Course 3 Final Project – Moving My Zen in the Right Direction

After completing Week Two I felt pretty good about the idea of a more Zen-like presentation style. The concept was pretty cool and I liked the way my new slides looked. I had some reservations though. I really use my Google Presentations to pace and guide my classes. I also use them to keep me organized because I teach basically the same lesson to each of my five classes in each of my six grade levels. Not only do they help me teach the lesson but they also act as a very simple unit planner (although not as detailed as my actual unit planner). I made new slides though and I thought they were pretty cool. All that effort meant that I should at least give my new slides a good field test to see if it was worth continuing on with or dropping it into the nice idea but not practical dustbin.

The before:

and after…


I also wasn’t sure how the students would react to the images I chose. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to convey the message I wanted to get across as an introduction of my new unit. Generally speaking my students are very much interested in starting a new unit and who wouldn’t be excited about using a mousetrap to build a vehicle? The interest level and attention span greatly exceeded my expectations. Once they saw the image of the mousetrap and the race car they were hooked!


On slide 3 I included a few simple guiding questions to get them started. Twenty words in total. Simple, easy to follow. It was enough to get them thinking but not thinking too much. I added a video that a few of my students put together last year for my YouTube channel to give them a chance to visualize what the process would look like.

This was followed by another simple slide with a one word question. Ideas? The final slide for this day was all of five words. All in all the slides for the first day were visually engaging and not bogged down with excessive text. They worked great! I was starting to like this particular style of slideshow.


I built on the excitement of a successful day one by adding more slides for day two. This was starting to be fun. Finding the image that you want is not always easy. But finding the right image that conveys the proper message is so much more gratifying than trying to type all of the words for that message. Watching my students try to find meaning from my presentation instead of just waiting for me to read from a script that they can also read (but don’t) showed me that I was actually really engaging them in thinking about what it was I wanted them to learn or think about. I found myself  imagining the visuals I wanted to add when I was riding on my bike or when I was out for a run. It got a bit addictive. Slide #7 is a perfect example of this. Having just returned from our NESAC basketball tournament I wanted to convey everything that is great about teamwork. I wanted my kids to realize that you could accomplish more as a team than as an individual and that being a part of a team meant that you could take risks because a teammate “had your

Photo courtesy of Gracey via Morguefile.

back”. I thought a team huddle would be perfect but most of the images were of boys teams or girls teams and I certainly wanted to be fully inclusive especially because full inclusion is what a good team is all about. I finally found a perfect picture! Not a boys team or a girls team but a kids team. The huddle that I wanted was kicked up a notch in this image. It wasn’t just a huddle, it was a team cheer! How exciting! The cherry on top of sundae was that it was from a Tim Horton’s Timbit soccer team. There is no better tip of the hat to my Canadian home (and the homeland of many of my students)  then spreading the gospel of Tim Horton’s abroad.


The next slide is a creation of mine using Pic Collage to describe the apps that I want my classes to use when documenting their learning. It is a mixture of icons and adjectives to describe how I want them to use the apps. The next two slides are intended to describe the care and effort I want them to take when working on plans and construction of the mousetrap vehicle. The first is a simple ruler that I use to indicate that planning and being precise in measurement will bring about better results. The next slide is the exact opposite and shows how difficult it can be when your ideas or our workspace becomes cluttered. I use the last two slides of the day to describe responsibilities of each group member and the order in which groups will proceed in the design and build process.


Photo courtesy of Kakisky via Morguefile.

The next day’s slides relates to safety and safe use of tools. The initial photo of a small child with a skillsaw in hand should get them thinking that tools can be dangerous. I use the title ‘SAFE??’ To be sure that they at least question the idea that perhaps this might be a dangerous situation. I hope to get them thinking about safety when using tools in class. The next slide is a video that I created demonstrating safe use of the hand saw at the cutting station. Again the last two slides are basically housekeeping slides as they describe responsibilities of each group member and the order in which groups will proceed in the design and build process. I know that this is a bit repetitive but the class would not have seen these directions in eight days (I see classes on a six day cycle plus two days of the weekend) and will likely need a reminder.


The final slides all focus around the theme of overcoming challenges in the design process. The first slide of the day (slide #17) shows an exasperated wooden figure. The quote above is a favorite of mine intended to instill the idea that in order to succeed they will have to stick with the problem. The next slide is our design process. The design process shows how a project or build goes through a number of iterations where builders design (or redesign), build and test to find where improvements can be made. I added the team slide again to remind the class that they should be asking for and giving feedback to fellow team members to help them through the design process. Finally I ask my class to share some failures, successes and potential solutions for the problems that others are having.


Looking back at my original slideshow I can see how I have improved visual communication. My old slides were way too text heavy. The images I chose did not make my audience think or wonder. Although they were intended to provide information I think the information provided was way too explicit and is frankly not that helpful.  It was easy to expand on ideas and to use the new slideshow to guide discussion instead of prescribing it. I enjoyed creating this Zen-ish presentation so much I have even started a new slideshow for my newest unit with my Grade 5 classes. It is certainly still a work in progress but I like where it is heading.


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