Using PowerPoint with students who have special needs (PowerPoint is not just for presentations!)

We’ve all seen PowerPoint used where students are asked to prepare a presentation on a topic.  More often than not this turns into a cut-and-paste-athon and students can’t always be said to be engaging with the content of the lesson.  There is also the time one spends playing with the fonts and animations (and I’ve seen adults guilty of some pretty bad presentations on this score too!).

I looked for some other ways that PowerPoint (and possibly its Open Office equivalent Impress) could be used as a teaching tool with students who have special needs or perform below national expectations.


Give students a presentation in which the slides are in the wrong order.  Tell them to put the steps in the right order and then give a presentation based on the new order.  It is a good idea to use pictures/slides in which the order is ambiguous or where there could be more than one correct answer.  For extremely weak students this could involve sequencing photographs from a previous lesson e.g. ones taken during an experiment.

Example: Year 7 students (Wikid Science – Forensics) are asked to solve the mystery and explain how the forensic investigator came to be in hospital covered in burns.  Students have to solve the mystery and put the slides in the right order.  They then present their ideas to the group where they receive peer assessment/feedback.


Audio (or video) annotation

Give students a presentation with information to be interpreted on each slide.  Pupils must record an audio or video clip for each slide with an explanation.  Play back to group, possibly with some peer assessment.  Can also be exported as a video clip.

Example: Year 7 students (Wikid Science – Extinction) are asked to interpret the graphs and say what they mean.

Completing presentations

Using a partially completed presentation you would ask students to complete it.  This could include adding suitable graphics to text already created (or vice versa) or adding existing information to a scaffold.

Example: In this writing frame I would ask students to add information to each slide from planning through to conclusions and present it.  Students can add extra information and peer assessment information about the content.  To differentiate the activity, add more detail to the scaffold (e.g. sub-steps).  Students then present to another group or the whole class.


Story telling

Ask students to prepare the narration and present to a pre-created presentation.  This is similar to adding narration but is simpler to organise and doesn’t require microphones.

Example: In this presentation on the water cycle (from the TES resources site) students have to explain what is happening and present to another group of pupils (or the whole group depending on numbers)


Multiple choice questions

Just as it sounds – using a presentation with a quiz, let pupils answer the questions individually at computers, or on the IWB in a group.  If you search Google you can find pre-created templates, or you could make your own.

Example: Multiple choice quiz on plant classification.  Plays a different sound for right and wrong answers.


I hope you found some of these ideas useful.  Please leave a comment below (or via the contact me form at the top of the page) if you did, or if you have any questions.