Using Powerpoint for drills

Posted on September 28th, 2010 by

I like to start classes with a quick drill to help student switch gears and review material.  I’m teaching Greek this semester, and visual aids like flashcards or worksheets are really important because so many Greek forms and words can only be differentiated visually.  It can get cumbersome, though, to keep writing or printing “flashcards” on filmsy pieces of paper, and worksheets can isolate students from one another.  It’s also an awful waste of paper.

So I recently started using powerpoint for drills, and it’s working really well.  I put the word or question on one slide, then the meaning or answer on the next.  This makes it possible to flip through far more words and concepts than is possible by shuffling through papers.  Students respond well to seeing the prompt, and the next slide reinforces visually what they hear when I, or one of their fellow students, call out the answer. Here are three examples (click on the image to magnify):

And because I don’t have to keep track of which questions are coming up, I can focus on watching the students and gauging which ones are really lost.  It’s also really easy to revise the exercise and copy specific slides over to new powerpoint drills for another class.

Does anyone else have a favorite way to do drills?



  1. Sean Cobb says:

    This is sweet. I’m going to try this with film terminology. Have you seen Kyle’s PowerPoint Jeopardy game?

  2. Joe Lencioni says:

    I’ve used Anki in the past and really liked it. It is a free, spaced repetition flashcard program. More info:

  3. Yurie Hong says:

    Thanks, Joe! This looks awesome. I’ve just started using it, and I can already see how it can transform the class.

  4. Nan Hanway says:

    Yurie: I have been doing drills with vocabulary in my Spanish classes for a while, because instead of using English I can use images. That way, I hope to reinforce the Spanish, so that they (eventually) stop translating and start thinking in Spanish. However, to make life simpler, instead of putting the answer on a different slide, I animate the answer so that it flies in when I press the spacebar. It is easier to re-sort the slides, as a result. I also keep them on the class moodle site so that they are available to students to use.

  5. yurie says:

    Thanks, Nan! That’s a great idea. I’ll have to play around with animations. How do you make it so that the animation is triggered by the spacebar rather than just having it go automatically?

  6. Nan Hanway says:

    I think that it does that, unless you tell it not to. If you come by my office some time in the morning (or on Tuesdays and Fridays, after 2:30) I can show you what I do!

  7. Yurie Hong says:

    Great! I’ll probably drop by on Tues. @ around 3.

  8. @Sean Cobb, I posted an example of the PowerPoint quiz show that I use for exam reviews in our Open Classroom folder. Also, check out Jeremy’s at