How to Explain PowerPoint
By Anni Martin
Microsoft PowerPoint allows users to combine text, graphics and multimedia into a slide show. While you can use the program to create Web pages, teach shapes to kindergartners or help middle school students explore music, its main use is as a presentation tool. PowerPoint's slide show replaces technology such a chalkboard or an overhead projector to aid someone giving a presentation or leading a discussion. Because every presentation is different, the best way to explain PowerPoint is to have your students develop a speech to give to the class.
Explain PowerPoint by discussing what makes a good presentation. Typically, a presentation conveys information about a subject the speaker wants others to know about. Ask your students to come up with a topic and a main viewpoint about the topic to present to others. Ask students to list the main parts of their presentation in sequence and to think of some ideas of how to illustrate their presentation using graphics, pictures, sound or charts.
Ask students to create a simple PowerPoint presentation based on their initial topic discussion. Start with the basics of how to make a slide, add text and graphics. Explain the difference between the views in PowerPoint. There is the normal view where you add graphics and text, the slide view or slide show used for a presentation, slide sorter to help organize the speech and notes pages to take speaker notes.
Tell the students to experiment with their slide show. Demonstrate how to add animations and sounds to their presentation. Allow them time to practice with these functions to add interest to their presentation. Explain the different ways to run a slide show such as using a mouse, a remote or by having the show run itself.
Show some PowerPoint examples, preferably in your subject area. Include good and bad PowerPoint examples. You can find many examples online in places such as Powerful PowerPoint for Educators' "Examples from Real People," Amy John's "PowerPoint Games" or at Meryl.net's "70+ PowerPoint and Presentations Resources" (see Resources).
Break the students into groups to discuss what makes a presentation good or bad. It's easy for beginning users to get carried away with animations, graphics and a large amounts text in PowerPoint. Provide a list of guidelines to help students develop their slide shows.
Allow students time to re-work their initial presentation. Explain how they can use PowerPoint features such as speaker notes, handouts and outlines to help them organize their material. Once they are finished with their presentations, have them give their presentations to the class.
Translating technical jargon into everyday English is one of Anni Martin’s specialties. She is an educator and writer who spent over 13 years teaching and creating documentation at the University of Missouri. She holds a Master’s Degree in educational technology as well as Bachelor’s degrees in journalism and political science from the University of Missouri.