For years I have taught summer technology courses to teachers, instructional assistants, and therapists of every kind. One of the most popular courses was “PowerPoint for Special Educators.” In a previous post, I described how I use PowerPoint as a drawing tablet to create printable scenes that teach language in context. That post also describes how to use PPT to create full- and half-page books and social stories. Both uses of PPT involve the straightforward and simple use of the text tool and drawing tools. You can illustrate with graphics (photos, clipart, symbols) from any source: your camera/phone, the library built into PPT, Google Images, and sources of communication symbols, such as Boardmaker and SymbolStix. When importing graphics from outside PPT, I always advise that you use a blank (white) background, as some illustrations will import with a white border that is visible on a colored background.
Other printable materials that you can create with PowerPoint are:
- coloring pages
- matching activities
- behavior charts
- in other words, just about any kind of printable visual supports you can think of!
But it is easy to use PPT to create on-screen activities for your students, as well. This post is not intended as a step-by-step guide for how to use all of the tools in PPT; that would be far too extensive and complex for me to type and you to read through. I do hope you glean enough information from this overview to start some exploring on your own. (If you feel you’d benefit from in-depth training, contact me about the possibility of a full-day workshop at your school or ask your IT department for some guidance). I’ll give some examples to get you started and, if there’s enough interest in the topic, I’ll add more in future posts.
PPT is a great tool for reviewing curricular materials and taking practice quizzes. These can be done in all text or a combination of text and symbols, and can be silent or with sound. You record the text to be read to the student, import sound effects that match or enhance the visual, or use built-in sound effects to indicate correct/incorrect answers, page turn, etc. These PPT-based learning materials can be as simple or sophisticated to meet the student’s developmental level, from cause/effect through multiple choice practice quizzes, and can be especially helpful for students with special needs. (Note: PPT will not keep score, which is why I use them for practice. If you want to keep track of the student’s performance, ie use this as a real test, you’d have to have an adult sit with the student to tally correct/incorrect responses).
As I said, this is not a detailed instructional manual, but let’s take a look at how Action Buttons can be used to create a simple illustrated quiz.
First, I use the Clip Art Gallery to find the pictures that I want. (Note your other choices for importing graphics as well).
Then I place the pictures on the page and add the text prompt.
From the Slide Show menu, scroll down to Action Buttons and over to Next Slide.
When you draw an Action Button over the correct answer, it will appear as a big blue arrow. We will fix that in a moment. You will also get this pop-up menu. It is already programmed to go to the next page. You can chose to select a sound effect, such as applause (built into PPT) or an actual cow mooing (imported from a free sound effects site).
Double-click on the blue arrow to bring up the Format toolbar. Slide Transparency all the way to the right to get rid of the blue background on the button. Then pull down on the Line menu to select “no line.” When you click off the button, it will have become invisible.
Create additional cards in the same way, ending with a blank card or card that you decorate in some way, title “The End,” or whatever you want (the Action Button always has to have a place to go). Each time, put an invisible Action Button over the correct answer.
NOW THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!! You can choose to have a fancy transition or just simply show the next slide. Transitions and sound effects can be fun and reinforcing or highly distracting, so know your student and plan accordingly. IF YOU ARE USING ACTION BUTTONS AS DESCRIBED ABOVE, you need to change a setting in the Transitions Toolbar!
After you have created your entire activity, go to the Transitions Toolbar and DESELECT “Advance Slide On Mouse Click.” If you leave that checked, the student can click anywhere on the screen and the slide will advance. If you uncheck that box, the only way the student can move to the next slide is by clicking on the correct answer.
Whew. That’s the very basics of creating an onscreen practice quiz. It may seem complicated, but once you do it a few times, it is really quite simple. There is SOOOO much more you can do with PPT for your students. I hope this will get you started exploring this powerful tool.
One final note: my screenshots may look different from what you see on your screen, depending on the Mac or Windows version you are using. Don’t worry about these differences! The tools are all there somewhere and they all work the same.