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Spice up your PowerPoint layout: JAWS

Tired of boring presentations? Learn about different slide layout templates and design options!

Students first learn how to create simple slideshow presentations using the same template for each slide. With these early elementary slide deck themes, the classroom teacher may provide the outline stating what is to be put on each slide.  An example might be the classic “All About Me” slide deck, with slide #1: Name, Slide #2: My family, etc. (See PowerPoint Lesson Plan for Elementary Students post)

However, students with vision quickly begin to spice up their slide presentations by adding color, special effects, different fonts, and pages with different slide templates. These presentations showcase the student’s personality! However, the features that makes these presentations unique are typically visual features. How can a student who is blind spice up his/her presentation?

One way is to create pages with different slide layouts. There are numerous templates available with different fonts, color options and layouts. In this post, we are specifically going to look at PowerPoints: the information in this post can also be applied to Google Slides and Keynote presentations.

Design tab

Create a new PowerPoint presentation. In the ribbon, there is a Design tab. Opening the design tab to find a variety of different layout styles with different color themes, fonts and designs. These options are visually appealing. Most slides have a background or border with the content in the middle of the screen. Some designs have the content off-set with a larger border on one side (or at the top/bottom). Typically, the background or border is a different color and may have a pattern while the content is more plain allowing the focus to be on the text. Some designs are more cluttered or have visual designs weaved into the slides which can make it challenging for viewers who have low vision. For students who cannot see the design, it is recommended to have a sighted person describe the design and provide feedback about the visual appeal.

Page Layouts

Once the design is selected (or the default template is used) there are typically 9 different standard slide layouts within the selected theme, meaning the same color scheme, fonts and style are consistent between the 9 slide layouts. Some slides may reverse the colors (meaning the background color is now the color of the content or middle of slide), but the color scheme remains the same. It is recommended to keep the same colors used in the template as they should be visually pleasing and maintain high contrast for the text. 

These slide layouts are located under Home > New Slide. The layouts are:

  1. Title Slide
  2. Title and Content
  3. Section Header
  4. Two Content
  5. Comparison
  6. Title Only
  7. Blank
  8. Content with Caption
  9. Picture with Caption
Screenshot of the 9 PowerPoint slide layout options.

The screen layout may vary slightly depending on the chosen Design, but the layout is basically the same for the various types of slides. Ideally, the student should have a simple tactile graphic that shows the different slide layouts.

The Title slide the content portion of the slide is basically split in half with the title of the presentation as a Heading Level 1 size at the top. Below the title place holder is the subtitle place holder in normal print which is often used for author, date, workshop/conference name, etc. This layout is standard for the title of the presentation and is rarely used for anything except the first slide in the deck.

The Title and Content slide layout has the content section of the slide split into 1/4th and 3/4ths. The top 1/4thhas the title of this slide (heading level 2). The 3/4ths default is bullet points; although, there are options to add a photo, video, chart, table etc. in the 3/4ths section.

The Section Header slide layout is 2/3rds and 1/3rd. The 2/3rds at the top is for the title of this slide (heading level 2) and the 1/3rd is for additional text (normal print).

The Two Content slide is the most popular slide. The top 1/4th of the screen is the title of this slide; the bottom 3/4th is split into the left half and the right half. The default for each half is bullet points; however, there is flexibility to add table, chart, spreadsheet, photo, video, etc. to either or both halves.

The Comparison slide layout is similar to the Two Content Slide with a title at the top and two halves, except, this comparison slide has an additional place to add text between the title of this slide and above each half. This is often used to label the content on each side when comparing two things.

The Title Only slide layout is typically a title at the top of the slide (top 1/4th) and the rest of the screen is blank. The print for the title is not as large as the titles on other slides.

The Blank slide – you guessed it! It is a blank page!

The Content with Caption slide is divided into a left and right half. The left half has a 1/4th title of this slide area and a 3/4ths area for text. The right half is designed for the table, chart, spreadsheet, photo, video, etc.

The Picture with Caption slide is the same as the Content with Caption slide with the right half only available for a picture.

Additional Design Ideas

Want to spice up the slide deck even more? Once you have added text and content, PowerPoint presentations have another option called Design Ideas, which is a column on the right side of the screen. If the column of Design Ideas is not open, go to the ribbon. The last item on the right is Design Ideas. Select Design Ideas to open the options. (Hide Design Ideas by selecting the X at the top right of the column.) 

The Design Ideas will stay within the same theme (colors, font, design) but offers suggested alternative layouts. Often these layouts will have additional geometric designs, colorful lines, additional colored backgrounds or other options. There are more options available if you scroll down and select See More Design Ideas. Keep in mind that these designs are suggestions and may not always work with your text, images or features. 

JAWS Commands

While in normal view for editing a PowerPoint: 

Download these JAWS PowerPoint Commands (includes additional commands) here.

Confirm Visuals

Encourage students to ask a sighted peer to confirm that the visuals on the slides are correct. The student should ask leading questions about the size font used, images, overlap, etc. It is important to understand that if too many words or bullet points are used, the font becomes smaller; sometimes the font can be off the screen (outside the bounds of the place holder box). Limit the text used in slide decks; use concise bullet points (not sentences). Keep to 8 or less bullet points per slide. 

Creating presentations are not only an important K12 classroom skill but are also a required skill for college and careers. These presentations must be visually appealing to sighted viewers! To keep viewers’ attention slide decks should include different types of slides and images; and depending on what is being shared, charts and graphs, videos, etc. are expected to be embedded. Expect your student to create spicy and inspiring slide presentations!


By Diane Brauner, 2/15/23

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