Dialogues on the Day: Live typing in PowerPoint

I have often found that people think presentations ignore student input and there is an inability for improvisation or incorporating students’ ideas into the presentation. But is that really true?

The other week I learnt how to incorporate live typing into a PowerPoint presentation. I didn’t have to exit the presentation, I just needed to add a new kind of text box.

I added this text box, I tried it out in class and I was able to elicit a unique dialogue and my students were able to see it being typed onto the screen, live. It’s not that I couldn’t elicit a conversation from my students before. I have often written (or asked my students to write) the dialogue out on the blackboard or whiteboard.

However, I noticed some minor differences when I was able to write it out on the screen:

  • My back wasn’t to the class, because I wasn’t writing it on a blackboard or whiteboard. I was always facing my class and asking for their ideas.
  • It was faster, because I didn’t have to worry about the size, or legibility of my writing and it became a very clear and fast way to model the activity I wanted the students to do.
  • I didn’t have to erase the conversation from the blackboard if I wanted the students to practice or work without it. I only had to switch off the screen (The B Key). The conversation would be still be saved and easy to copy. Even better, I wouldn’t have to rewrite it if I wanted to review it in a later lesson.

I wish I had known how to type live during a presentation before. Although there are other ways to show text on a projector screen, (Google Docs, Evernote, OneNote, Word etc.) one of the benefits of being able to do it in PowerPoint is that I don’t have to exit the presentation or swap programs. However, it can take a little time to set up the text box and assign the preferences you want, so to save time I have created a template.

Click on Live Typing PPT to download the template.

Live Typing - Speech Bubbles
Screenshot of the Live Typing template – PowerPoint 2013
The template contains one slide with six speech bubbles. This is ideal for improvised mini dialogues. There is also a slide with a single text box. These text boxes can easily be copied, pasted and modified. Change the size by selecting the text box and dragging the corners.

Watch the video to see how the template works. It might not seem impressive at first, but bear in mind that one of the most frequent criticism of presentation software is the inability to add text during a presentation.

If you want to know more about how this template was created, please visit this page. Now that I have my template, I can think of a few ways that this could be used during class.

All of these activities can be done with only a blackboard/white board - the benefit of live typing in PowerPoint is that you can save them, review them and export them easily.

Modelling Collaborative Writing

I’ve used this kind of PowerPoint template to model collaborative writing. I would write the first sentence and then ask the students to think in groups what the next line would be. I would then elicit their answers and built up an improvised dialogue. The students could practice the dialogue with and without the screen as a prompt before they start their own writing rotations to create their own dialogues.


I previously wrote an article called Teleprompter: Turning a writing activity into a speaking activity. The general idea of the activity is that there is a writer and a reader. The reader can only say what the writer has written for them. The Live Typing PPT is perfect for this kind of activity, and can be used to create the atmosphere of a news channel or a TV talk show, where the host can only read what’s on the screen in front of them.

Hot Seat

Hot Seat is a common game in the ESL classroom, and there are lots of variations of it. These include: Gestures Divide the class into 2-4 teams with one person from each team at the front of the class with their backs to the screen. Type a word on the screen and the other students perform the gesture for their teammate to guess the word. Meaning and Definitions Same as above. Type a word on the screen and the other students try to explain the meaning or definition so that their teammate can guess the word.

Pros and Cons

It’s easily to compile a list of good and bad points related to a topic by eliciting ideas from the students. Because the list is kept on a PowerPoint slide, you can return to it later in the lesson. You can’t do the same when you have erased the ideas off the board.

Word Games

There are various word games that could be played.  This post by Peter Pun from eltplanning.com can give you some ideas – 35 ways to introduce your lesson topic. Playing guess the word is easy and if like me, you find it faster to type than to write words, then keeping a list of your students’ responses for review is very easy.

How would you use live typing in your class? Leave a comment on the site if you have any suggestions.

Alternatively you can send me a message on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Thanks for reading and take care!

Some things to remember:
This kind of text box is an ActiveX control and may not be available for or compatible with other presentation software like keynote, impress, Prezi or google slides.

The text box can be edited during the presentation or via the properties dialog.

However, you can't format parts of the text differently to others. The whole next has to be bold, or none of it is.

PowerPoint may ask you to save the file as a macro-enabled file, but saving it as a normal PowerPoint file won't affect the text box.

The idea for this post came from here.

8 thoughts on “Dialogues on the Day: Live typing in PowerPoint

  1. Hi, another great template. I like your ideas as they are practical and easy to use in the classroom. They help a lot with classroom management which can really improve a lesson. Small changes can have a big impact!

    Liked by 1 person

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