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Multimodal Mondays: A Forty-Second Visual Introduction

posted: 9.16.13 by Andrea Lunsford

The pecha kucha presentation format (20 slides displayed for 20 seconds each) is becoming more common in composition courses—and the good news is that a basic familiarity with PowerPoint slide creation is the only technical know-how students need. But a full presentation of twenty slides may seem daunting early in the course. Here’s a quick assignment that will help you and your students get to know one another better—and that might be a jumping-off place for a full pecha kucha later on.


Introduce yourself or your topic by creating the beginning of a pecha kucha






Background reading before class

Ask students to plan for the presentation by reading relevant content from your handbook or rhetoric:

  • Everything’s an Argument, Chapter 15, “Presenting Arguments”
  • The St. Martin’s Handbook, Chapter 22, “Oral and Multimedia Presentations”
  • The Everyday Writer, section 3c, “Prepare for Presentations”
  • EasyWriter, section 4c, “Oral and Multimedia Presentations”

In class

For this quick early assignment, students will prepare the first two slides of a pecha kucha to introduce themselves (or another topic they want to talk about) to you and their classmates. Each student will have two slides and forty seconds of time to talk. Ideally, the introductory slides should leave the audience wanting to know more.

You might explain that the pecha kucha format was developed by architects to present their ideas—and to keep them from talking for too long about their work. Each slide appears for 20 seconds and then automatically advances; speakers are not allowed to stop the slides or to back up.

Consider giving a 40-second, two-slide introduction of your own to demonstrate the assignment for your class, or you can show the first two slides of a pecha kucha presentation as an example. Browse the official pecha kucha site for popular recent presentations, or consider showing part of Felix Jung’s “Repetition and Variation” presentation. (For students who want to create a full pecha kucha, Jung’s Web site offers great resources and plenty of ideas for a classroom discussion.)

As a class, you can develop some guidelines for what makes a good two-slide introduction based on the examples you explore together. Ask students to think about questions like these:

  • What counts as a “visual”? Pictures?  Words? Something else?
  • Does a single visual on a slide have more impact than two or more?
  • What are the advantages of creating the slides before writing the script? What are the advantages of writing the script first and adding images later?
  • How should the two slides relate to each other?
  • What makes an introduction effective?
  • What should the audience get from a good slide introduction?


Ask your students to plan and present (or record) the first two 20-second slides of a pecha kucha presentation. The topic can be dependent on your course goals: Students can introduce themselves, talk about a topic that interests them, describe a memorable experience of becoming a reader or writer, or start work on a longer assignment.

Ask them to submit the slides to you.  You can combine the slides, inserting a slide with the presenter’s name before each new pair, into a presentation that auto-advances every twenty seconds. (This YouTube video explains the basics of setting up PowerPoint for a pecha kucha.) For a live presentation, tell students in advance the order of the presentations so they’ll be ready when they see their name appear. For an online show, post recorded slides to your shared course space.

Remind students that even a forty-second presentation needs to be planned and rehearsed!

Reflection on the activity                  

Ask students to reflect on the presentations they and their classmates have created, using questions like these as prompts for discussion or writing.

  1. About how much time did you devote to creating the slides, planning the narration, and rehearsing? If you were able to do this again, would you spend your time differently?
  2. What about the process of planning, creating, and presenting this assignment did you enjoy? What was your least favorite part? Why?
  3. What kinds of audience response did you expect? Did the response meet your expectations? Why or why not?
  4. What did you enjoy most about seeing your classmates’ 40-second presentations?
  5. What advice would you give to other students who are asked to do this assignment in the future?

Want to collaborate with Andrea on a Multimodal Monday assignment? Send ideas to for possible inclusion in a future post. 

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