Three Days in One…

There’s something about Monday and Tuesday. I don’t know what it is, but I keep forgetting to post on those days. Last night I had an excuse..but I’m going to cover three days in one, so we’ll cross that chasm when we build a bridge and get over it. (I just love mixing metaphors!)

One of the flexible parts of my curriculum is that if I see something isn’t working, I can pull back and deal with the problem. Kids were working on a project and I kept hearing from many of them that they hadn’t ever used PowerPoint before. Since they had to build a presentation and they weren’t familiar with other stuff, many were trying PowerPoint. They were getting frustrated. So Monday, I began teaching PowerPoint. Only, I insisted on doing it my way. My way is not normal. Sort of bland…to begin with actually. I teach them to do PowerPoint in Outline style.

If you are ever putting together a PowerPoint Presentation, you will note that the left side has small pictures of the slides. If you are really observant, you will note that there are two tabs there. One has a picture of slides or the word “Slides” the other has a picture of some lines or says “Outline.” Very few people click on the tab to to the outline side. It is really an easy way to force people to focus on the content. So, our District has an emphasis on character education  and this month our theme is “Diligence.” The assignment was to create an 8 slide presentation on Diligence. Without going into any more detail, the kids had to create new slides at the keyboard (not using Ctrl+M) and manipulate the text with the keyboard to put the Titles and the content in the slides in the right place.

Why would I subject kids to that kind of work? Last year I noted that kids were spending all of one class period playing around trying to find just the right picture or font or background. They wasted so much time on those things that they didn’t get the content done. For this project, the students will create one PowerPoint presentation using the Outline method and then, taking the same presentation with a new name, add in design features that will change fonts, backgrounds and insert pictures. If they spend forever working on “just the right picture,” they will at least have the content to turn in. They thought I was crazy to begin with, but then, when I fixed their mistakes with two or three keystrokes instead of copying and pasting and moving in between slides, they began to understand. If you want to try this yourself, “Enter,” “Tab,” and “Shift+Tab” are the keys and combinations you need to remember.

Yesterday continued along the same vein only we had an Open House last night and I got the chance to meet some parents and explain something about what they do. I told them that if they complained that we did too much vocabulary in my class, they weren’t lying. I always love meeting parents at these events because most of them are really concerned about their kids’ education.

So, after a long day, I sat down to dinner, took care of laundry since my principal demands that my clothes be reasonably clean and took care of some other things when I got a call at 9 PM. They needed a letter from me explaining what another organization that I am involved with would do with $2500 and they needed it right away. Like before morning. The next three hours were spent crafting the letter to develop an idea that I really wanted to work on anyway but had only vaguely thought about. I had to get more specific – although I still couldn’t be too specific. Then, I had to create the letterhead since I was just elected to my position last Saturday and anything we had before was out of date. Still, I got it done and was happy with it given the time constraints. But…I had just begun to open this site to talk about yesterday when the call came in. Thus, I do have an excuse for yesterday.

So today kids got the exciting news that after they turned in the outline view presentation, THEN they could begin making changes to make the PowerPoint more interesting. I had joked at meet the teacher night that kids might try to tell parents that I had someone fix the PowerPoint for me since it wasn’t just black and white. Today I showed them how to set a design pattern on the slides. Tomorrow – we insert pictures, and change backgrounds and fonts. They seemed to enjoy the changes. Anyway over halfway through another week. I have a few classes I’m going to have to start dealing with kids with behavior issues – but nothing major so far.

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