It’s Not Over Yet: Overhead Projector Ideas for the Tech Classroom

OHP was high tech then, is it low tech now? I think it is safe to say YES when considering the wealth of possibilities that interactive data  projectors and interactive whiteboards offer as many of us get them in our schools and classrooms. However, if you are still using an overhead projector in your room and/or have activities that you haven’t used for a while, these ideas may get your creative juices flowing. It’s time take full advantage of our high tech tools, leave our overhead in the corner, and resurrect some of those activities collecting dust! (Note: I adapted the information in this chart from a friend’s presentation in 1997, “Uses of Overheads” “Transparencies that Work”.)

That was then… Overhead projector This is now… Interactive data projector/interactive white boards
Preparing an overhead in advance saves you class time. Having pages/slides in interactive software saves even more on down time when you transition to the next activity. This efficiency helps student engagement and behavior.
If you teach more than one class, you won’t have to write anything twice. This is also true, but you can take it a step further: the erasing and reusing are a lot less messy and go much faster with an interactive whiteboard.
Overhead materials can easily be shared with other instructors. Sharing with colleagues is exponentially easier because of Google, Dropbox, etc. You can also use sites like SMART Exchange and Promethean Planet to see what other teachers around the world are doing!
Transparencies can be kept and reused in later semesters. Saving and reusing materials is almost effortless using electronic files. Think of the classroom space you’ll save; no file cabinets needed! Your files can also be painlessly edited and saved in several versions for different levels of instruction, for review of topics, and for differentiation.
Transparencies can add variety to your lessons and avoid the mundane task of opening your book. The possibilities for variety with interactive projectors and whiteboards are endless. You can choose from a considerable number of images, audio files and videos to enhance your activities and lessons!

Classroom Activities

Activities That was then… This is now…
Vocabulary $10, 000 Pyramid-Remember this game show? There were two teams, two transparencies; one student or team facing the screen while the other team or student has their back to the screen. The student facing the screen describes acts out or draws the phrase statement or vocabulary word. The other student guesses or writes the correct word. I would conduct this activity student by student or team by team. This is a great example of a circumlocution activity all done in the target language! pyramid With your interactive board this is an easy activity to adapt with images from the internet or the gallery in the interactive software. Also, all students can play at once! I put my students in partners with mini dry erase boards (low tech!) and reveal the words three at a time. We move the desks so that students are facing each other with one student’s back to the board, then the next round students switch seats. Transitions are smooth with little “down time” when you use the interactive timers and the screen shades to reveal answers and clues. You can also adapt versions of Draw Something and Pictionary. hidden_vocab
Reading Literacy Grammar Surprise story Predicting grammar in context and interpretive communication. A story highlighting a grammar point is revealed line-by-line. Students are asked to predict what happens next, how does the story end and then recap the story. Students can also be given the story lines (cut up transparencies) out of order and asked to put them in order. Any story activities can be adapted to an interactive whiteboard to make it readily available to reintroduce into the lesson several times. The initial use of the story can mimic your transparency activity, but using the screen shade, photos or shapes to reveal parts of the story. Using colors and photos to enhance the story comprehension works well here. As a follow up, students can actually manipulate the stories on the board in several ways. They can change the colors of certain words, change the order of words, lines or paragraphs, match words, lines or paragraphs with photos, write several predictions of the ending before you reveal the ending, just to name a few options. All of these possibilities require very little prep; no making and cutting transparencies, no messy pens, no losing the small pieces…
Realia Photos Some of us were lucky to have sets of transparencies from our texts that were in color or we were able to make color transparencies, but many of us had the pleasure of black and clear transparencies with a few pen colors. All of this could be very limiting and somewhat dull when projecting realia and photos for labeling, comprehension or discussions. It was also difficult to show detail in photos such as art, nature and physical characteristics projected on a screen.
Again, the use of photos from the internet and interactive software galleries removes many limitations. With interactive boards we can label maps, info graphs and even video, keeping the vibrant colors and details that keep student interest (like works of art). We can save the labeled version as well as the unlabeled version for use over and over again. My favorite use when introducing a concept is to already have the words on the page, but labeling the wrong object and students have to put words where it they should be. Then use the same photo the next day with an activity where the word appears when clicked, and later for a labeling activity or partner work, and then lastly for a formative or summative assessment.
Speaking Listening Conversation Diagramming-I used these often with my overhead transparencies by having 3 columns and first having students connect the columns according to what they hear in sentences or a story. Many of these had to be associated with times of day or calendars. Then we would use the same pictures for interpersonal partner.. To finish students would write original sentences, short paragraphs or a story with the same prompts.
Diagramming can be used in the same exact way, but again with enhanced color, photos and  variety made possible by  interactive whiteboards and accompanying software. I also like to personalize my diagramming activities with photos of my family and my students. With the clear ink and reset page tools in the interactive whiteboard software, starting, stopping and varying the activities for the next steps of higher level thinking are fast and smooth and saved in different files or pages.


My challenge to you: Take a look at your current or former use of the overhead. What activities on transparencies are still hanging out in your files? Can you adapt them to be  more high tech? Do the activities still have promising goals, content or purpose? Do they add variety to your lesson planning? If so, resurrect them for new high tech age! Recommendations for image searches and resources

Sites for software information, activities and places to share templates to use with your interactive boards:,,,

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