A Teacher’s Guide to Using PowerPoint

Different people learn differently. That’s always been true, but only in recent years have teachers had access the tools that allow them to really accommodate the many different learning styles present in any given classroom. PowerPoint presentations provide the opportunity to combine many of those tools into one place. In one lesson, you can easily incorporate speech, text, images, videos, and audio.

Powerpoint Presentation Image

Image via flickr and Matthew Hurst

Tips for Using PowerPoint in the Classroom

You want your presentations to be engaging for your students. PowerPoint provides a lot of opportunities for realizing this.

1. Use different types of media.

This is one of the big benefits of using PowerPoint, why would you skip it? Whenever possible, include relevant images, videos, and audio clips. All these elements will make it easier for students to keep their attention on you and the material. We all know how hard it can be to stay focused throughout a lecture, let this be your (not-so) secret weapon to keep students attentive throughout the class.

2. Build in opportunities for class interaction.

Make sure your presentations aren’t just about you talking at your students. Slip in some slides with questions for them to answer, or activities for them to complete and participate in. Don’t treat passive learning as the default; let your PowerPoint use be an opportunity to encourage more active learning.

3. Try new techniques.

Be willing to experiment and see what your class likes. Pay attention to how they respond to different types of videos and activities. You can use what you learn to make your PowerPoint presentations consistently more effective over time.

4. Let your students take the helm sometimes.

Working with PowerPoint is a great skill for students to learn. The ability to bring in different types of media lets them stretch their creativity, and the practice of speaking in front of a classroom helps them develop those crucial communication skills that all people need in life.

5. Add some personality into the presentation.

You don’t have to stick to the dry facts in the textbook. Feel free to let some humor in, or include the occasional cute animal picture or video to keep students paying attention. Students will only get more out of lesson if they’re able to have some fun with the material.

What Not to Do While Using PowerPoint

Of course, not everyone loves PowerPoint. The tool has become a bit of a punch line in some circles for its association with boring meetings and insufferable presentations. That has less to do with the tool itself than how some people use it. To keep your PowerPoint presentations from falling into punchline territory, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Don’t just fill your slides with all the text you plan to say out loud in class.
  • Don’t forget to proofread – you don’t want to realize you skipped you made a mistake or skipped over something vital in the middle of the lesson.
  • Don’t overdo the use of images or colors. You don’t want the presentation to be unpleasant to look at.
  • Don’t use font types students may find hard to read.

Tools For Giving Presentations in the Classroom

We’ve been talking so far like Microsoft’s PowerPoint application is the only game in town, but you have other options that can accomplish something similar. Some of these tools can help you get more out of PowerPoint; others may serve you well as an alternative.


Like PowerPoint, Glogster lets you mix in lots of different multimedia elements including text, graphics, audio, video, and hyperlinks. The main difference between the two is that “glogs” resemble a virtual poster board – instead of moving through many different slides, you can include a lot of your lesson and media on one page.

There are a number of templates and content that teachers can make use of in building their own glogs.  Glogster starts at $39, and is available online and as an iPad app.


Presentations made with Prezi look pretty similar to those made with PowerPoint, except that they include the (pretty cool looking) ability to add in extra motion to the presentation, like zooming in and out. They have a free version for educators, as well as an Edu Pro version for $4.92 a month.


For teachers who want to get their students working with presentations more, PhotoPeach can be a useful tool. Anyone can sign up for a free account on their site, but the real benefit they provide for teachers is in the Class Premium account, which lets you have some centralized control over all the student accounts and track, view, and share the presentations, as appropriate. Class premium accounts start a $9 a month.


Slideshare.net is a free tool that allows you and your students to share your presentations, either publicly or with select people. If you want to make presentations available to parents, other educators, or give students a space where they can comment on each other’s work, Slideshare.net puts those options into your hands for free.

In Conclusion

Presentations can easily become something boring that students will dread, or they can become something so much more. You have access to the means to spice up your lectures and presentations to keep students more engaged in the classroom. It just takes a little bit of creativity and experimentation. Good luck!


  1. HelenHe

    June 16, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    I am very familiar with PowerPoint. Regretfully, I have never tried other tools before. I cannot wait to check them out. Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. Han Buwalda

    June 20, 2015 at 2:43 am

    Nice article. Our students can use this as well. We do not want to kill our public’s mind by ppt, do we?
    Why not animate yourself.
    I always give a listening assignment. Listening and taking notes is as complicated as it can be.
    ‘Theatre’ classes are one of the hardest to sit through. However there is two exception: the spectacular chemical experiments and the stories with the unexpected twists.

  3. Peter Zvirinsky

    June 27, 2015 at 1:08 am

    Thanks for interesting post, Kristen. Indeed I also see PowerPoint as great tool for classroom education (or any other similar tool). After class students will most likely need to work with in in their future jobs.
    As you mentioned, it’s crucial to show them proper use of the tool. This is a good opportunity also to teach them basics of good graphical design. I saw recently a teacher to use slides with every line in different color and style.
    On Slideshare you can find a bunch of hints what makes slides looks good. I’d only sum up – consistency of style (1-2 fonts, one graphical style e.g. flat only, or gradient only). Good for showing personality in slides is to use or sketches or handdrawn elements – some arrows or highlighters.