How to Make Engaging PowerPoint Slides for Teaching

Most of us have heard that we should not use slides that contain long bullet points of text, but what does a good slide look like?  Research on this topic has found that students learn better when they get information expressed in both words and pictures.  This is known as “multi-mode learning”.  In this post, I will share a way to transform the default title+bullet points PowerPoint slide into a slide that is visually engaging while retaining the important information you want students to understand.

We’ll start with the default PowerPoint slide.  It might not be the best way to engage students in class, but this format is actually a really good way to start making slides because it is easy for us to think in terms of a main idea and 3-4 bullet points.  So go ahead and write out your title and main ideas.  You’ll have something like this:

My slide has 4 important things that I want my students to know, all of which relate to the main idea in the title of my slide.  The first step is to put each bullet point on its own slide.  It seems like this will give you a lot of slides to get through, but you’ll move quickly through them once each slide only has one idea on it.  Here is my slide with just one idea on it:

The next step is to review the slide to find out what words you can delete.  There is some redundancy here I can get rid of.  I’m also going to highlight the important words so the students looking at this slide know exactly what to look at and focus on.

Next we want to edit the title or, even better, get rid of the title entirely.  Often you’ll find that your title is the main idea that people should conclude after hearing the bullet points.  By guiding students to discover that conclusion on their own instead of leading with it, you’ll create a more learner-centered experience.  You can always prompt students to find your  main ideas through guided discussion.

In this case, the title actually seemed to reflect the main idea more than the original bullet point, so I moved the bullet point to the notes as a reminder to give the statistic and made the title the main idea of the slide.  I always paste the bullet points in the notes of each slide so taking the time to write them and then cut them out is not wasting time.  You can rely on the notes when you’re speaking.

The last step is to find a photos that represents your text and add it to your slide.  My final slide ended up looking like this:

Now instead of showing one slide for five minutes while I talk through four bullet points of text, I will show this slide for less than a minute while telling my students the two key points in my notes.  The slides will move more quickly, which will make my talk more engaging visually.  The students will also spend more time listening and less time reading because they won’t have a screen of words to look at.  Finally, the students will be challenged to come to their own conclusions which will create a more active learning experience.