The Poster Preview Task

Keith Ford, Waseda University


  • Key Words: Communication, Learner-Learner Interaction
  • Learner English Level: Low Intermediate and above
  • Learner Maturity Level: All
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes of student time (as part of process of preparing presentation)
  • Activity Time: 90-minute class

This paper describes an interactive poster session which was introduced into the process of preparing whole-class presentations. It generated dynamic learner interaction at a time when learners had previously been preoccupied with individual memorization of speeches. It also provided learners with valuable peer feedback. The poster became the focal point of a presentation preview activity in which participants engaged in a lively and informal exchange of ideas about their chosen topic.


The learners involved in the Poster Preview task were mixed ability Freshman English majors who meet four times a week (90-minute classes) at Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba, Japan. These learners work in a project-oriented classroom, with an emphasis on learners developing their communicative proficiency and ability for self-direction. The syllabus, guided by the principles of high levels of interaction and interdependence, consists of thematic cycles of input, project (preparation and performance of presentations), and evaluation/assessment (Ford and Torpey, 1998). Therefore, learners are regularly engaged in the task of researching a chosen topic within the parameters of a particular theme: In the Travel unit they may be preparing to present a simulated guided tour of a country; in Advertising, they may be creating and promoting their own product. This preparation involves four to five 90-minute classes.

The Rationale for the Task

Prior to the introduction of the Poster Preview task, it was noted that on their final preparation day learners tended to become unduly preoccupied with trying to memorize their individual speeches. This resulted in very little interaction or communication between presentation group members.

This raised the question as to how this period could be made more dynamic and interactive so that learners were using the target language naturally and spontaneously, while at the same time getting some of the practice they needed for giving their presentations. Furthermore, after working in small groups for an extended period of time, could a sense of classroom community and shared experience be reintroduced?

The solution was the introduction of an interactive Poster Preview task where learners gave some of their peers a preview of their presentation content. Done prior to the final day's preparation, it can provide valuable peer feedback, assisting in further refinement of presentation content and style. As such, it promotes learners' awareness of the value of reviewing, recycling and reformulating both content and language in preparing their final product.

The Poster Preview

As part of the project assignment, related to the theme of Travel, learners were given the outline of the Poster Preview task shown in Figure 1.

At the beginning of the penultimate day of preparation for the presentations, half the class displayed their posters around the classroom. The class of thirty learners were working in ten presentation groups of three. Five groups presented their posters for the first half of the ninety-minute class while the others rotated every fifteen minutes in their groups to view them. In the second half of the class, roles were reversed and the process repeated. In a forty-five minute period groups presented their poster three times.

In order to encourage contingent interaction learners were not permitted to hold notes or scripts. All presenters and viewers were required to contribute, standing closely together around the poster in order to ease interaction and conversation.

Learners' Comments

Learners' reactions to the Poster Preview activity were positive both from the perspective of presenting and viewing the posters. Primarily, they considered it useful for further refining their presentations, perhaps as a result of viewing a particularly well-informed and well-prepared group, or by recognizing the need to do further research after having been asked an appropriate question about their topic that they could not answer. As such, it had a positive affective value in that it acted as a confidence-building mechanism for the subsequent whole-class presentation.

The poster itself became a greater focus of attention than in a formal presentation, giving learners the opportunity to express, and receive praise for, their creativity and artwork. The informal atmosphere of the Poster Preview task results in the kind of exchange of information, experiences and views which the formality of the whole-class presentation does not allow for. As one learner described it, "It was kind of like visiting a lot of stores."



Ford, K., and Torpey, M. (1998). Principles and Practice of Materials Design for Promoting Interaction and Interdependence in the EFL Classroom. The Journal of Kanda University of International Studies 10, 397-436.


Figure 1: Poster Preview instructions to students



The Poster Preview



You should spend about 30 minutes out of class preparing your poster:

  • include an outline of a map of the country
  • do NOT write the name of the country on the poster
  • in one corner of the poster you should draw the flag of the country
  • also include at least three cultural symbols of the country - they might be food, sport, dance, traditional greetings, festivals, types of traditional transport, historical figures (people), famous buildings, or words from another language, etc.

Groups will take it in turn to view and present their posters.

Groups presenting posters should:

  • explain their symbols
  • describe the content of their presentations
  • answer any questions

Groups viewing posters should:

  • find a group who is standing by their poster
  • guess what country is on the poster and discuss the cultural symbols