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Intro to Google Apps Series: Interactive Templates with Google Slides

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Liz Curtis, M.Ed. | Instructional Technology Consultant | ESC of Central Ohio 
[email protected] | Twitter: @lizontech

Teachers and students can do amazing things with Google Slides! Creating and finding engaging content is not as complicated as one would think. We will briefly cover the basics of Google Slides and will include tips, tricks, and ways to best create, find, and use interactive templates with your students.
Things You Should Know about Google Slides 
This isn’t a complete overview of Google Slides. These are just some of my favorite tips and tricks within Google Slides that are helpful to know.

The File Menu
To start, did you know you can create your own PDFs? Under the file menu, there are a few ways you can download your deck.
 File menu

Next, you should check out the page setup option. Just because Slides defaults to Standard 4:3, doesn’t mean you have to keep it that way. Sometimes, it’s better to have an 8.5 x 11 size! This makes it easy to print off whatever you have created. 

  1. Click Page Setup. 
  2. Click the dropdown arrow. 
  3. Choose Custom. 
  4. Select Inches and type in your preference. 
  5. Don’t forget to hit Apply! 
Page setup

Page setup menu

Page setup menu, custom size

The Insert Menu
Most people know you can insert images. You can search the web for images, upload them from your computer, pull from your Drive or Photos, or even use a URL. What’s great is, you can also use an image freshly taken from the camera attached to your device. 

  1. Select Insert 
  2. Hover over Image 
  3. Scroll down to Camera 
  4. Smile and snap the picture! 
  5. Select Insert 

The insert menu

Inserting a photo

You can also insert emojis ? throughout your deck through the Insert menu. Within a text box, select Insert and choose Special Characters. Where it says Symbol, use the drop-down arrow to choose Emoji and select your choice. (Sorry, not much diversity yet.) 

Insert special characters menu
Can’t quite remember the name of the emoji you’re looking for? Just draw an image and Google will try to figure out what you need. This works for any of the special characters.
Special character search

The Tools Menu
One of my favorite Google Slides gems is the Explore tool. You can find it within the Tools menu and at the bottom of the page. When there are suggestions, it will be this golden color. When there are no suggestions, the icon will be gray.
Golden explore icon
The tool is powerful and does several things to connect you to resources on the web. However, my favorite feature is the layout recommendation. It will literally take this…

Slide showing text "Dream Vacation" next to the image of a tropical beach. this! 
Layout featuring a tropical beach image with overlayed text reading "Dream Vacation".

Here are other recommendations that I could have chosen. Please note: The more items you have on your slide, the fewer recommendations you will get! 

A graphic list of slide layout options
Other Goodies
First up is the mask image tool. This tool is in the dropdown menu next to the crop icon on the tool bar. 
Toolbar highlighting "Mask Image" feature.

Once you select the dropdown arrow, you will see an array of shapes that can be used. Below is an example of one image, being turned into 3 different shapes. 
Illustrating the different shape masks a user can choose from
Next is the scribble tool. The dropdown arrow next to the line tool includes the scribble tool that allows you to “write" on your slide. 

The scribble tool
Hand-scribbled line drawing spelling "Liz"

Last, set the transparency for shapes. This feature makes creating Venn diagrams a breeze. 

  1. Select shape 
  2. Select Fill color icon 
  3. Select Custom 
  4. Slide Transparency (the second bar) until you see the desired look
Fill color menu

Color and transparency picker

Practice Time! - Practice Slide Deck - This template walks you through some of my favorite features of Google Slides.
Maximizing All Slides has to Offer 
This section contains: How to find Already-made slide decks, great backgrounds, resources, educational templates, and fun activities!
Searching for Already-Made Slide Decks
Use the “Advanced Search” tools in Google to find “shared” Slides ("keyword" or PPT files(“keyword” filetype:ppt

For example, copy and paste the following into your Google Chrome browser: charlotte’s web 

Here are the results: 
Results of google search
Here is the first presentation on the list:
Charlotte's Web slide presentation
As you can see, it is VERY well done. You could easily go to File > Make a Copy. This puts an editable version on your Drive for you to customize as you see fit! 

