In this post, I explain why I stopped using PowerPoint in my classroom just over 5 years ago. I also changed my whole strategy when it came to lecturing in a science classroom.
When I Used PowerPoint All of the Time
In my first three years of teaching I taught 3 classes a day with 1-2 preps per semester and a 90 minute prep period every day. In my next position, I was teaching 6 classes a day with 3 different preps and a 52 minute prep period. I was in that position for about a month before I felt like I was completely drowning and knew I had to simplify everything I was doing as much as possible.
I’d been following a strict daily schedule in each of my classes:
- 7 minute warm up, on PowerPoint using slides that changed every 60 seconds on an autotimer.
- 20-25 minute PowerPoint lecture
- 25-30 minute student activity (left side notebook activity)
- 5 minutes to wrap up
Too Busy for PowerPoint
I had already started thinking about NGSS because I really didn’t have any curriculum to work with and I knew everything would soon be changing anyway. As often as possible, I used the pre-made presentations that were provided with the textbook, but they were pretty AWFUL and needed a LOT of editing. With only a 52 minute prep, not a lot can be done…. and when you are teaching three different subjects it quickly becomes overwhelming.
After my first observation that year, my administrator gave me a glowing review but mentioned that she thought I was doing a lot of unnecessary work. She mentioned the PowerPoint presentations and said it seemed like I was doing a lot of work to make it easy for the kids. She suggested that as often as possible I try to shift the responsibility back onto the students.
I eventually ditched the PowerPoints for a MUCH easier note taking strategy. (See below.) Also, I have developed a teaching strategy that significantly limits the amount of lecturing that I do in the classroom.
Why I Gave It Up
Here is why I have given up making PowerPoint presentations in my classroom for good:
- It is too much work!
They take a lot of time and effort to set up. I got pretty efficient at making a presentation, at it would still take me at least 20 minutes per course. Then, I would still have to find and/or create an activity correspond with the lecture. It was just simply too much work.
- I always intended to reuse them… but I never really did.
This may have been because I was in my first 5 years of teaching when I was in my heavy PowerPoint using phase. Or maybe it was because I was working so quickly that I didn’t have time to produce really good content. Either way, I rarely reused this content from year to year. Now that I keep all of my notes in an interactive notebook, I reuse almost everything and just focus on fine-tuning my work.
- Creating a PowerPoint presentation for a class with a heavy math focus is literally THE WORST.
This was especially true when I taught chemistry. It was AWFUL. Typing an equation takes like 9 million times more effort than just writing it by hand. I don’t like it and I don’t suggest it.
Also, if I am teaching something like balancing equations, I find that it is so much more effective for students to see me write the work out step by step.
- Lecturing too often allows students to be passive learners
This is the key point that I hope you take away from this blog post. Lecturing will always have a place in your classroom, but your students should spent as much time as possible investigating, building, reading and explaining what they are doing. In my opinion, there are still far too many educators over using lectures in the NGSS classroom. I think that a lot of this is out of necessity because very few of us have curriculum, but I hope to see a shift in the years to come.
Alternative Activities That Don’t Require Tons of Prep
- I significantly limit my lectures and cut down on the amount of notes as much as possible.
I teach vocabulary every Monday using lecture style format that takes approximately 15-20 minutes. Of Course, this depends on the grade level.
After that, I try to limit the number of lectures that I give in the week. So far this year, I have done a maximum of two days of lecturing in a week, but most weeks I don’t lecture at all.
When I taught chemistry, I didn’t require Cornell Style notes because it gave me a little more room to work with. But still, everything fit on one page. Rather than providing several examples, I tried to stick to 1-2 examples and work through the first few problems with the students.
- Jigsaws, structured note-taking and Newsela
Here is a picture of the jigsaw that I did with my 7th graders this week. At some point, I plan on doing a whole post about how I do jigsaws in my classroom, but for now, I will just give a brief explanation. Students are divided into “expert groups” where they work on researching a particular topic. In this case, they might be in a group that investigated budding. They would write notes or diagrams in their square. They would spend a certain amount of time researching that topic.
After that, the expert groups would break apart. At that time one person from the budding group would meet up with 3 other people, one from each group. Each person would be responsible for teaching their material to the entire group.
I also use other structured note-taking strategies. One of my favorite it to outline the reading using a Fishbone diagram. Students read in small groups and then take notes by summarizing information and writing down main ideas. Here is an online Fishbone worksheet maker.
About once a month I also assign a Newsela article that is relevant to our topic. I separate kids into groups by reading level and give them copies of the articles at their given reading levels. If you are unfamiliar with Newesla, I suggest you sign up. It is totally free and very valuable (though there is a paid option).
- Observations, Labs and PhET Simulations
Students learn so much when they are doing a lab exploration. It is difficult (and expensive) to do labs all of the time, so I rely heavily on PhET simluations.
Finally, I think these presentation have a place in the classroom. I recently had students create presentations through google classroom and I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of their work.
Also, if you can create presentations quickly or use one that has already been created for you, I think that is fine as long as you aren’t using them all the time in your classroom.