I’ve been giving workshops for over 20 years in how to use applications on your computer in ways they were never intended — all to benefit your students and to ease the burden of caseload management. One of my favorite workshops is “PowerPoint for Special Educators.” If you only use PPT for slideshow presentations or don’t use it at all, you are missing out on a versatile tool in your toolbox! This post won’t be a detailed instruction manual for each use of PPT with your caseload (although I’d be happy to come to your school to do a workshop sometime!). Instead, this overview should help those who are familiar with PPT to explore some of these uses on their own. And if you have come up with a use that I haven’t described in this post, please share in the comments! PPT is available for Windows and Mac, and one beauty of this program is that you can move seamlessly from one platform to another: make it on Mac, show it on Windows, no problem. Here are some of the ways I use PPT to make printed materials for my caseload and some tips to boost your creativity and efficiency:
- Use PPT as a drawing pad. Years ago, I had access to a wonderful application called AppleWorks. Oh, how I loved this package of word processing and drawing! The drawing tools were fantastic, as they allowed me to do all kinds of scenes and other graphics to help my students with language and concept development. Then Apple — for reasons I will never understand — dropped AppleWorks, and we were stuck with Microsoft Office for Mac. The word processing part of Office is fine, but I couldn’t find any workable way to do my scenes and other graphics….until I found the drawing tools in PowerPoint. YAY!!! That brings us to Tip #1: you don’t have to use PPT exclusively for slideshows. I will often use PPT for all kinds of illustrations to support my students’ needs:
- freehand drawing simple or complex scenes with the tools provided in PPT
- use the freehand tools and text labels combined with photos or other graphics from other sources — a great way to develop lessons that relate to the student’s curriculum for students who need simplified presentation and visual supports
- create multiple-choice quizzes with graphics, such as the 10-question quiz I present after reading a book to my developmental kindergarten and Life Skills classes
- create adapted worksheets and homework pages with text and graphics
- create board games for artic and language therapy
- Use PPT to create social stories and easy-reading books. I love, love, love to use PPT to create printed books and social stories because it is so quick and easy! Create your title page, then combine text and illustrations on each page of your story, just the way you would if you were making a slideshow presentation. Tip #2 (and this applies to uses described above as well): It is best to use a blank (white) background if you are bringing in graphics from other sources, as these sometimes come with a white background border that you can’t see until you paste it on a colored slide. Yes, there are ways to get around this but I’m all about working efficiently. Why take another step or two if you can avoid it? When your book is finished, it’s time to print! Decide if you want each page of the story to be a full sheet of paper, or if you want your book to be half-size. This decision will determine how you tell the slides to print. If you want a half-size book, select 2 slides per page. Tip #3: I always deselect the optional border on these slides because it makes a much better appearance. Tip #4: use a personal paper trimmer or paper cutter to cut the pages in half in no time.
I will provide more ideas and tips in a future post, so stay tuned!