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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles: Use New Technology to Reinforce Instruction

Making Transparencies
Paul Hewitt

The overhead projector is standard fare in most classrooms, and a large step up from the chalkboard. You can face the class instead of turning your back to write on a board. Veteran teachers may seem to have eyes in the backs of their heads, but this was a necessary mutation before overheads were common.

  • What looks good on an overhead?
  • What technology do you have to produce it?
  • Will you be adding to it during class?
All kinds of organizers look good on overheads. Need samples? Try Graphic Organizers from the Activities Bank provided by Schools of California Online Resources for Education (SCORE).

If it's text you want students to be able to read, a larger than normal font (like 16 or 24) will show up well. And set the page orientation in your software and printer to landscape rather than portrait. Landscape fits much better on an overhead projector. Using a larger font oriented to landscape will limit you to about 12 lines of text per transparency, but it will be readable.

In an ideal world, every teacher would have the means to create fabulous presentations for the classroom while lounging around at home. We would knock out a dazzling lesson on the computer, then upload the files to the school to be waiting when we walked into the classroom. Maybe we'd even send in the order to copy the documents for every student. But in the real world, you have to make the most of what you have.

  • Inkjet printers produce excellent overheads. Just purchase the right transparencies, and use them sparingly. (They can run fifty cents or more each.) Most ink jet printers have a setting for transparencies, and the color transfers well.
  • More likely, you'll have access to a xerox copier. Again, it's important to use the right kind of transparency, or the machine will jam. Black lines and text reproduce well, but forget the color in most schools.
  • Some may still be using thermofax technology. Ask a veteran how the machine works. These can be temperamental, and large open fonts work best.
  • If you do have presentation software, like Powerpoint, use it to produce your overheads. You can add color graphics and a color background if you have access to a color printer.
Keep a set of transparency pens handy for adding ideas and color to your transparency while you use it in class. Place a clean, clear transparency over the one you are using so you don't smudge your original. You can clean off most transparencies with a damp paper towel for re-use. While you're at it, clean the dust off the bed of the overhead and wipe the lens.


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