INTRODUCTION: For the past twenty-four years, I have been teaching a variety of humanities courses, and I’ve noticed that many students become quickly bored with the traditional in-class review, despite its importance to their later test results. Therefore, I strove to create a class experience that would involve all of my students in a course review that would motivate their active engagement and improve their exam scores.
Two semesters ago, I tried a new approach: I had students pick review questions from a hat, and each was responsible for presenting the correct answer to the class via a PowerPoint presentation. Not only did this activity serve as an effective review, it also provided students with an opportunity to learn or polish their PowerPoint and oral communication skills.
This activity can be easily adapted to any class in which students would benefit from a review session before a test or exam. It is also a great activity for a speech or student success course.
*To provide students with an active review of key course concepts
*To learn/polish how to create PowerPoint presentations
*To offer students an opportunity to work together for a common goal as a group
*To improve students’ oral communication skills
*To improve students’ confidence and self-image
*To provide students with a fun learning experience
*Use of a computer lab and a set-up so that images on a monitor can be projected onto a large screen
*PowerPoint Instruction Sheet
*A set of review questions for students to answer
*Students must bring a disk, their text, and class notes so that they can find the answers
1. Tell students, “If you’d like to do well on next week’s test, an active review of key points will be extremely helpful. As you recall from our discussion of learning, one learns best when actively involved in teaching information or a skill. So, to create a very active review session, today you will…
A. Pick a review question from this hat,
B. Find the answer in your text or notes, and
C. Present the answer to the class in a brief PowerPoint presentation.
2. Ask students who are familiar with PowerPoint to raise their hands and pair them with a novice. NOTE: This pairing creates bonds, alleviates stress for the novice, and provides an excellent tutoring opportunity for computer savvy students.
3. Tell students, “To assist you in this assignment, I will walk you through a 5-minute overview of how to create a simple 2-page
PowerPoint presentation.” I take them through the simple steps of my PowerPoint instruction sheet. NOTE: What has worked best for my students is three-part instruction:
A. I walk my students to the first page of their PowerPoint and tell them to type their names.
B. I walk my students to the second page and have each student-pair type their question(s).
C. I invite students to select a colorful theme.
4. Students now research answers to their questions and are on their own to design a simple PowerPoint presentation. Once the information is on PowerPoint, I personally offer my “special effects” assistance, which they absolutely love!
5. Have students present their PowerPoint shows to the class. After each presentation, we applaud and discuss any follow-up questions raised by the presentation.
Students all become involved and enjoy the opportunity to present review material in a non-threatening way.
Each time my students create PowerPoints, I’m amazed at the pride they take in their work. They actively ask for my advice: “Where do I find clip art and animations?”
Once animations are included, I ask students if they want a “transparent background” or if they would like it to fly in? Their
enthusiasm is unquenchable. It’s one-upmanship.
I often hear, “I’m done. Can I show it to the class now?”
I always ask the class, “Are there any questions for the presenters?” Usually the questions don’t revolve around the subject matter, but with PowerPoint technicalities, “How do you get the slide to swirl and to…?
It fills me with great joy to see the generosity of my talented students. They truly love walking around the room, helping and
encouraging novice students. It’s a tremendous bonding experience for the class.
Meanwhile, the exercise is not a “meaningless” PowerPoint exercise where something is copied from a computer instruction manual. It is a content-centered active learning lesson.
Exam grades are consistently higher after these student-led reviews.
Consistently, student course evaluations recommend that I continue providing students with computer lab experiences. They learn about the subject matter, enjoy working in pairs or groups, have a great time showing off their PowerPoint presentations, and gain self-confidence as they present orally. I especially love hearing enthusiastic comments from students who once complained, “I was scared of and hated computers, but I find PowerPoint fun.”
At the end of the semester, students have one mandatory oral report. They always ask if these can be done with PowerPoint. Most choose to incorporate PowerPoint in their oral presentation, as they love this tool!
Students take special pride when I “publish” their work on the class web page.
This activity brings fond memories to my mind of great times I experienced as a student and fills me with a mature and deep joy that comes from providing students with memorable learning experiences. It reminds me what teaching is all about and what makes teaching worthwhile. Is there any greater experience for an instructor than watching students learn and help one another with enthusiasm, laughter, and joy?
—Louise Walkup, Faculty, Humanities and First-Year Experience, Three Rivers Community College, CT