If you are new to Google Slides, you will want to start with our Getting Started with Google Slides article.

Many people underestimate Slides as a teaching tool. Using it for slide presentations in standard lecture-type classes is only the tip of the iceberg. In fact, one educational technology blogger calls Slides the “Swiss army knife of G-Suite” because it can be repurposed to do all kinds of interesting things. This article introduces some of the possibilities, adapting from the many techniques invented by K-12 teachers.

Tried-and-True: Using Slides for Lectures and Presentations

A classic thing to do with Google Slides is, of course, to use it for its stated purpose: to create a slide presentation and present it in class.

We recommend using some additional strategies with class slide presentations:

  • Share your presentation with your students by clicking the yellow “Share” button on the top right. Students can use it to review later. You may wish to publish it to the web first so that when people open the link they see a preview, not the Slides interface with all the editing tools.
  • For interactive class activities, try sharing the slides with your students and giving them permission to edit. You can create blank slides where they can add their ideas!
  • Single slides can be a great addition to “soft starts” of your class meetings (that is, connecting with students who arrive early for some informal chat). Learn more about soft starts.
  • Use slides to provide clear instructions and prompts for in-class discussions and activities. This has two advantages: you don’t accidentally skip over moments when you want to pause lecturing and discuss a specific point, and students can refer back to the slides if they forget the question or prompt.

Pre-Class Slides for the Flipped Classroom

If you’re flipping your course, Slides are a great tool for providing pre-class preparation materials. You can turn your presentation into a video by recording yourself and/or by creating a Google slides presentation with auto-advance and audio (see below to learn how to do that). The watch-ahead component does not have to be a video — a Slides presentation will often do just as well or better. 

You can enhance your students’ class prep materials using some of the “Level Up” techniques below.

Stop-Motion Animated Diagrams and Demonstrations

When we teach in person, we sometimes “animate” diagrams we draw on the board by adding to them, erasing parts of them, drawing arrows, labelling, circling to emphasize, etc. This “animation” helps our students to understand the various steps of a process or the way something changes over time.

Google Slides can fulfill the same function in a flex-hybrid classroom, with the added bonus that your explanation will be available for students to review later if they need to.

Here’s how to create a stop-motion animated diagram in Slides:

  1. Create a new presentation with an initial slide with the diagram you want to animate. 
  2. Duplicate that initial slide (Slide>Duplicate slide) and move/add/erase/change the parts of the diagram as needed. (The shape, image, text box, and line icons in the top menu are very helpful – if you don’t see them, you can also access these features by clicking “Insert.”)
  3. Repeat this process as many times as necessary. (Tip: Make sure the movements and changes in your diagram are small enough that when you play the “animation”, it isn’t too jerky.)
  4. Click “File” and then select “Publish to the Web.” (Tip: Yes, you have to publish to the web to make the animation play. Because of this, it’s not a bad idea to add a copyright to the footer to protect your IP.)
  5. You will be taken to a screen on which you can choose the rate at which your slides will auto-advance. You can also select the option to have the slideshow begin automatically and to restart automatically after the last slide (looping). Choose the settings that will work best for you.
  6. Click “Publish.” If a confirmation box appears, click “OK.”
  7. After you click Publish, a new link will appear in the window. You need to use this link instead of clicking “Present.” (Clicking “Present” will show the slides, but without auto-advance or looping.)
  8. If you want to edit your content after you publish it, go back and repeat this process and copy the new link. 

The quickest auto-advance setting you can use is one slide per second, so this technique is not suitable for creating exciting content, but it’s a wonderful tool for those of us who want to make a simple animation without having to go through a steep learning curve.

Don’t feel like making an animation yourself? Have your students create animated diagrams instead to demonstrate their understanding of a concept you’ve just explained. (Sneaky version: use your students’ animations next year – with their permission, of course.)

Here’s a sample animation from teacher Matt Irwin.

Add Polls and Assessment Questions to Slides to Increase Engagement

Student engagement and inclusion can improve when you use techniques like polls and backchannel chats, especially in a virtual environment. Learn more about inclusivity and “active learning” in virtual and hybrid teaching.

You can incorporate interactive questions and assessments into a Slides presentation. If you already use slideshows in the classroom, you may put discussion questions in your slides; in virtual environments, you can embed polls directly (or you can provide poll links to students by another means).

To make this work, you will need to ask your students to have your presentation open on their laptops or smartphones so that they can click on the link from their screens. 

For quick polls to spark engagement and assess comprehension in real time, you can use PollEverywhere, which allows students to respond to survey questions using their mobile phones. Here’s how you use the PollEverywhere Google Slides Add-On once you’ve downloaded it. 

You can likewise link to a Google Form. To see and and show Google Forms survey results in real time, click on the link on your own screen. Click “Responses” and then “Summary” to show the results to your class.

