What story am I trying to tell?

Presenting is something that most teacher do often. Whether we realise it or not – and sometimes even if we are directly trying to do less of it – we are often standing in front of people trying to tell a story.


2015-03-16 15.13.29


This is me doing what I do way too often 🙂

I have been thinking about lately about how I use presentations in my class. Mostly due to some lovely, diligent Yr 13’s who panic every time I move a slide if they haven’t written down every word I have written. I have thought about all that I have learned around using text in lessons. Our student learning support often reminds staff not to talk while students are copying down notes as many students will struggle to copy and listen. I have heard time and time again, most recently from Travis Smith, that if students (or anyone for that matter) are worried about just copying down verbatum they can’t process the information at the same time and so struggling to make connections.

And making connections is a big part of what I am trying to do.

Yet I still make power points, and talk around them while students frantically try to copy it down. And then run into the frustrating problem of some writing faster than others.



Even with the surface to write on as I present – it still just looks like a slide with lots of text.

So it was very timely that on Tuesday I had a session (via Lync and courtesy of the Microsoft Innovative Educator program I am involved with) on making fantabulous presentations from the amazing Pip Cleaves. It was full of some amazing tips and tricks for making engaging presentations – some of the things that stuck out especially for me were

1) this quote

“Humans are completely incapable of reading and comprehending text on a screen and listening to a speaker at the same time. Therefore, lots of text (almost any text!), and long, complete sentences are bad, Bad, BAD.”

Garr Reynolds

Case in point – lots of my presentations are bad, Bad, BAD

2) Be explicit. Have a theme and stick to it. Tell your ‘audience’ where you are going – (but does this then limit the ability for them to figure out the answers for themselves….???? I guess it depends). Think about your presentation in terms of headlines and graphics – not bullet points.

On this point, Pip did talk about the purpose of your presentation. If it is YOUR presentation – then it is perfectly acceptable for it to make no sense if you are not there to present it. But if it is to make information available at a later date – then maybe make a presentation or notes or site with the info on it as a separate thing to your presentation, or record your talk as you do it using Office mix or another tool.

3) If you are focussing on visuals – find some nice images and fonts and make sure they are free to use. There was a huge number of sties Pip introduced us too – here are some of my favourites after a very quick look.

Photo Pin


And for fonts, check FontSquirrel

But back to thinking about what I am doing in class. Using power point the way I am sometimes, I have essentially done nothing to change practice from 100 years ago – here are some notes, take them down in silence. Even if I share the PowerPoint (sometimes even ahead of time) there is still the expectation they need every word from the slides rather than every word I am saying.

And there is the flipside – there is sadly a lot of content to cover, especially in NCEA/senior high school subjects. Students do just need to know a whole heap of stuff. What is the best way to get all this stuff into them. Give them the notes – how do you know the read them? Make a PowerPoint with 100’s of words each slide – they might write them down but did they understand them? Make videos or use Office Mix – but then do I go with visuals or notes? Writing frames? Picture dictation? 3 level reading guides? Any other number of class room activities?
Most importantly, how to I accommodate all the different learners, but in particular my incredibly diligent students that have been trained that if they quietly write notes and practice writing out model answers they are doing all they need to. How can I slowly remove them from their comfort zone to realise there is something out there way more important that getting a good grade.

7839599598_e5c0b51109_mI want my students to see things differently

image source: photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/28652129@N06/5331383775″>The Importance of Vision</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;



So for next term I’m going to have a think about the purpose of my presentations. If it is for crowd control style content delivery – I’m going to find another tactic. Whether it be putting the notes online or making an Office Mix recording or simply photocopying masses off paper – I am not going to use ‘presentations’ in class to deliver mass content. I want them to tell the story of why that content is important – whether than be because the step from Organic Chemicals being able to be synthesised in the lab gave way to all the plastic in the world or how DNA and proteins are far more interesting polymers than mere mortal men could ever dream up or how Alexis St Martin was a living experiment that paved the way for early digestive Science after a near fatal gun shot wound.

Because those are the stories I think are worth telling.

One thought on “What story am I trying to tell?

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