The Internet TESL Journal

Teaching Graded Reader Poster Presentations to ESL/EFL Students

Andy Maggs
andy5maggs }at{
Chuo University (Tokyo, Japan)

Why Use Graded Readers on ESL/EFL Courses?

It is widely accepted among leading linguists that extensive reading can be very useful in improving ESL/EFL students’ general English level. Graded Readers are one way of introducing reading to students at a level appropriate to their stage of development in English.

Why Use Poster Presentations for Graded Readers?

This is a fun and enjoyable way for students to practise presentations in small groups on interesting stories. With drawings, maps and photographs, the visual appeal of posters make presentations more interactive. In fact, teachers may be amazed at how much effort some students put into the design of their posters.

The Week Before: Setting Up the Poster Presentations 

Step 1 : Give an Overview of the Tasks

In class, explain briefly the tasks to students: to select a Graded Reader; to read it at home; to design a poster on the book; and to make a short presentation for about 3 minutes on the book in class to a small group of classmates.

Have the students select a Graded Reader and give them one week to read it. (This might seem too short. However, if you give them 2 weeks or more, many students think they have a lot of time and often won’t start reading the book until a few days before the presentation).

As a general guide, beginner and low intermediate students should select from  level 2 or 3 Graded Readers; intermediate and high intermediate students  from level 4 or 5; advanced students from level 6.

Step 2 : Write Up the Poster Headings

On the blackboard, write up the headings below and have students copy them into their notebook:

Book Title

Author & Nationality

Genre (comedy, horror, adventure etc.)

Main characters (name, job, basic personality)
    Example: Joe / doctor / intelligent & funny

Story: __________________________________





Star Rating (1 star = bad ~  5 stars = fantastic)

Conclusion: 1.   Why I selected this book

2.    Do I recommend this book? Yes or No. Why?

Why are there 5 lines for the story section?

The reason for this is to encourage students to make a minimum volume of notes from which to retell the story. This is to avoid the pitfall of students just writing one sentence for the story, and in the following week finishing their presentation prematurely. Since the plot is the most important and most challenging part of the presentation, the 5 line technique is essential to ensure the story is summarized to an acceptable level. It will also ensure that the students' English ability is "pushed".

Step 3 : Model How to Complete the Headings Using Note Style

While students are copying this information down, it's best that next to this on the blackboard, the teacher completes the headings in note style for an imaginary book. This modeling stage is very important for the story section in particular. Teachers can encourage students to abbreviate the main characters' names to just one letter per character, and to circle it. This will encourage note making, and allow the students to make the poster a little more quickly.

Step 4 :  Give Students Final Instructions on Poster Making

These instructions are:

  1. One week to read the book and make a poster
  2. For the poster, use 2 pages of A3 paper (the teacher should provide this, ideally)
  3. Only English can be used on the poster
  4. Use all the headings for the poster; do not skip any information
  5. All information on the poster should be in note form (key words, signs, abbreviations only ). Make it very clear that no sentences are allowed on the poster.
  6. Students should write their names on the back of the poster only ( so the all-class poster viewing activity -explained later- focuses on the poster, not the student).

Step 5 : Set Up a Student Discussion on 'What Makes a Good Poster?'

If this is the first time for students to design posters, put students into groups of three. Bring in different quality posters from another class and spread them out on some empty desks (the students’ names will be hidden since they are written on the back of the poster). Have students walk around, discussing which ones they like best and why.

If students have done poster presentations before, for a few minutes have them discuss what makes a good poster. Then have them sit with new partners, still in groups of three, and exchange their ideas. Finally, the teacher can elicit ideas from the groups and write them on the blackboard.

These are some ideas on good posters: big size, coloured pens and pencils, drawings, pictures, maps (to show the author’s country and hometown perhaps or a journey from an adventure story), clear handwriting, key words under headings.

On Presentation Day: Managing the Poster Presentation Activities

Step 1:  Warm Up Discussion

Put students in groups of three but not with their usual class friends and not with their posters  
(If they have the posters ready, they will want to show them, and inevitably get distracted from the discussion). Write these questions on the blackboard and have the groups discuss them:
  1. What book did you select and why?
  2. What level Graded Reader was it? Was it easy or difficult to read? Why?
  3. How long did your book take to read ?
  4. When did you read it?
  5. How long did your poster take to make?
  6. When did you make it (honestly!)?
  7. Did you enjoy making the poster? Why or why not?

