The return of the poster…

There is one thing that has remained constant over the last three years in my class….we have used less and less technology.  Or maybe a better way to say it is fewer technologies? And we have been bringing back some older “technologies.”

One product that was eliminated in my classroom about 8 years ago was “the poster.”  You know the poster project right?  The kid goes home and writes an essay, cuts out the paragraphs, places them under pictures printed from the computer, stands up in front of the class and reads the paragraphs while holding the poster up to the class that can’t see a single thing.  Then when the kid is done they get shared to a larger audience by hanging them on walls where they stay until the backpacks tear them down one staple at a time.  

I have started to slowly bring the poster back into my class.  Why?  Because no matter what I say the kids always ask to make them.  I don’t know why, but there has got to be something valuable about an assignment that nearly no kid complains about.  So I set out to figure out how to make them more meaningful, more thoughtful, and how to let the rest of the class actually see what is on the poster when it is being presented.  Here is one example from this year:

We were doing the philosophical foundations of the United States and discussing John Locke.  It’s just one of those things that I can explain, we can discuss, but I have always had trouble making it stick.  After reading about John Lock I gave the kids the following task:

After reading about John Locke’s philosophy, draw a picture of him as he would look today.  Include things like clothes, house, books, movies, music, profession, places he would shop, what would he eat, etc, etc, etc.  You should have between 10-15 things in your image that connect to John Locke’s philosophy.

Make a “Wanted Poster” with your information.

Explain your choices and connect them to his beliefs that were used to influence the the birth of the United States government.

When the kids came in to present the walked up to the front of the room and grabbed a web cam.  As they talked about the connections between John Locke and the objects on the poster they simply moved the web cam and focused in on what they were talking about.  What the web cam was seeing, was projected up on the screen large enough for everyone to follow along with what was being said.  The pictures don;t exactly show it, but as they talked about each detail they zoomed in so that the detail was large and clear on the screen.

John Locke Wanted PostersJohn Locke Wanted Posters

We were simultaneously recording so one student came up and held up a microphone..obviously not totally necessary but I never miss the opportunity to hook up more wires 🙂  

Here is the video and audio from a few of the presentations:



This is another one of those assignments that I will use for different units.  I can see the same thing being done for Harriet Tubman or Andrew Jackson.  When I first thought of it I thought I was totally unsure of how it would go, until I worked on mine.  As I have said many times on this blog, assignments that you give the kids that you have never done you must do with them.  I literally sat at a desk in the class and did it alongside them.  One thing that popped out immediately while doing this was that 15 items were simply not needed.  We shortened it to ten, and could have gone fewer.  The second thing was that we originally talked about writing the explanation right onto the poster, and that was deemed not necessary as long as they could explain it when they presented. They other thing I figured out when doing this was that probably for the first time I actually understood John Locke’s philosophy in a way that wasn’t just the “facts.” The poster was basically a big analogy, and analogies are powerful.  Here are a few more examples:

John Locke PostersJohn Locke PostersJohn Locke Posters
And before someone suggest Glogster.  Maybe I am just old school, but I am not hooked on Glogster as an online poster worth doing.  After having kids mess with it, I have messed with it, it just doesn’t offer the same learning experience as crafting something yourself from scratch. I am more than happy to see examples that will open my mind!


  1. I too find my self using less and less tech with final products. We still use it daily to organize class and research but really like hands on things for their final products. I just signed up to bring students to our state tech conference and had only one tech project that I could submit.

  2. I offer kids choices for final products and the poster is usually one of the choices. I still try to talk kids out of making a poster because of what you mention in your post, Paul, it’s hard to see. I also tell kids that they can include more pictures in slideshows and movies. The idea do using a webcam is brilliant though. I bet we could do that with my document camera of my flex cam. And I may not have any great Glog samples but I love Glogster. We dont use Glogster all that often but I still want kids to have the choice so I splurge for the $30/yr option.

  3. I wonder if one idea is to make forum posters. You have essential questions or learning goals posted around the room and throughout a unit students write their answers or thoughts on the posters. So it’s kind of a running conversation on the posters.

    I find it is based on grade level and students experiences. My 6th graders are more likely to make posters where my 7th graders want to do videos/prezi.

  4. I have a content question. I teach 7th grade Civics and my students also struggle with Locke. What materials do you use to introduce your students to Locke and his writings? Do you use primary source or summary text, or do you deliver the content yourself? I’ve experimented with summary text and lecture and not happy with either. I’m not sure my students can handle the language in the primary source. I look forward to hearing from you.

      1. This is exactly what I was thinking of. I’m going to give it a try. Have you seen the you tube video “what does John Locke say” (parody of what does the fox say?)

  5. Another thing I like about posters, and this is really simple, is that I can hang them in the hallway for other students to see, to comment on, and to learn from. Yes, online presentations can be published, but you have to go look for them. A wall of posters across the hall from the door to the computer lab gets looked at. Then when my students sees two others pointing as his poster and talking about it, the positive impact to his self-esteem is powerful.

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