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Preparing handouts

Authors: Alka S Ahuja 

Publication date:  05 Aug 2006


Have you ever created a handout at the last minute before a teaching session? We often prepare them hastily without considering elements that make them most effective. Here are some tips on preparing a good handout.

  • Plan handouts while planning your session

  • PowerPoint is a useful tool for creating handouts

  • Set off distinct parts of the handout using italics, shading, bold, or underlining

  • Use plain English, avoiding jargon and waffle

  • Illustrations can make your handout more reader friendly; clip art is simple and easy to use

  • Use bulleted lists to make them easier to scan and understand

  • Leave a margin of at least 2 cm on every side

  • Serif fonts (such as Times New Roman) are more distinctive in print than sans serif fonts (such as Arial)

  • Restrict yourself to three fonts in a single handout

  • Give specific information which students need for future reference

  • Make handouts interactive by leaving space for results of brainstorms and discussions

  • Including small tasks and questions in the handouts often helps to keep the crowd awake and active

  • Never make handouts self explanatory—instead leave space allowing students to annotate and add their own notes

  • Include helpful websites or tips for finding additional information

  • Include contact information, preferably an email address

  • Make copies of the handouts ahead of time to avoid problems such as running out of paper and photocopiers breaking down

  • Try to judge the best time to give them out—opinions differ on when is the best time

  • Try to update them regularly

  • Say no more than necessary—saying too much ruins an otherwise good handout

  • Remember where you store your handouts on your computer—it will save you hours one or two years down the line ■

Alka S Ahuja consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist Gwent Healthcare NHS Trust  Alka.Ahuja@gwent.wales.nhs.uk

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