Student Engagement

Teaching Presentation Skills with Ignite

December 28, 2012
Photo credit: hackNY via flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

I know that, in my project-based learning classroom, students did presentations all the time for a variety of purposes. One of the key components of a PBL project is the 21st-century skill of presentation or communication. We know that this presentation can take on any number of shapes, from something formal to a podcast or even a poster session. I always struggled with getting quality presentations from my students. I used a variety of teaching techniques and examples, but there is one that I know can really help improve presentation skills: Ignite!

Ignite is a specific genre of presentation. An Ignite presenter only has five minutes to speak about the topic, and 20 slides to do so. Every 15 seconds, slides are moved along automatically. The overall purpose of an Ignite session is to empower and excite the audience around a specific subject matter, idea or topic. Ignite is used at conferences all around the world, at EdCamps, and even within professional organizations and businesses.

Ignite is similar to PechaKucha, where you have 20 slides that change every 20 seconds. Usually, someone is "offstage" to time the event by changing slides, which forces the presenter to stay on task and move forward in the presentation. The slides contain only images, which the presenter prepares. However, the presenter is usually not allowed to prepare a script. This demands improvisation and creativity while still trying to craft a message.

Final Product

An Ignite session can be a great final product for a PBL project or another unit of instruction. Although we might be inclined to push for a larger presentation, there are times when an Ignite presentation would be appropriate. It can help assess certain quality indicators of effective presentation, and can be a presentation that is more fun and engaging for both students and audience members. Imagine an exhibition night of multiple Ignite presentations! Consider an Ignite presentation as either a product or assessment for all students, or as another choice in the products students can choose from.

Practice and Scaffolding

Although you might demand a more lengthy or formal presentation as a final product, an Ignite presentation can serve as a great scaffolding tool. As students prepare for the bigger presentation, have them craft shorter pieces in teams or individually as practice. It can help them pick the right words to speak and find the right pictures to use as they reflect on and revise their final presentation. And it can serve as a great formative assessment for you as the teacher, along with helping students plan their presentation in manageable ways.


Instead of droning on with lengthy lectures, as a teacher you can use Ignite presentations to get important content or skills across to students. Yes, there is occasion for a more traditional lecture, but not all the time. What's great is that any Ignite sessions you build can be stored for future use or exchanged with teachers in a PLC or PLN. We also love it when students teach students. Have them craft Ignite presentations on content to teach each other.

Ignite can be a great presentation tool to support your classroom and students. It helps to avoid "time sucks" while building presentation skills for your students. There's no question that young people will find this form engaging, and they'll enjoy crafting these five-minute programs. I know I do! Don't forget to use an effective rubric to assess the presentation effectively, and to make sure that expectations are clear from the beginning.



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  • Student Engagement
  • Assessment
  • 6-8 Middle School
  • 9-12 High School

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