The Pre-Show Lecture

January 18th, 2018

Anyone who arrives at a movie theater early knows about the slide presentation that plays before the show starts. There is typically a mix of ads and movie trivia, given as still images or short clips. Waiting for Doctor Strange over the summer, I got the idea to do a “Pre-Show” for my lectures.

I developed my Pre-Show last semester and it became an important part of how I ran the class, adding to several different aspects. The Pre-Show gets students thinking about anthropology before the class starts, so they start the new material already warmed up. The title slide of the day’s lecture, which used to be the only thing on screen before class starts, now shares the time with other images, such as media that did not make their way into past lectures. Having an additional illustration or striking National Geographic photograph about an old topic keeps the old material on their mind. Images of recent discoveries also have a place in the Pre-Show, demonstrating the practice of scientific research as it happens.

{ Archaeology from Historic Jamestowne. }

{ Archaeology from Historic Jamestowne. }

The slides are also a good way to get students to talk with each other and meet their neighbors. They range from icebreakers or conversation starters to asking about recent topics. I also include example multiple choice questions sprinkled in there, which also sparks some discussion before class.

The Pre-Show also handles a lot of ‘housekeeping’ by showing course and campus announcements. The most important matters still get time after the class starts, but the Pre-Show can keep students in touch with the many activities that are always going on at the college.

{ Hyping the campus art show. }

{ Hyping the campus art show. }

The Pre-Show presentation autoplays with slides changing every thirty seconds (a timing that balances getting people’s attention and showing more things) and loops as well while I do any other class preparation.  When it is time to start, I can talk about one of the slides in more detail as a warmup period for my students and I before switching presentation files to the actual topic for the day. For slides that are more important, such as announcements and conversation topics, I duplicate those slides and evenly intersperse them in the presentation among the other content.

The only problem I’ve had is that the Pre-Show is another presentation that I have to customize before class. Removing old announcements and old images and finding new ones can take time that is already scarce. My way of addressing this issue is to save old slides into their own file (called Pre-Show Snippets) that I can use to quickly refresh the presentation with pre-made slides. Sometimes my commute or my schedule goes awry and I don’t have time to put the Pre-Show lecture up before class starts. In all, the setup is worth the time since it takes care of different necessities in my class.


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