Poster presentations

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I have a roll of transparent plastic sheets in my office which I inherited from my predecessor, and on my last course I finally found a use for them in a nifty Friday afternoon group activity: poster presentations.

As the name implies, these are simply presentations delivered using a poster (rather than a PowerPoint) as a visual aid. In an ELT context, they can be used to help activate students’ knowledge of an upcoming topic, to give practice on a language point (mine were using the passive in describing how certain products are manufactured), to provide an opportunity for critical reflection on the topic of a reading or listening activity, or to develop presentation skills. Most of the necessary materials will be available in the classroom: whiteboard markers, flipboard paper (if you can’t access the aforementioned plastic sheets) and your students’ creativity.

Benefits:

  • Low-prep: all you need to do is provide the materials, set up the activity, and monitor
  • Student-centered: depending on your cohort, you may want to assign roles within groups–but once the planning stage is under way, you’ll only need to assist with language
  • Engages a variety of learning styles
  • All students are involved in the activity and have a stake in its success

Tips:

  • Ensure, at the very least, that students are aware of the basic structure of a presentation–but it would be good for them to know a few presentation skills and phrases as well. These may need to be pre-taught in an earlier lesson. (Alex Case has a treasure-trove of presentation teaching tips and resources.)
  • To ensure all groups are on track, the planning stage should be broken up into at least three sub-stages: (i) planning of content and role assignment, (ii) poster design and (iii) rehearsal. Be strict with the timing of these stages and remind students of how long they have left before the next stage.
  • Assist students with the pronunciation of key words during the planning stage. Mispronunciation of important terms usually obscures the message and the audience may drift off.
  • Avoid A3 paper for the posters (it’s too small), and encourage students to write/draw large enough for the audience to see the details of the poster at a distance.
  • Help ensure the audience is engaged during the presentations. Have them fill out a KWL sheet before each presentation, or give each student a pre-written question (if you fear they may be reticent to come up with their own).
  • After the presentations, get students to reflect on what they did well and what they could have done better. This could be done as a whole-class discussion or a writing extension, and is a really good opportunity for students to identify¬†for themselves some of the cardinal sins of presentations: reading from notes rather than speaking to the audience, failure to maintain eye contact, flat intonation, and so on.

A high-support, high-challenge activity that keeps students motivated and engaged: what more could you want on a Friday afternoon?