PowerPoint Tips, Strategies, and Resources (for Teachers and Students)

PowerPoint is ubiquitous in the business and education worlds. It is a powerful and easy-to-use program that can be used to create engaging and visually enticing presentations. It creates opportunities for student creativity beyond the written essay. But PowerPoint presentations that contain too many slides, too much text, and frivolous special effects can actually detract from student learning. A PowerPoint presentation is not a goal in itself!

The following three sections are an excerpt from EdTechTeacher’s book, Best Ideas for Teaching with Technology: A Practical Guide for Teachers, by Teachers . . .

Ten Ways to Enhance Lectures with PowerPoint

  1. Include visual evidence in your lectures with images of art, artifacts, and architecture.
  2. In discussing an author, include audio and video clips of her reading her work, which can be put directly into PowerPoint.
  3. Include charts, graphs, and figures to supply statistical support to an argument.
  4. Show a sequence of maps that demonstrate change over time.
  5. Compile short examples of student writing to critique or workshop.
  6. Sum up the essential points or questions of a lecture in an outline slide.
  7. Use charts, diagrams, and matrices to help students see relationships between ideas or information.
  8. Use portraits or photographs so students can see pictures of the people you discuss.
  9. Include cartoons or funny illustrations to inject humor into your presentation.
  10. Use slides with titles and subheadings to help listeners follow the argument in longer lectures.

Warning!! PowerPoint can be used to deliver some extremely bad teaching. The classic parody of terrible PowerPoint was created by Google programmer Peter Norvig, who rewrote the Gettysburg Address as a PowerPoint presentation. The complete results can be found at http://www.norvig.com/Gettysburg/index.htm

PowerPoint Design Hints for Students

  • PowerPoint is a visual media- focus on images and graphics- Often an image and a title is all you need for a great slide to support your own words. Choose powerful images and label them thoughtfully.
  • Use Text as Prompts- The text on your slide should mostly consist of words that will help the audience follow your presentation, like topic headings or concise statements of key point or essential questions. Keep the number of words on each slide to a minimum.
  • Use Simple Designs- When choosing a design template, avoid designs that take up too much space. Stick with basic designs that will keep your audience focused on you and the content, not the window decorations.
  • Avoid flashy animations and transitions- Much of what you can do with PowerPoint is a waste of time. Focus on creating great content with effective illustrations, and don’t spend your time making words shoot in on rocket ships.

The best way to reinforce these principles is to create rubrics that grade student presentations heavily on the content and quality of the student presentation, minimally on simple, elegant layout, and not at all on flashy extras.

Here are a few examples of rubrics for PowerPoint presentations:

PowerPoint Tips and Strategies

  1. Keep the “66” Maximum in mind: six slides and six lines of text per line. Following this “rule” may help prevent a presentation from becoming too long, have too much text, and being rushed when delivered.
  2. Consider providing the PPT text to the students beforehand. If they’re rushing to take notes before the next slide appears on the screen they are not focused on what you or students are saying.
    tip: You can copy PPT text in NORMAL VIEW and paste it into a document or e-mail.
  3. Turn the bulb (on the projector) off periodically during a PPT. Shift their complete attention to an important point you are making. Or engage them in a discussion, or an activity. Turn the bulb back on when you are ready to continue the PPT.
    tip: If you want to go quickly to a particular slide in VIEW SHOW mode, right click (CTRL + click) when the show is running. The show will stop and a menu bar will appear. Click on
    GO —>SLIDE NAVIGATOR and select the slide you want to view.
  4. Consider making your PowerPoint available online. That way your students might concentrate better on the ideas presented in class knowing they can see the entire PowerPoint again online. Just keep in mind that if you put it on a web site, and the PPT contains copyrighted images, you may be in violation of copyright laws.
    tip: You don’t need PowerPoint software to view a PPT show. You can download the free PowerPoint Viewer from Microsoft. It enables you to view, but not edit, a PPT show. Handy for kids who don’t have PPT on their home computers.
  5. Make slide transitions fairly unobtrusive, or don’t include them at all. The less distraction the better.


Prezi is an impressive web-based presentation tool that uses a single canvas instead of traditional slides and users zoom in-out and pan across to reveal elements of the canvas. Text, images, videos and other presentation objects are placed on the canvas and grouped together in frames. A path for the presentation can be defined.


