Enhancing your lectures: Overhead Notes

As a high school teacher, I struggled with how to incorporate lecture into class. Learning science involves a great deal of information that needs to be disseminated in an efficient and effective way. Inquiry is nice, but it has its limits. The old-fashioned lecture has a necessary role in today’s science classes.? But most students learn better by seeing and doing, not by listening.? In order to lecture effectively, you should provide some sort of visual stimulus.
One of the simplest ways to beef up your lectures is by using the Overhead Projector. This simple, low-tech bit of equipment can be used for good or evil. Here are my tips for using an overhead to keep your students engaged, not put them to sleep:

1. Use pictures. Clipart is another thing that can be used for good or evil. Use relevant clipart, not just random goofy images. Make sure it fits well on the page with the text, your main area of focus.

2. Use text that is big enough to read. If the kid in the back can’t see what’s on the screen, you’ve lost her.

3. Place a sheet of paper on the overhead to cover up what you haven’t gotten to yet. If you place the opaque sheet below the transparency, you can still preview what’s ahead without your kids reading it. This helps students remain focused; if there’s too much to read, they’re not listening.

4. Interact with it. Get some colored overhead markers and use them to draw diagrams, underline text, or make additions. Color and motion help keep their attention.

5. Make it interactive for the students by including directions for an activity on it–in the beginning, middle, or end. Don’t let your students be passive for too long. Give them something to do, as a reward to enduring your lecture! 🙂

Use the hints above to help you develop overhead notes that enhance your lectures.

Here are some examples of overhead notes I’d use in my biology class:

Atoms and Molecules


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