Cheng Reaction

Power Pointless!

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It’s a familiar scene: the NQT hunched over a laptop late at night. Spending time in a desperate attempt to plan a lesson engaging enough to avoid unrepentant shrieks of ‘this is so BORING’ from that tricky group of year 9s seemed not only sensible, but often, utterly necessary during my first few years of teaching. I was dedicated. I cared. I didn’t want them to be bored. I wanted them to learn. Lots. I had high expectations of them. I had high expectations of myself. I wouldn’t rest until the lesson was perfect. I wouldn’t sleep before midnight if it meant delivering merely mediocre, passable PowerPoints.

So I spent what sometimes felt like aeons making sure I had learning objectives, images and cool animations on every slide. I spent hours fatuously scouring the TES resources website looking for ‘fun’ worksheets that I would usually download, read through, realise they weren’t quite right, and then completely rewrite, as if from scratch.

It’s all rather exhausting, though nobly intended. I was unapologetically sacrificing myself for the pupils. I felt that it was the only way to be a great teacher, the only way to give them the education they deserved.

I now know that it isn’t about PowerPoint frills and it isn’t about working oneself into an early grave. I now know that great science content can be taught without all the fluff and bluster that PowerPoint slides can perpetuate. Rather, it’s about thinking smart and creating resources that deliver the content in a straightforward, plain fashion.

I never thought this was possible, but since joining Michaela, have not used a single PowerPoint. Not even one slide. Instead, the pupils come in, they do some drill practice questions (see image below), mark them with green pen, complete recap questions in their books, read some text (which we read together as a class), and then answer some comprehension questions. Drill, reading, writing. That’s it. No frills. No fuss. No PowerPoint.

drill-questions

Scrapping the PowerPoint is a revolution in teaching these days. Of course, those of you out there who have been teaching for more than 10 years will probably be rolling your eyes reading this, thinking ‘well, yeah.. duh!’ but the teacher training I received made out that PowerPoints really were the only way to teach. But now, unshackled from the constraints of animations, and finally able to move more than 10 inches away from the ‘next slide’ button, I am finally free to actually teach.

Here are just a few of the many benefits I can think of:

  • I can teach more in depth content. In one year 7 lesson, I teach lots of science terms like zygote, embryo, uterus lining and fetus. The emphasis on drilling and memorisation enables them to link their knowledge to previously learned concepts, such as how the uterus lining is made of epithelial tissue.
  • Pupils are remembering what I’ve taught them. Without all the ‘frills’, my pupils are remembering the knowledge learnt last lesson, even last year! This is evident in the correct answers in the drill and recap questions.
  • Pupils are developing their science vocabulary (and spellings!). Instead of a PowerPoint slide with maximum 20 words a slide, pupils are reading a variety of difficult words in written contexts, and listening when I explain concepts and ideas further.
  • Pupils are learning to annotate. They annotate their notes as we go (perfect skill for note taking at university). This also enables great recap of knowledge.
  • Preparing to teach a resource takes 10 minutes (max). In terms of preparation, I’m noting down answers to questions and preempting pupils’ misconceptions. I teach five lessons every day, however more efficient planning (and minimal teacher admin) allows me to have a very good work-life balance. I never take any work home or mark books during the weekend.
  • I’m not madly printing worksheets and changing PowerPoint slides last minute. As lessons are planned in advance, everything is sorted up front- no teacher is in a mad rush in the staff room.
  • No need for starters or plenaries. Pupils are used to the same routines, so there’s no need to think of imaginative starters or plenaries for every single lesson. Within 5 minutes of pupils coming into class, they have answered their drill questions, marked them and moved onto the recap questions.
  • My subject knowledge has improved vastly. Rather than focusing on the font types, or my choice of picture, I’m spending all my time thinking about how to maximise pupils’ understanding of complex concepts, which has vastly broadened my pedagogical and subject expertise.
  • The shared area is de-cluttered. It is not full of proliferating PowerPoints that have been reworked and save again (and again!).
  • I don’t have to worry about the ‘lost’ USB. In my previous school, this happened regularly, so I started saving to the shared area, Dropbox and emailed each lesson to myself. I had resources all over the place, and never knew where to find anything! The eradication of PowerPoint makes organising oneself a heck of a lot easier!

I’ve learned a lot since joining Michaela, but one of the most liberating aspects of my new role is that I no longer have to spend my evening trawling the universe for new and exciting worksheets and PowerPoints. It has been an absolute game-changer, not only for me (now I actually have a life outside of school), but for the kids.

Keen to learn more about the way we do things at Michaela? Come visit! Contact me on ccheng@mcsbrent.co.uk or my HoD, Olivia on odyer@mcsbrent.co.uk to arrange. a visit.

Want to be a part of it? Does Michaela sound like a great place to work? We are hiring!  http://mcsbrent.co.uk/teacher-vacancies/

Or fancy earning £40 per hour to plan physics lessons? Check out Olivia’s post: https://edudyertribe.wordpress.com/2016/10/13/resource-and-earn/

 

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14 thoughts on “Power Pointless!

  1. I’ve just moved from a UK school to a Thai international school with no ppts, so I read your post with particular interest. I have found myself spending an annoying amount of time writing stuff up on the whiteboard – do you have this problem? Your image above of those questions, for example: dis you print those, write them on the board or read them out?

    And, on a different note, what’s the difference between drill questions and recap questions?

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  2. Loved reading this! Really inspired me, I’ve been wanting to move more in this direction for some time now. I’d be interested to know how you feel this would transpire to an A-level lesson.

    Also, are the recap and drill questions based on the previous lessons content?

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    • Thanks for your comment. I think for A Level it would work really well, building knowledge from GCSEs and building skills such as heavy reading and annotating for university.
      Yes, drills and recaps are based on content from previous lessons, including last years’ lessons.

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  3. Hi Olivia

    Thanks for this post. I feel like we have similar lessons, just that I do use powerpoint and you use paper. I too try to maximise the testing effect and I have questions at the beginning of the lesson, but they are on the board on a powerpoint slide, with the answers on the next slide. I also have longer answer questions which can be used. In lesson I do teaching, but have some select pictures so I can use them as I teach (similar concept to reading from the text), we discuss these concepts, I may have youtube animations ready, then we do some difficult comprehension, application questions, with the answers on the next slide.

    Similar, but different tools. I just prefer not to print or rely on a printer. I have all my powerpoints organised well and all the questions saved so I can pull them up when I need them. If a lesson runs short, I can pull up some questions in no time.

    I don’t waste time with silly animations or silly anything, I try to work on a good ratio of time spent : learning. But for me having everything organised here on my computer, without having to print, is better.

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  4. Hi Cassie
    Lovely blog! The best lessons I have had are the ones where I can look beyond the students’ eyes to see if they understand. I hate PowerPoint but use othe IWB tools as backup for students who are away. I get through one exercise book for every 2-3that some teachers get through. Mainly used as scrap books for worksheets.
    I will be in touch about that visit.
    Samia

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