Group Poster Projects for the Secondary ELA Classroom

One of my favorite ways to actively engage my students and encourage student collaboration is by incorporating collaborative poster projects in my classroom. These projects are great for analysis and critical thinking, and they are relatively simple to facilitate and assign because they are low-prep, student-centered activities.

Essentially, for a collaborative poster project, I instruct my students to work together in small groups to discover or analyze and present a specific topic.

To make sure that I am prepared to throw together a collaborative poster project at the drop of a hat, there are several supplies that I always keep stocked in my room: a roll of white butcher paper, ledger-sized (11x17) copy paper, and plenty of markers. You can use either type of paper. I usually prefer butcher paper because it is much larger, and so it is easier for multiple students to work on the poster simultaneously.

There are a few reasons why I love assigning these types of activities in my classroom, and since I've had so much success with them, I am always trying to think up new ways to incorporate the collaborative poster project into my curriculum. I love how these projects foster critical thinking and collaboration. I also love that these are student-centered projects. Additionally, I love using collaborative poster projects as a formative assessment tool. As my students are working on the assignment in groups, I can walk around the classroom and not only monitor student progress, but I can also assess my students' understanding of the content we are studying based on their group conversations and analysis. One of the best things about these projects is that I can use them at various points throughout my unit.

Assigning a group poster project to introduce a new unit or concept is a great way to have students work together and discover important information about a particular subject or concept. When I do this to introduce a new novel unit, I first think about various big ideas or thematic ideas relating to the novel. I assign each group a different concept and give them almost the entire class period to find out information about that particular concept. Usually, students briefly present the information the next day.

When assigning an introductory collaborative poster project, here is a list of items I typically have my students include on their posters:

  • A dictionary definition of the word
  • The word defined in their own words
  • Synonyms of the word
  • Antonyms of the word
  • A quote about the concept from a philosopher, historian, author, or politician
  • An illustration of the concept

After this initial assignment (which usually takes about one and a half 55-minute long class periods), I display the posters around the classroom, and my students refer to them throughout the novel study as we discuss and analyze essential passages. I like to have my students complete an activity like this for their dialectical journal entries they complete as we read a novel.

Another great use of collaborative poster projects is as a formative assessment for analysis. As I mentioned earlier, these projects are perfect for monitoring your students' progress in learning and mastering a specific skill. Plus, you can include these posters in any fiction, nonfiction, or poetry unit.

The Rhetorical Analysis Collaborative Poster Project

The very first group poster project I assigned my students was a rhetorical analysis poster. I did this during our rhetorical analysis unit because I needed to get through quite a few speeches, but I still wanted a jig-saw-like activity to be meaningful.

For this project, every group had a different speech to read and analyze. After the initial analysis, students compiled their information, including their annotated speech, onto the poster.

After my students completed their posters, we used the next day to listen to each of the speeches aloud. Then, students completed a gallery walk activity where they looked at each poster and made a note of which rhetorical devices were used and why.

The Short Story Collaborative Review Poster Project

After such a successful rhetorical analysis poster project, I took the idea and used it as a short story review activity. I assigned each group a different short story that we read together in class. After spending just one class period working together on their poster, students needed to have the posters complete and ready to present the next class period. This was the perfect complement to my literary analysis unit.

Each group had to include each of these elements on their posters: title, author, summary, definitions of literary elements, examples of literary elements within the story, and quotes. For the literary elements, students included theme, motif, conflict, character type, tone, mood, symbol, and point-of-view.

Poetry Analysis Collaborative Poster Project

In addition to rhetorical analysis and literary analysis, the collaborative poster project concept also works well as a poetry analysis poster project. When I teach poetry analysis and have my students analyze poems, I have them use the SWIFT acronym: structure (or symbolism), word choice, imagery, figurative language, and theme and tone.

For the poster, each group has a different poem. They analyze the poem using the SWIFT acronym and include each element on the poster. Additionally, I like to have them illustrate some of the imagery on the poster and also include a copy of the annotated poem on the poster as well.

When I assign credit to these projects to assess student learning, I mostly grade these assignments holistically as a learning process. Read: as long as my students put forth the effort, I usually give full credit. However, I’ve created these three rubrics especially for you to use in your classroom.

Whether you utilize group poster projects to introduce a new concept or novel or as a formative assessment tool, your students will use their collaboration skills to work together to complete the final project. And what's even better is that this method naturally lends itself to quick and informal student presentations where the students present their information and ideas to their peers.


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