Try using your own keyword! 
Great Backgrounds
Google Slides' built-in templates are somewhat limited and bland. Use these resources to incorporate vibrant, up-to-date templates perfect for your lessons and activities. 

Slides Carnival thumbnail
Educational Templates
Templates Created and/or edited by Liz 

Base Ten Blocks (Greater Than/Less Than) - This template was built for students learning to compare decimals using virtual base ten blocks. 

Oh Place Value! - This template was built for 2nd graders as a tool to give students practice with base ten blocks and regrouping. 

Money Counting - This template is perfect for littles learning how to count and/or show money amounts. 

Reading / Language Arts 
Alphabet Sorter - This template was built for K-2 to help littles match lowercase letters to capital letters.

African American Authors Research Project - This is a choice board ideal for 3rd-12th grade students. Students choose an author presented in the choice board. Then, use a poster rubric and graphic organizer to create a poster. 

Digital Info Hunt - This template can be used by most grade levels starting with 2nd grade. This template has a few graphic organizers that can be used repeatedly. 

Listen and Write Activity - This is a simple reading passage ideal for students reading on the 3rd-grade level. Students read or listen to the passage and identify and highlight key information to identify the main idea. 

Reading Choice Board - This template was made for younger students who would benefit from hearing a story read to them because answering a few questions. 

Phases of the Moon - This is a super simple template for students to practice correctly showing the different phases of the moon. 

Community Builder - This template has 3 different icebreakers. This is for most grades where students can type. 

Blank Infographic - This template was made for teachers to easily create a hyperdoc or infographic. An example is included. 

Other Templates 
Many of these are templates I have found along the way that were shared freely. 

Language Arts / Reading 
CVC Sound Activity - This template is built for any students needing CVC practice. 

Book Snaps (SnapChat mockup)- This template is ideal for grades 3-12. Students find a picture that visually represents their work then add a quotation that supports the image. 

Multiplication Table - This template is perfect for littles practicing their multiplication facts. Great virtual manipulative. 

Two Digit Addition - This template was made for students using base ten blocks for 2-digit addition. 

Black History - This is a one slide deck that has several images of African Americans. When you click on the images, it takes students to books on Epic about that person. Epic is free for educators. 

Virtual Classroom Activities from Google - This template includes various ways to stay organized. 

FakeBook example - Students use this template to bring out character traits on a template that models Facebook.
Notable Resources
Educational Templates and Resources 
Templates for Teachers - This site was created by teachers for teachers and is completely FREE. They even take requests for creating new templates. 

Mrs. Park's Free Templates has amazing templates and some of them aren’t free. No worries! The templates featured on this page are free. (Slides and Jamboard templates available) 

Ditch that Textbook templates, The educational templates are fantastic and FREE. (Slides, Jamboard, and game templates available) 

Online Tools 

Monster Mash is a Sketch-Based Tool for Casual 3D Modeling and Animation 

Mote is a Chrome extension that makes giving feedback via audio fast, simple, and personal. When you install this extension, you can use it within Google Classroom, Google Docs, and Google Slides, and even in Gmail. By simply clicking the purple Mote icon, you can record and append audio comments to a Google doc or to Classroom to give students feedback on their work.

Fun Activities
Soundboards - The link is to 3 different soundboards that are perfect for fun interactions with your class. 

 To read more from Liz Curtis and the Intro to Google Apps series, visit her two blogs on Google Keep. Part one is here and part two is here.

Liz Curtis is an experienced academic with a demonstrated history of working in the education industry. She has over eight years of experience teaching in a classroom and is skilled in public speaking, curriculum development, and research. With a Master of Education (M.Ed.) focused Elementary Education and Teaching, she offers professional development focused on educational technology.

Email Liz to see how she can help support your school or district!