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Student Powered PowerPoint Presentations: Two Approaches To Topics

Written by Michael Cain
November 12, 2010

All students, even those in fourth and fifth grades, demonstrate their exuberance and self-esteem and technological prowess when they create and present their own life story through Powerpoint presentations. Beginning Powerpointers will need to focus as much on learning to use the software as much as they do articulating the topic. A self-reflective, educationally introspective topic is a great place for them to start.

At-Risk Student Powered Presentations

Students exiting or graduating from our Community Day School are required to create and present a Powerpoint which is presented before parents, teachers and principals. These students select slide topics based on their own perception of what is important—those educational items they determine worthy of mention. The teacher provides a list of ideas and potential topics, but the final decision to include information is entirely student-directed. Here is the list we provide:

  • Why the student was placed in community day school
  • Why the student is ready to transition back to regular school
  • Reflections and positive reminiscences
  • Resources the student uses and will continue to use for success
  • Skills and tools the student has learned to modify or control his/her behavior
  • What academic skills and tools the students has learned for continued success
  • Expressed needs and learning requirements
  • Student goals, near-term and long-term
  • Personal hopes and dreams for the future

Student Powered Selection of Topics That Matter

Topic selection is a crucial consideration when working within the confines of the standards-based instruction required of teachers in California. Your state and it’s requirements may differ, but this approach should work equally well for you.

We begin by examining the content standards on the California Department of Education website. We ask each student to select a topic directly from those in the document published by the state. For example, if you view the California Standards document and note Eighth Grade Physical Science content standard 4a through 4e, “Earth in the Solar System,” and a particular student is interested in Astrophysics, that student then self-selects a topic in which he or she has interest.

Earth in the Solar System

  • a. Students know galaxies are clusters of billions of stars and may have different shapes.
  • b. Students know that the Sun is one of many stars in the Milky Way galaxy and that stars may differ in size, temperature, and color.
  • c. Students know how to use astronomical units and light years as measures of distances between the Sun, stars, and Earth.
  • d. Students know that stars are the source of light for all bright objects in outer space and that the Moon and planets shine by reflected sunlight, not by their own light.
  • e. Students know the appearance, general composition, relative position and size, and motion of objects in the solar system, including planets, planetary satellites, comets, and asteroids.

(California Department of Education, Reposted June 11, 2009)

I have included an example of a student Powerpoint using this standard as a topic. Please see the final page of this resource entitled, “Student Powered Powerpoint: Two Fine Examples.”

Student Powered Powerpoint Parameters

Students are eager to begin working on Powerpoints and they love to give their presentations. They need clearly defined expectations, a tangible list of expectations with minimum guidelines, to view before they get started, and to review as they continue working. We use the Direct Explicit Instruction model to convey objectives and requirements for every Powerpoint. Here they are:

  • Eight slides, student created text on every slide
  • Design for readability, including headings and subheadings
  • One graphical illustration directly related to the topic: a chart, a graph, a list, with caption(s)
  • Bibliography with three (or more) bibliographic resources, one or more not web-based
  • Five Minute Oral presentation

We developed a standard rubric for oral presentations. Two grades are earned in this project: one each for Powerpoint and for presentation. In order to exceed basic expectations and create truly excellent work, we have found useful the following tips, tricks and pointers for educators of elementary students:

  • Keyboarding is a requisite skill
  • Emphasize the importance of the text over the graphics
  • Avoid misinformation and plagiarism at all costs
  • Require easily readable fonts: size 12 or 14, Ariel and Times Standard
  • Background pictures that interfere with readability are unacceptable
  • Use of headings and bulleted lists to create an easy visual cue for the oral presentation
  • Using the slide as a prompt to address the audience
  • Oral presentation is not reading to the class what is written on the slide
  • Require students to demonstrate learning on the topic through both writing and oral expression

A good way to avoid blatant plagiarism from beginning Powerpointers is to require information to be written on 3×5 cards prior to building the Powerpoint. This is a formal presentation where the speaker is required to make eye contact with the audience, voice projection and varied intonation, and good posture. A good audience will also need to practice good listening skills and appropriate responses to the speaker.

Student Powered Powerpoint: Two Fine Examples

Students can show depth of self-expression and the extent of their understanding of their own education with Powerpoint presentations to an attentive audience. They can demonstrate academic learning. The first student example is done by a fourth grade student with moderate behavior issues but a clear understanding of his own strengths and weaknesses in an educational setting:

joey.ppt (Student Exit Powerpoint)

As an example of academic excellence, another Community Day School student created and presented a Powerpoint based on his understanding of astrophysics. This student work is a good example of how students become teachers through outstanding presentation. This selection is peer-edited and self-edited and is not teacher edited, and the presentation was supplemented by the student spontaneously drawing additional diagrams on the whiteboard to ensure understanding.

astrophysics.ppt (Student Academic Powerpoint)

Open joey.ppt
Open astrophysics.ppt



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