Slides Template
from David Lee’s Virtual Museum Slides Template

Another option is to download a Powerpoint template that you like, and then to import the slides into your Google Drive presentation.

To download most templates, you will need to be signed in to your Google Drive. If the link provided for a template does not give you a direct copy, then you may have a “View Only” version, and will need to make a copy yourself. When applicable, always leave the proper source citations for the template on the slide show, but do whatever other editing you would like once you make a copy.

Tired of the limited fonts available for your Slides Presentation? Check out these instructions for adding more.

And, if you are feeling very enterprising and graphic-designy and would like to make your own template, Alice Keeler has step-by-step instructions for doing just that.

UPDATED 6/22/15:  More Google Slides Templates Resources

3-12, Creative Thinking, Education, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Videos, Websites

Powtoon for Educators

I had to search my own blog to find the last time I posted about Powtoon.  It was two years ago!  They have come a long way since then!

Powtoon is a fun way to present, allowing you all kinds of dynamic tools that will keep your viewers engaged.

The company recently launched a major campaign for educators offering free classroom accounts.  These accounts are usually $96/year, and you can add 60 students to your account!  The offer expires on October 31, 2014 – so be sure to activate yours soon!

Powtoon Educator Offer

A lot of resources have been added to the Powtoon library since the last time I reviewed it.  For example, when you go to your Dashboard, and choose to create, you will find that there are many templates that you can use .  These templates are fun; there’s even a “Teacher Intro” one!  I took that one, made a couple of minor changes, and had the one embedded below finished in under 5 minutes.

With all of my talk about creativity this week, Powtoon certainly fits the theme.  Imagine what your students could do with this great tool!

Education, Independent Study, K-5, Motivation, Student Products, Teaching Tools

Genius Bar Update

A genius explains her global coin collection.
A genius explains her global coin collection.

At the beginning of the school year, I got an idea from an article that I was reading about changing the design of the classroom.  It briefly alluded to a class “Genius Bar,”  (using the term for the Help Desk in Apple Stores.)  I decided to re-purpose the sad-looking classroom bookshelf into a Genius Bar.  You can read more about the transformation here.

In my GT classroom, the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders are doing a Genius Hour this year.  The kids are excited.  But there is one problem.  For Genius Hour, I insist that they learn about something new to them.  I really want to avoid them using Genius Hour as a means of extending a hobby that they already devote plenty of time to at home.  But some kids really, really want to talk about those hobbies…

If you ever have participated in “Show and Tell”, you know that many students love to be the center of attention, and to “tell” all that they know about something. Sometimes, though, their audience is not quite as interested in the topic.  I’m hoping that the Genius Bar will solve this problem.  I’ve invited the students who reach Level 3 in my classroom (you can read more about our “Level Up” system here) to bring something to show at the Genius Bar during Center Time.  At the beginning of the day, they tell what they have brought, and the other students can sign up to learn about the item.  This way, students who are genuinely interested can learn.

Because I only meet with my students one day a week, only four or five of them had reached Level 3 by the holidays.  They kept forgetting to bring their items on GT day, but finally one student remembered.  She brought some coins from different countries.

Since there was only one “Genius”, I did not have the students sign up.  I approached Center Time with a bit of trepidation, though, because I was concerned no one would want to learn about the coins.  This was 5th grade, and they sometimes like to pretend they already know everything 😉 I already had a speech in my head to console the student: “Sometimes the things that we find fascinating aren’t always interesting to others.  Maybe you can think of a ‘pitch’ to sell it next time if you really want to share the coins.”

I had nothing to worry about.  I should have had the kids sign up – for time slots. When I announced that it was Center Time and that the Genius Bar was now open, just about everyone flocked there immediately.  They listened to the student, examined the coins with and without the magnifying glass, and showed true interest.

So it turns out that, once again, Voice and Choice won out in the classroom.  Our “Genius” got to share something that mattered, and her classmates got to choose if they wanted to hear about it.

When we return to school, I plan to pre-emptively remind the students that “Genius Bar” is not about popularity, and that they should base their choices on interest in the topic.  I decided that each week’s “Geniuses” will give me their topic privately, and students will sign up to learn about the topic without knowing who the presenter is.  And, I will gently remind each presenter that some topics may be more popular than others.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

Apps, Augmented Reality, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Depth and Complexity, Education, Independent Study, K-5, Motivation, Research, Student Products, Teaching Tools

Genius Hour – Show What You Know


One of my goals this year for Genius Hour is to guide the students into creating more dynamic presentations to share what they have learned.  If you are a teacher, you have probably experienced the excruciatingly long  Powerpoints proudly displayed by students to a mostly disinterested audience of their peers.  A couple of my strategies to shake things up this year are to offer the students some digital sandbox time (which I am planning to discuss in a future post) and to give them some “Genius Hour Challenges.”  My 5th graders, though, just started planning their first “Missions” and I knew they weren’t in the mood to sit and listen to an excruciatingly long lecture from me about alternative presentations 🙂

I had not gotten my digital sandbox materials together, yet, but I had recently discovered a graphic called, “101 Ways to Show What You Know” from that I thought would appeal to them.  Of course, at the exact moment I was about to project it on the screen for them, my classroom projector conked out.  In desperation, I held up the paper.  Despite my low-tech exhibit, there was instant excitement.

“Really?!!!  I could do a puppet show?”



“Of course.”

What cracked me up about their surprise was that I’ve had them do about half of the activities on the page, at one time or another, to demonstrate their knowledge.  But, for some reason or another, whenever they get to choose their own method of presenting, they always default to Power Point.

Not anymore.

“I’m totally doing a scavenger hunt.  Now I just have to figure out how to do it,” one student announced.

“Hmm.  We’ve done scavenger hunts in here before, haven’t we?” I asked him.


And that is exactly what he decided to put down as his “Format of Mission Report.”  So, instead of flashing a bunch of slides about deep-sea fish in front of his half-asleep classmates, this student will be creating an augmented reality activity that will get them out of their seats and help them to learn about his topic.

I wish I had a nickel for every yawn I won’t be seeing the day he presents.

(You can find links to the Genius Hour Mission Report and other resources here.  Update:  *As of 1/2/14, you can now download all of my current Genius Hour resources in a bundle on Teachers Pay Teachers for $5.  Or, you can still download them separately (for free) by clicking on the Genius Hour Resource Page.  If you are interested in learning more about augmented reality, click here.)

Click here for a blank Mission Report.
Click here for a blank Mission Planner.

Education, Independent Study, K-12, Motivation, Research, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Websites

What Would Steve Do? 10 Lessons from the World’s Most Captivating Presenters

Screen Shot 2013-04-07 at 8.34.35 PM

I think that I should show my students that they may grab more listeners by approaching exhibitions of their work as described in #9, “It’s not a presentation.  It’s a performance.”

The other 9 suggestions are also well worth a view.  In addition to the SlideShare, you can get more explanation for each piece of advice at Hubspot in this post by Marta Kagan.

In retrospect, I think I could stand to brush up on my own presentation skills as well!