Step 2: All Class Poster Viewing Activity

Have students sit back in their original seats. Next, have them take out their posters and space them out on empty desks around the room. Tell students to stand, and have a relaxing walk around the room, looking at all the posters. They can discuss the posters they like with friends if they keep everything in English.

Another variation of this is for the teacher to put small numbered slips of paper on the desks. Students place their poster on any available number. They then walk around for a while, checking the posters. As they are doing this, the teacher writes the numbers (spaced out) on the blackboard. Finally, when the students have finished walking round, they select the top three posters by putting a mark under the appropriate numbers on the blackboard. 

Step 3: The Teacher Models the Start to a Presentation (optional)

Note: If the class is beginner or lower intermediate level, this modeling stage is recommended. If the class is any higher, this stage is probably unnecessary.

Before the presentations start, the teacher should model briefly what he/she is expecting. One idea is for the teacher to model a bad start to a presentation, then a good way using one student poster from a different class. If this is not possible, a student’s poster from the current class may have to be used. The teacher might hold up the poster and say something like:

'Book Title, Treasure Island. Author’s name, Robert Louis Stevenson. Nationality Scottish'.   This is a bad style of presenting. (Pause…..) This is a good style of presenting: 'My book presentation is on Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. He was from Scotland. The book's genre is….'

This short model should be enough for students to understand that sentences are obviously required. The students should now be ready to make their presentations.

Step 4 : Setting Up the Presentations

Follow these guidelines so that students know what’s expected of them:
  1. Set a time limit of about three minutes per speaker, but tell students they can speak longer if they like.
  2. To focus the group’s attention throughout, have the first speaker open up the poster, and have the other two students close up theirs.
  3. The first speaker begins, and talks through the headings until he/she is finished.
  4. When finished, the speaker should ask his/her partners these two reaction questions:
  5. Are you interested in reading this book? Why or why not?
  6. (If applicable) Have you seen the movie of this book?
When these questions have been answered, the next speaker can begin.

Step 5 : Making the Presentations in Small Groups of Three

Place students in new groups of three but away from their usual friends (they are more likely to stay on task this way). This time, they should bring the poster and the book with them.

Give them two minutes to silently look over their poster notes. This is to refresh their memory of the story, and to make sure they can understand their own notes (remember – these notes may have been done up to a week before this class).

Next, have students do 'scissors, paper, stone' to decide the presentation speaking order.
For example, the loser goes first etc.

Step 6: Repeating the Presentations in New Groups of Three

When all the groups have finished, re-arrange the students into new groups of three, with books they have not heard. Repeat the presentation process once again. When the presentations have been completed twice, have students sit back in their original seats.  

Doing the presentation twice is always a good idea. First, students usually put a lot of time and effort into their posters. As a result, it is fair that a lot of class time is devoted to it. In addition, students don’t mind presenting it twice: they gain more confidence with the material and they can improve their fluency. This is particularly important for beginner and intermediate level students.

Step 7: Giving Positive Feedback

Since making posters and presenting books is a challenging and time-consuming set of activities for students, it is very important that the teacher now gives a lot of very positive feedback to the class. Comments on the following areas are recommended: their hard work, the cool designs, the good note style (hold up a few poster examples perhaps), their good explanations of the story etc. This last point is particularly important to boost confidence and encourage motivation for any future poster presentations.

Step 8: Wrap Up Discussion

As a closing activity, have students discuss these questions in pairs (it's best that students discuss these with their class friends) :
  1. From all the book presentations you heard today, which book are you most interested in reading next? Why?
  2. Did any poster designs today give you any good ideas for your next poster?  
  3. Do you think you can read a higher level Graded Reader next time?
Finally, ask students to write their name on the back of the poster if they have not done so already, and collect them in. Teachers may use them as a form of assessment or to use the better ones for future classes as examples of how to make good posters.

The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. XIII, No. 11, November 2007