You can download and present Prezi offline and Prezi offers both a free basic service and a premium subscription service. Prezi also offers two educational services. EDU Enjoy is free. EDU Pro costs $59/year and allows you to create Prezis offline. If you want to change your existing license to an EDU license, you need to sign in first and choose Upgrade on License and Settings page.

Google Docs Presentation

Google Docs Presentation is a tremendous platform for facilitating online collaboration in your classroom, or beyond. It is freely available on the Web and if you are familiar with other presentation programs, you can easily use Google Docs.

Google Docs is comprised of five tools. Presentation is their onlide slideshow tool. Presentation is not as feature-rich as PowerPoint, but it has several advantages. For one, it’s free. It’s also accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection. One neat feature is that several people can edit a Presentation together, in real-time or not. Furthermore, students don’t have to send PowerPoint files to each other and they don’t need to have PowerPoint at home.

Google Docs Presentation

Here is what you can do with Google Presentation:

  • Create, fomat, edit, and publish a presentation online.
  • Make your presentation private, public, or just to those who have the link
  • Invite others by email to edit or view your presentation.
  • Make your document private, public, or just to those who have the link
  • Upload and convert existing PowerPoint presentations in .ppt and .pps file types.
  • Do real-time (or asynchronous) group-editing from anywhere.
  • Insert images, links, drawings, tables, a Google Drawing, and more.
  • Insert Google Video and You Tube videos into your presentation.
  • Publish your presentations as a website, or embed them into an exisiting web page.

For more information, visit our Google Docs section.

Finding PowerPoint Presentations with Google’s Advanced Search

When you go to the Google homepage, http://www.google.com/, just to the right of the search bar you will see a small link for Advanced Search. Click on that link and you will see a variety of powerful search options. One of those search options is File Format, where you can choose to ask Mr. Google to look only for PowerPoint presentations.

Google Advanced Search: Filetype

Select this option, put your search terms in at the top, and for many topics you will have dozens of ready-made PowerPoint presentations to choose from.

The PowerPoint Slide Show Viewer

To be able to edit PowerPoint slideshows, you need the very expensive PowerPoint software. Anyone, however, can view a slideshow using the free PowerPoint Viewer. You can download the viewer at this site,http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/downloads/CD010798701033.aspx, or just Google search for “PowerPoint Viewer.” With these viewers, your students should be able to watch and print your PowerPoint presentations, even if they don’t own PowerPoint. You can also open PowerPoint presentations and edit them in OpenOffice.org’s Impress.

Finding Video and Multimedia clips

Video is a great tool to use in the classroom, but finding free video clips can sometimes be a challenge. Thisuseful list of free “Educational Video Clips/Mini Movies” is a collaboration between Don Donn and Phillip Martin. They lead you to clips from a variety of sources and organize them by academic subject. On a related note, if your school has a subscription to Discovery Education streaming (formerly United Streaming) our Teaching History with Technology website has a helpful article on the integrated use of video.

Microsoft offers animated clip art, sounds, and video clips at its Design Gallery Live at http://dgl.microsoft.com/

You might also try video-sharing services such as YouTube.com, TeacherTube.com, and SchoolTube.com, though YouTube is sometimes blocked at schools. You can download YouTube videos viawww.kickyoutube.com.

Note: You will need a media player such as Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, or Quicktime to view video clips. . (These players are all free plug-ins. ) Be advised that not all video files respond the same to the different media players. For instance, a .mov file runs best in Quicktime. PowerPoint does best with .midi and .wav clips.

PowerPoint Resources:

PowerPoint in the Classroom
A great website for students and teachers with eight chapters worth of tutorials. This version focuses specifically on PowerPoint 2007 for Windows.

The PowerPoint FAQ: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About PowerPoint
This website offers tutorials and troubleshooting tips for both the Mac and Windows versions of PowerPoint.

Scoring Power Points

Jamie McKenzie is the Editor of From Now On – The Educational Technology Journal, a Web-based “ZINE” published online since 1991, and has been a middle school teacher of English and social studies, an assistant principal, an elementary principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent of two districts on the east coast of the U.S. Jamie points out that while PowerPoint can be used to create engaging and visually enticing presentations, it can also be an unfortunate example of technology done for technology’s sake. He argues that we can teach our students how to combine presentation software with other forms of communication, writing and reporting to persuade, convince, inform and enlighten. His article, Scoring PowerPoints, provides insight into how to guide and assess student presentations.