If you want to give your students an actual graded quiz during a Google Slides presentation, set up a quiz in Canvas, post it to the appropriate Module so that students can access it later as well, and then add the URL of the quiz into the text of a Google slide. As with Google Forms, students will need to have the presentation open on their laptops or smartphones so that they can click on the link. They will then need to sign into Canvas to take the quiz.

Digital Poster Sessions and “Gallery Walks”

Designing Posters 

For classes that include poster sessions, Slides is a great tool for designing posters – it has the same “aspect ratio” (i.e. ratio of horizontal to vertical) as typical 4×3 horizontal posters. 

Displaying Work in a Digital Gallery or Poster Session

Students can “mount” a digital image on a single slide like they’d mount a physical piece of art on a wall or a poster on an easel. They can also mount multimedia content on a Slide, too — particularly other forms of media from Google Suite. This works well for any kind of sharing.

If you would like students to create a shared digital gallery or poster session, Google Sites may be a better bet. Learn more about creating a digital gallery in Sites.

Create Illustrations

Geographic shapes in Powerpoint and Slides can be used to create complex illustrations, an interesting exercise for designers and comics artists. Rhetoric scholar and artist Erin Kathleen Bahl demonstrates how she uses Powerpoint’s shapes to create illustrations (including her Little Yellow Bird comic).

Graphic Novels

Use Slides to have students create graphic novels and present them to the class. Students can illustrate by the method above, or using photographs of hand drawings. A fun idea from ShakeUpLearning: students can even add audio to their graphic novels.

Add Slides to Google Sites, a Blog, or Canvas

This is another great idea from our primary school colleagues that will work well at any educational level. 

At the college level, you can assign your class to collaborate on creating a Wiki about a shared topic – and a Slides presentation can be one option for students to contribute.

Here are instructions for adding a Slides presentation to a blog post and instructions for adding a Slides presentation to a Google Site.

Use the instructions in the Google Apps tab of our article about embedding content in Canvas to embed a Slides presentation anywhere on Canvas.

Idea Collection and Brainstorming

Sticky Note Board

If you like to use sticky notes on a whiteboard in an in-person class, you can use Google Slides to replicate this technique in a virtual classroom, or an in-person classroom if you want to be sure students retain work on an ongoing project. This is a classic strategy used by many teachers who do not want to lose the contents of their classroom’s chalkboards after class.

Interactive Notebooks

This is similar to “sticky notes,” but handy if you’re trying to collect ideas on a number of different topics. 

You can also do a multi-slide “interactive notebook” to which students can add content as they need to. The slides can be in sticky-note format or anything else that seems appropriate to you.

Lock the Background of a Slide

Lock the Background of a Slide to Create a Drag-and-Drop Assessment

This is a very interesting idea that might be especially good for science courses.

On Google Slides, you can create a slide background and then lock it so that others can’t change it.

This background could be an image, a diagram, or anything else you want your students to show that they understand. You can then add moveable elements to the Slide that can be dragged around by anyone with editing privileges. These elements can be images, arrows, text boxes with labels for things depicted in the background – whatever you wish.

As a learning activity or even an assessment, you can challenge your students to drag the movable elements around the slide and position them to demonstrate their understanding of a concept. 

Lock the Background of a Slide to Let Students Mark Up a Text Passage (or Solve a Math Problem)

You can do this either as an assignment or as a group exercise in real time. You set the text or the initial problem as a locked background and students can annotate it using text boxes and drawing tools. 

You can set up a presentation made up of identical slides, assign each slide to a different group of students and then show all the slides at the end in front of the class to compare the ways the different groups approached the annotation.

Here’s a video that demonstrates this technique – it shows a primary school example,  but this technique lends itself to work at any level.

Lock the Background to Play with Magnetic Poetry

You can also do “magnetic poetry” using the same “drag and drop” idea. Here’s a fun template by Kasey Bell, or you can make your own. 

Create a “Virtual Office” in Slides and Embed It in Canvas

We encourage personalizing Canvas courses, especially the home page, with an interesting graphic, instructor bio, or other “hook” for the class. One other possibility is creating an image-based virtual space that’s like inviting students into your office. 

This is fun and easy – and it introduces your students to you before they even meet you on the first day. It can also be used to help students do the most important things you want them to do – contact you, set up appointments, read your Canvas bio – whatever you think is important that you want to emphasize in this fun way.

We provide detailed instructions on creating and using a virtual office, thanks to the OIE team, including Deborah Bloom and Elin Melchior.

Create Images for Use in Other Applications

You can use Google slides to create images such as flowcharts, Venn diagrams, etc. that you can then save as an image file and use in other applications. 

To save a slide as an image, go to File > Download as > JPEG image or PNG image. Save your image to your device. 

Tip: If you change your background to “transparent” your image will have no background in JPEG/PNG format and can be pasted nicely into other things. To do this, click on File > Change background, then choose Transparent. (Thanks to TheEduBlogger.com for this idea.)

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