Okay, we admit it. Here at TEFL Toolkit we just love posters! There are loads of reasons why posters in the EFL or ESOL classroom are a great idea. This week we want to tell you why and to share our love of posters with you.
Make your Room Look Fabulous!
Children and teenagers love posters. And why not? Young people instinctively know that posters are not only a way of converting a bland and boring space into something vibrant and lively, but that they are a way of signalling to the world what is important to us in that space. Whether it’s a simple picture alphabet for young learners, a topic visual or an illustrated guide to idioms for more advanced students, try to go for posters that are attractively designed and visually engaging. Ensure that any illustrations or images are clear, relevant and support student understanding.
Displaying posters not only transforms the look of the classroom but can provide a wealth of other benefits. Posters are quick to put up and take down, so you can rotate them periodically to suit the age of students being taught, the time of year and, of course, the topics or vocabulary being covered. By attaching magnetic strips or Velcro hangers, you can make the job even easier. Invest in some labelled poster tubes to make sure any posters not in use can be stored safely and are easy to find when you want to re-use them.
Cocoon your learners in a World of Language
We often talk about immersion in the language and culture of the target language, but we tend to associate this with the spoken word. For example, English-only classes where the mode of instruction is English and where learners are encouraged to communicate using only the English language. However, an English-rich environment can also be created visually, and EFL posters are a great way of doing this. If minds and eyes wander during the lesson, if students arrive in class early, or finish a task quickly, posters can provide a useful language resource that will attract the eye and keep them focused on their learning.
With this in mind, you might want to take a look at our English Classroom Posters we produced based on some classic design ideas.
Visual Support for Learning
We often talk about the importance of providing visual support for learners. This is good practice for general reinforcement of learning but also provides additional support for students who are not naturally gifted language learners or who have learning difficulties related to short-term memory use and recall.
Posters are the perfect way to reinforce learning visually. Display and draw attention to any posters that have vocabulary relevant to your student's course of study and refer to them periodically. If you plan on using flashcards associated with the posters, have students review the language on the posters, eliciting and practising keywords before doing games or activities with the flashcards.
In the coming weeks, we will be releasing a series of posters and online flashcards for A1-level learners, so you will soon get a sense of what we are talking about.
Another invaluable use for the poster is as a ready-made, easy-to-access teaching resource. Focus on information or skills with which you need to help your students regularly. When a common teaching point next comes up, rather than having to dig around in your bag or file, having relevant posters on your walls means you have a resource that can be referred to at a moment’s notice.
A good example of this is our Pronunciation Posters. Following several requests from subscribers, we produced this series of three posters, which provide a quick and easy reference point for the full range of phonemic symbols and their sounds - plus mouth diagrams showing tongue positions that will help support you and your students with any remedial work that needs to be done on the English sound system.
Create your own Posters
It is often good to buy some professionally designed and printed EFL posters for part of your classroom display. This is simply because it’s difficult to replicate the quality of professionally produced posters - and creating posters can also be very time-consuming. If there are periods of the year when you do have some time on your hands, why not think about creating bespoke posters for specialist topics or learning points?
The advantage of creating your own posters is that you will have visual resources tailored specifically to the needs of your students. For example, you can focus on a particular point of grammar your students are finding challenging, summarise your classroom values or rules, provide learning advice, exam information or outline your weekly scheme of work.
All these kinds of posters are great because they directly address your students’ needs, encourage them to become familiar with the assessment process and help them to understand and monitor their own learning.
Help your Students get Creative
Finally, why not supplement bought-in resources and your own posters with students’ own work? If you do lots of project work or presentations, it’s great to get students to produce and display their own posters. The advantage of doing this is that it is free, can help clarify student thinking and means your class are emotionally and intellectually invested in contributing to the look and feel of the learning environment.
A word of advice here. When setting up poster-based projects, don’t allow students to get away with just printing and collating information and images from the Web. You can help avoid this by agreeing in advance on a set of tasks or by specifying the information each student or group needs to search for. Also, encourage creativity: remind learners that posters needn’t always be an A3 rectangle – for example, here is a long-and-thin idioms poster that we created specifically as a kind of whiteboard topper or border.
Or have learners think about making their poster into a shape appropriate to the display content. I’ve seen snake-shaped posters, human-body-shaped posters, posters in the form of buses or trees - not to mention some fantastic whole class displays and murals. Encourage the use of interesting designs, utilising, for example: ‘open and reveal’ flaps or fold-downs, pockets containing objects or information cards on strings.
As well as information posters, there is a wide variety of other creative poster projects you can set up for your students. Here are a few examples:
- Create an advertisement for a new product
- Put together a themed ‘poster phrasebook’ with L1 phrases and their target language equivalents
- Put together a poster of word puzzles, quizzes or jokes
- Map-based posters showing students’ journeys to school, with labelled buildings and geographical features
- Presentation of a class survey with annotated bar charts or graphs
We hope you agree that with a combination of the poster types outlined above, you should be able to transform your teaching space into something special and personal to you and your students. And if there are additional posters you think would be particularly interesting or useful, let us know and we will see what we can do!
Written by Mike Turner