Random Slides: Improvisation in the classroom

I enjoy using drama, improvisation and role-plays in the classroom, but how could we use PowerPoint to select a random situation or scenario?

I was recently asked whether it was possible to go to a random slide instead of the next slide. This is not a feature that PowerPoint has, but it was an excellent idea and one definitely worth exploring.

The result of that exploration was the creation of these four templates.

Random Slides x10 (10 Slides) • Random Slides x20 (20 Slides)

Random Slides x30 (30 Slides) • Random Slides x40 (40 Slides)

The idea behind the template was to transition to a random slide when you click on the button in the lower right-hand corner of the slide.

Note: I won’t go into the specifics of how the template works, but if you left-click anywhere but ‘the next slide button’ you will go to the next sequential slide, rather than a random slide (1,2 rather than 1,17). The same effect will occur if you press the right arrow key. 


Download one of the templates and choose an office theme or use your own design.

On each of the slides, add the text and images that you want your students to see.

Note: Do not add any slides to the templates because there won’t be any links that refer to them. If you delete slides from a template, delete the links that refer to them.

Using Random Slides in Class

There are a number of ways that this template could be used in an ESL classroom.

You could use it in the following ways:

  • To review vocabulary that has been covered during a course
  • To review grammar or language points that have been covered during a course
  • To present situations or scenario for role-plays and improvisations
  • To present questions for discussion or debate
  • To show random quotes for class discussion
  • To show random pictures for class discussion


This example uses common topics that students can talk about at the beginning of a lesson. Click on the blue button to select a random topic of the day.

Drama and Improvisation Prompts

I have previously written about using improvisation prompts in class. I designed a random situation generator in Excel because at the time I felt that…

…a randomizer can be made in PowerPoint, but the sequence of the slides and the order of the words are always pre-determined by the creator.

Well, now that we can navigate to an unknown and non-sequential slide, I can see these templates being useful for keeping a collection of improvisation prompts and role-play scenarios.

The scenarios could be written by the teacher. They could be a collection of personalized role-plays that students have already worked on throughout the course. The role-plays could also be elicited from the students. What situations could the students imagine themselves needing or wanting to speak English?

Once you have enough ideas, write an improvisation prompt or place a picture that depicts a situation on each slide.

Tip: Check to see if eltpics has a relevant image you can use. Eltpics is a collection of photos taken by teachers and shared for the wider teaching community. The images are licensed under creative commons copyright. Visit the ELTpics website for more details.

  • The teacher can then select a random scenario by clicking on the blue ‘next slide button.’
  • Present and/or explain the role-play situation to the students.
  • Elicit what the students want to say before providing the students with new ways to say it.
  • Give the students a few minutes to think about what they want to say. Which new phrases and words they want to use, and where they would best fit into the conversation.
  • Choose one or more groups to perform their role-plays while the audience listens out for and notes what new phrases or language were used.
  • Provide praise and feedback at the end of the role-play.
  • Select a new scenario by clicking on the blue ‘next slide button‘ or continue the lesson with a new activity.

Please leave a comment if you have any ideas or suggestions about how to use random slides.

Alternatively, you can send me a message by visiting the contact page, leaving me a message on my Facebook page or by following me on Twitter.

Thanks for reading and take care!

Continue Reading for More Information about Random Slides

How It Works

Does PowerPoint have a random slides feature?

The simple answer is no, but it doesn’t mean you can’t navigate to an unknown slide.

I previously wrote an article about the different ways to navigate PowerPoint, which include using a navigation sidebar, directly navigating to a slide by typing the slide number followed by the enter key and the use of keyboard shortcuts.

Even the latest release of PowerPoint (PowerPoint 2016) has a zoom feature similar to Prezi, where all the slides are displayed on a single screen and you can zoom in on any slide in presentation.

However, all of these methods and features require you to go to a predetermined slide. There is nothing particularly random about it.

How to make PowerPoint transition to a random slide?

During a quick google search, I found that there is a macro (an automated action that uses Visual Basic for Applications computer code) solution and an unofficial PowerPoint add-in was created by a third party.

Both these solutions require adding some computer code, which isn’t ideal as I wanted something simple without using a macro-enabled PowerPoint or using a version that has the appropriate add-in.

Then I came across this web page.

It’s a guide for making random action buttons in PowerPoint. However, this template only uses 6 actions buttons and the button move with a circular animation.

I needed something that would be suitable for 10,20,30 or even 40 slides.

So, I created a version of scrolling links.

  • At the bottom of the slide, create as many boxes as the number of slides the PowerPoint will have.
  • Make sure the fill color is set to 100% transparency.
  • Group all of the boxes together.


  • Assign a link to each box. For example, clicking on the first box goes to slide 1, clicking on the second box goes to slide 2 etc.
  • A line animation has been assigned to the group.
  • The final box in the group should stop in the same position as the first box (before the animation).


  • Select the group and open the animation pane. (Go to the animation ribbon and click on animation pane. A window will open on the right-hand side of the screen.)
  • Click on Effect Options or Timing.
  • The animation options dialog will open. Click on the timing tab.
  • Make sure start is set to with previous.
  • Set an appropriate duration for the animation.
  • Set repeat to Until End of Slide.


  • Click on the Effects tab.
  • Set Smooth start to 0 sec.
  • Set Smooth end to 0 sec.
  • Check the box labelled auto-reverse (the animation will be played backwards).



  • The combination of auto-reverse and repeat until end of slide mean that the squares will continue to scroll across the bottom of the slide and it is unknown which square will be above the next slide button. Watch the video for a preview of the effect.

How to change the slide layout?


You may want to use a picture rather than text, so how can you change the layout of the slide. Well, you can left-click on the text placeholder and delete it before inserting an image or you can change the slide layout.

  • Go to the Home ribbon.
  • Click on layout.
  • Select a new layout from the list.
  • The slide’s layout changes and there are now different placeholders that allow you to add new objects such as pictures, graphs, tables and SmartArt.

Please leave a comment if you have any further questions about how this template works.

Alternatively, you can send me a message by visiting the contact page, leaving me a message on my Facebook page or by following me on Twitter.

You may also like to read:

Random Choices 2.0 - Featured Image

Random Choices is based on an activity I came across in ‘Drama and Improvisation’ by Ken Wilson. The excel file chooses a random activity, location and time from a list. By pressing F9, you can generate new random choices. Students can then explain why they are doing the activity in an unusual place, or it can be used as part of a gesture or hot seat activity.

10 PowerPoint tips for teachers - featured image2

10 PowerPoint tips for teachers is an article I wrote back in June 2015 and it included some tips for designing PowerPoints as well as tips to help you deliver your presentation. Using the pointer, turning the screen to black and zooming in to help your students see.

10 more PowerPoint tips for teachers - featured image10 more PowerPoint tips for teachers is an article I wrote back in April 2016 and it included some time-saving tips, as well as introduction to some useful features. Using the animation painter, reusing slides and using the magnifier to make it easier for your students see the screen.

The featured image made from plenary slide, a photo taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics by @eltpics, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

All images were designed with Microsoft® PowerPoint® 2016. Microsoft® PowerPoint® is a copyrighted product of the Microsoft® corporation. All images are for educational purposes only.

Special thanks to Owen Kozlowski for his random slides suggestion.


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