Why I have ‘a thing’ about power points

Maybe you are a parent, a teacher or a pupil who is experiencing powerpoint fatigue, particularly after this past year. If so, read on. I’ll be brief!

My most recent colleagues know me for my unfettered dislike of power points. It partly comes from the fact that we are a PYP school, and the whole thought of teacher led power points  just doesn’t fit easily with the philosophy of what we are trying to achieve. It isn’t the actual presentation per se; it is the fact that it is a presentation.

We know that good practice is based in good research.  I confess that whilst I generally tried to ensure my practice is researched based, I am, if I am honest, a bit of a gut feeling kind of teacher. I do reckon my emotional intelligence isn’t too shabby, if my class glaze over, I feel it. If they aren’t engaged, it is easy enough to tell. Are they engaged with a power point? Not often. Perhaps, on reflection, it isn’t the fault of the power point, perhaps it is my enthusiasm for it that falls short. Either way, those power points don’t excite me.

I had to dig a bit deeper to think about why. I guess the essence of it is that (and again it could well have been my delivery at fault) but it came down to the fact that just because I was teaching didn’t mean they were learning. They were relatively passive whilst I had my captive audience and, where was the fun and the curiosity and the accountability? Once I switched things up a bit and started using a question, or a picture or some provocation to get the lesson going, those dynamics just changed. Straight away they knew they would have to come up with something, get the conversation going rather than sitting looking at the board/screen whilst thinking about whatever occupies the minds of 8 year olds. I am  reminded of my all-time favourite you tube clip ‘Shining Eyes’  (Music’s Power to Connect Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra – Benjamin Zander, June 27 2020). The title says it all – when their eyes are shining, you know you have them – give them a power point and see how those eyes shine; you get the drift.

The other thing about power points that bothers me is that they sometimes just tell the children what they need to know. How about giving the children great examples of whatever it is you are learning about and get them to deconstruct and unpick them, building their understanding as you go. I have tried to build my mini video lessons around this idea, as if I am in class. Example – Here are some great sentences which include adjectives, what job does the adjective do? How does it improve the sentence? What would the sentence be like without it? Why do we need adjectives? Let’s make our own sentences with some adjectives. Let’s share our best adjectives on a class wall. Then, radically, perhaps let them make the power points to share their learning.

Oh, and then, guess what, you don’t need a worksheet either.

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