I have been a huge proponent of teaching with slides. HUGE! I love slides in teaching because I have always had such diversity of learning and language needs in my classes that preparing and teaching with a slide deck has ensured that I was well planned and that my students could truly be supported in learning where they are at.
I am such a supporter of teaching with slides that I've delivered PD workshops on it, delivered tutorials on how to use Google Slides and Keynote, written blog posts, built a culture of collaboration in my team through slides and even shared my slide planning within and beyond my own school. I'm pretty serious about the benefits of using organized visuals and supporting language learners. But too much of anything can be bad.
I have learned (sadly, by experience), that there are time that I need to plan, teach and organize myself in different ways. Here are five instances where I have decided that teaching with slides was not the best idea.
Thirteen years into teaching, I hit burn out. The burn out that so many teachers experience because we do too much (with good reason, of course). But something had to change in my approach to work that would still let me survive, in and out of the classroom.
Related Post: Confessions of an Overachiever Teacher
When I took a close look at how my planning and prep periods were being used (in addition to time working at home), too much of it was spent organizing, editing and crafting teaching slides.
The power of teaching with slides cannot be overlooked. When done effectively, it can really support learning outcomes for many types of learners. However, this does not translate to EVERY lesson must have a full slide deck or not being able to deliver a lesson confidently and effectively without slides.
If you're feeling like you're in or near burnout mode, but not yet ready to let go of slides, try minimizing. Choose the ONE lesson in your day that you know your students will benefit most from the visual instructions. And let that be it, at least for a little while.
For me, the first thing to go was math slides. It's the most time consuming and I have a teacher textbook for this - a totally different world of planning from units of inquiry or school developed curricula.
Slides were replaced by XL sized sticky notes of my lesson overview. It took me exactly three lessons to be convinced that it was going to be okay. My instruction was just as effective and my students were still learning math. Imagine that!
So if I can plan on an XL size sticky note AND my instruction is still effective, slides aren't really necessary. It's additional work I've created without good reason.
Posters and Anchor Charts
Since so much of my slides focused on vocabulary, I started making sure any vocabulary posters I have were at hand during the lesson instead. I have a crush on magnetic tape, so any printed visuals needed get stuck on the white board in a jiffy.
You can find these and other creative resources I've made in my shop
There is absolutely no point in doing the same thing twice. If I already have it and already spent time creating and printing, why do it again in the slides? No reason! Use what you already have.
We can double the effectiveness of printed resources around the room by letting kids get up and move around the room to find and look at the chart or display they need.
If you're looking to add to your classroom resources, visit my free resource library.
Screen Time and Fidgeting
When your students are sitting on the carpet near the screen and the fidgets really get going, you know you've been at the slides talking too much. We already know it AND loads of research repeatedly tells us that our learners learn from doing, not from listening to their teacher talk.
When thinking about all that we need to get through in terms of our curricula, student attention spans based on age can slip out of focus. If this becomes a common occurrence in your classroom, take a break from the slides. Step out of your comfort zone, let go of the control and try delivering a lesson in a different way.
Sometimes, I have a hard time with no slides because let's face it, lots of learners need clearly written instructions that they can refer to throughout independent or collaborative work. This might be a modelled problem, a success criteria or step by step instructions.
But I promise myself not to work after hours making slides... but my students actually NEED this.
Do not worry, I have a solution!
I use the Notes app on my iPad and make a quick sketch note as I am speaking. My words match the words and pictures on the board. Simply tap the screen of your iPad with your Apple Pencil and the app opens to a fresh document. As I explain how to solve a specific type of math problem or choices for Writer's Workshop, the visual is there without hours of prep on my part, and it remains there for the duration of the lesson for students who need the visual reminder.
Teacher Talk Time
Let's not overlook teacher talk time. It can be a sore spot for teachers that really requires serious reflection and none of us want to admit it but the reality is, that when we teach with slides, we teachers are doing most of the talking. In fact, the classroom can easily start to resemble the old school rows of desks and teacher at the blackboard. I think I speak for all primary school teachers when I say, this is the last thing we want!
When we get in a habit of teaching from the board (even an interactive board), we do most of the talking which results in less student talk, interaction, collaboration, engagement, problem solving and creativity. However, this is actually the way students learn!
Time (or film) yourself delivering the introduction and teaching point of your lesson. Then match that with the age and attention of your learners. Then reflect on your own beliefs about how learners learn best.
When I drastically reduced my teaching slides, I reduced my talking - and my students did it instead. That's the stuff teacher dreams are made of!
Recap... When you should not use slides:
#1 - You are experiencing or close to experiencing burn out. Or at least you know that you're working too much.
#2 - You already have visuals, anchor charts and/or posters of the vocabulary and modelled problems printed. Don't double your workload.
#3 - Your students are spending too much time on the carpet, listening to you and looking at the screen.
#4 - Visual instructions can be created on the go, not prepped beforehand.
#5 - Too much teacher talk time.
There you go... five situations that should convince you to take a break from PowerPoint, Google Slides, Canva or Keynote. I've found that I can get my fix of creativity in other and more useful ways.
While the amount of slides being used were drastically. reduced in my classroom, technology was not! I still kept my iPad nearby, popped open Apple Notes and sketchnoted and spelled out anything and everything.
For once, I let myself do less. And by doing less, I was giving more - more to my students and to myself and my life. There was more of me to give. I started being more flexible. I am focusing more on the process that the product.
Happy teaching, learning and managing work-life balance!
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