ESL classroom posters

Never a Dull Moment: Create Engaging Lessons with ESL Classroom Posters

Ever feel like the more you explain something, the more confused your students become?

I’ve been there as a teacher many times.

When I first started out, I didn’t get my students.

My classes were built around my own learning style, based on listening exercises. Students who learned differently couldn’t follow, so what did they do? They zoned out.

It didn’t take long for me to notice that half the class wasn’t engaged, so I started toying around with different teaching methods.

That’s when I discovered the power of posters in the classroom and how they can be used to help students of all ages, learning styles and skill levels with studying English. What’s more, posters are one of the most cost-effective teaching aids you’ll come across.

You’ll never have to break the bank using posters in class. There are several free resources out there that can provide you with some great ideas and materials. Read on to learn how to use posters to connect with your students.

How to Create Engaging Lessons with ESL Classroom Posters

Know what I love the most about posters? Their versatility.

Posters work with a number of different learning styles. Visual learners will appreciate the colorful imagery, whereas hands-on learners enjoy helping create the posters themselves. What’s more, reading the posters together as a class helps students who learn by reading and listening memorize important information.

But don’t take my word for it. Below are some examples of how you can use posters to engage with all types of learners.

Combining Visual and Kinesthetic Learning with Posters

The combination of both visual and kinesthetic learning styles can take a seemingly passive activity and make it completely interactive. This combination allows students to both see and do, helping breathe life into the language-learning experience.

  • Warm-up: Show students a poster containing everyday activities or daily routines. Another great option could be activities grouped by themes (school, sports, shopping, clothes and so on). Have students repeat each of the verbs on the poster. For beginners, both the word and a picture of the action should be shown.
  • Activity: Using Total Physical Response, call out each verb aloud, demonstrating the action to the students. After one or two iterations, call out each verb without demonstrating the action, relying on the students to make gestures and actions on their own. This could be even turned into a game by playing “Simon Says” or a similar activity.
  • Follow-up: Students list the actions that they like and dislike by writing the verbs under happy and angry faces. If you’re teaching intermediate or advanced students, have them explain why they do or don’t like a specific action.

Integrating Visual and Auditory Learning with Posters

This combination is a classic. It’s a great way for students to sharpen their listening skills as they are able to both hear and see words. This will allow students to assimilate language more naturally.

  • Warm-up: Show students a poster containing pictures of activities such as daily routines, shopping, sports or any other theme being covered in class. Students can then indicate which activities they do or don’t do, as well as point out which activities they do using adverbs of frequency (always, sometimes, never and so on).
  • Activity: Read sentences describing each one of the pictures in random order. Take the sentence “I go grocery shopping every Saturday morning” as an example. After hearing this sentence, students should select an image that corresponds with that sentence, like a picture of a supermarket or grocery store.
  • Follow-up: Students can be asked to write a short 50 to 100-word paragraph on the topic covered in class, or even write a blog post or status on your class’ social media page—if you’re teaching with technology.

Blending Visual and Logical/Mathematical Learning with Posters

Try reaching out to your formulaic thinkers by adding elements of visual and logical/mathematical learning styles in your poster lessons. That will allow students to exercise their thinking and problem-solving skills while improving their English understanding. Talk about a win-win.

  • Warm-up: Show students a poster containing various types of activities. These could be sports, professions, art, vacations or any other topic being covered in class. Students will then be encouraged to give responses using present simple and conditional sentences.
  • Activity: Provide a deeper explanation of the first conditional, with examples of how it’s used. Students then devise a formula on how the first conditional is constructed. Together, the teacher and students should then create a new poster containing the “formula” for first conditional sentences, as well as various examples of how it’s used. Be sure to include detailed explanations in the poster, then hang it in the classroom to help students in the future.
  • Follow-up: As a follow-up, have students use the formula poster they made to build their own conditional sentences. Once finished, students then share their sentences with the class.

Merging Visual and Verbal Learning with Posters

Great for students who will take the TOEIC, TOEFL or IELTS exams, this activity offers a combination of visual and verbal learning styles, allowing learners to translate visual stimuli into spoken language. There is some definite high-order thinking going on here, affording students a wonderful opportunity to flex their cerebral muscle.

  • Warm-up: Show the class a poster with five or six images attached to it. These images can be anything, from random images to pictures related to the current curriculum. Then, go through the images one by one, asking students what each picture represents. Afterwards, tell a short story (approximately one or two sentences for each picture), incorporating elements of each picture into the story.
  • Activity: Display a poster similar to the warm-up activity, but with different images. Again, ask the students to provide descriptions of each picture. Once that has finished, the students are then given 5 to 10 minutes to create their own stories, drawing upon elements from each picture. Depending on the proficiency level of your class, you can do this as an individual activity or as group work.
  • Follow-up: You can test your students’ creativity and storytelling skills further by assigning a homework assignment similar to the in-class activity. Except, this time, students will need to find their own pictures, create their own posters and tell their own stories. You can either have them do this with physical posters, or they can create “digital storyboards” by pasting pictures and writing stories in a word processor or presentation program. Just make sure to give students enough time to complete the project—generally, a week is sufficient.

Bringing It All Together

As you can see, posters are not just visual tools—they’re also an excellent way to integrate various teaching methods in your lesson. You can use them to custom-tailor specific lessons to reach all of your students’ learning styles. Moreover, they can be modified and recreated to suit all types of learners, from beginners to highly advanced students.

In short, posters have a definite cross-cutting appeal, creating a pleasant and more engaging learning experience.

So, next time you consider skipping on posters because you’re teaching upper-level students, think again! When a little bit of creativity and some well-planned activities like the ones mentioned in this article, you can turn any poster into an effective learning tool.

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