Designing Effective Poster Presentations

9 - 12
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
Seven 50-minute sessions
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Students design informational posters, focusing on a current research project. The unit includes an exploration of the genre, a review of informational writing components, and details on effective poster design. Students first analyze a variety of poster examples and list their characteristics, before reviewing the requirements for their own posters. Students then plan their poster design and, after rough drafts are completed, share them in groups and with the whole class for peer feedback. After revisions are made, students share their presentations with the class for additional feedback, and then make final revisions to their posters. Finally, students present their posters in class or at a school-wide research fair.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

Poster sessions are a great way to ask students to share their knowledge about a topic. Because of their focus on presentation materials that go beyond simple text on a page, poster sessions require sophisticated multimodal literacy skills. The NCTE Beliefs about the Teaching of Writing explain, "Writers need to be able to think about the physical design of text, about the appropriateness and thematic content of visual images, about the integration of sound with a reading experience, and about the medium that is most appropriate for a particular message, purpose, and audience." Poster sessions focus on all of these multimodal skills, as they ask students to design presentation materials and accompanying presentations that blend text, images, sound, and space.

Further, because of the close and obvious relationship between presenter and audience, poster sessions foreground the importance of audience, purpose, and voice for students. As a result, poster sessions encourage students to synthesize their research and then adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language to fit the needs of a particular audience.

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).




  • This lesson is designed to explore poster design, following a class research project. For additional resources on teaching research and inquiry, see the Websites listed in the Resources section.

  • Arrange for a place and adequate time for your final poster presentation:

    • This project works especially well for collaborative projects, where classes view each other’s work over the course of two class sessions.

    • Choose a location for your poster session with plenty of open space to allow viewers to flow through the presentations. If the classroom is not large enough, the cafeteria or school library are good choices. Depending upon your school, you may also be able to use space in the hallway outside the classroom.

    • Arrange for tables and any additional materials that are available at your school. For example, you may have easels that can be borrowed from the art classroom.

    • If bulletin boards or wall space is possible for displaying posters, arrange for thumb tacks, staplers, and tape.

  • Print copies of the 60-Second Poster Evaluation, 60-Second Poster Evaluation Chart, 60-Second Poster Evaluation Notes (optional), and Poster Session Rubric.

  • As relevant for the different projects that students will complete, make copies of the Persuasion Map Planning Sheet and Compare and Contrast Chart Graphic Organizer.

  • If computers are not available in the classroom, make copies of sample posters from one or more of the following sites: ALA Poster Sessions, Images of Physical Posters, and NCSU Example Posters. Students will analyze the posters in small groups. Allow at least three posters per group.

  • Review the Poster Presentations Websites listed in the Resources section, and determine which are appropriate for your class. These guidelines can be used as additional resources or read and reviewed in the class, depending upon the level of support students need.

  • Test the Persuasion Map, Compare & Contrast Map, and ReadWriteThink Notetaker on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tools and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • review informational writing components.

  • determine the criteria for effective poster presentations.

  • explore the ways that purpose and audience influence a message.

  • design posters that share their ideas and research.

Session One

  1. Explain that the class will be completing a unit on designing posters that present their findings from a recent inquiry/research project.

  2. Ask students to share any experiences that they have with poster presentations (e.g., science fairs, job fairs).

  3. Share the definition of a poster session from the Colorado State University Writing Guide, and invite students to compare their experiences with the information in the definition.

  4. Display and discuss the information on the purposes for poster presentations and the possible audiences for these presentations.

  5. Arrange students in small groups, and assign each group three or more posters to analyze, using resources at one or more of the following sites:

  6. Ask students to jot down general characteristics that they see in the posters. Allow approximately 20 minutes for groups to explore the examples and list their observations.

  7. If students need more structure or guidance as they explore the posters, you can pass out the 60-Second Poster Evaluation and have them use the questions to shape their observations.

  8. Gather the class and ask them to share the characteristics that they have noted. Record their observations on the board or on chart paper.

  9. Be sure that students include observations on both text and graphic design elements in their comments. If necessary, ask questions to encourage wider analysis of both text and graphics.

  10. After students have had sufficient time to review the posters and list the characteristics, gather the class and ask each group to share the poster they analyzed and point out the characteristics that they noticed.

  11. Working with the information students have shared, group like observations to create a class list of characteristics of effective posters.

  12. Compare the characteristics to the requirements on the Poster Session Rubric, asking students to indicate how the posters they examined would be graded with the rubrics.

  13. Explain the poster session that is planned for the class, covering the following key points:

    • Identify the purpose of the posters, connecting to a recent research project that students have already completed.

    • Provide details on the event (e.g., a class session, a school-wide history fair).

    • Explain who the audiences for the posters will be.

    • Describe the physical space and the resources that will be available during the poster session.

    • Discuss how the Poster Session Rubric will be used to assess the session.
  14. Based on this information, ask students to talk about the specific audience and purpose for their posters, reinforcing the information on the purposes for poster presentations and the possible audiences for these presentations, shared earlier in the session.

  15. Encourage students to think about the specific purpose for their posters and what the audiences will look for on their posters. For homework, ask students to freewrite on their plans for the posters by thinking about who will look at the posters, what they will be looking for, what information is most important to include, and so forth.

Session Two

  1. Arrange students in groups, and ask them to share information from their homework with one another.

  2. Ask group members to provide supportive feedback, pointing to pertinent information from the previous session’s discussion of the characteristics of effective presentations and the two rubrics.

  3. After students have had time to share their ideas (about 10 to 15 minutes), gather the class, and answer any questions that have come up at this point.

  4. Share the Writing Strategies for Poster Sessions from the Colorado State University Writing Guide. Be sure to drill down and discuss the information for each of the four bullet points in the Guide. If students have already written a paper on their inquiry, be sure to emphasize the ideas in the "Working From a Drafted Paper" section.

  5. Connect the Writing Strategies information to the Poster Session Rubric.

  6. Cover the details in the What to Include section of from the Colorado State University Writing Guide as well. Stress the importance of choosing content that communicates the important information without providing more text than the audience will be able to read during the poster session. Save the details on Graphics for the next session.

  7. Briefly overview the three graphic organizers that students can use to begin structuring the information for their poster session: Persuasion Map, Compare & Contrast Map, and ReadWriteThink Notetaker. Explain what the organizer is used for and which topics it will best fit. For instance, the Persuasion Map can be used if the presenter is trying to argue a specific point about a topic. Use example topics from the class to make the overview more concrete.

  8. If desired, share the Notetaker Example, based on the Award-winning Southern Flounder Exhibit Temperature-Dependent Sex Determination from the NCSU Example Posters site, to discuss how to use outlining as an organization tool for poster design.

  9. During the remainder of the class, students can begin work structuring their ideas and planning their posters, according to the information covered in the Writing Strategies for Poster Sessions Web pages.

  10. In mini-lesson fashion, demonstrate each of the three online graphic organizers, gathering only the students who are most likely to use each online interactive for each presentation.

  11. For homework, ask students to have completed a graphic organizer for their topics and to sketch a rough outline or design of the information they will include in their poster presentation.

Session Three

  1. Arrange students in small groups, and ask them to share their graphic organizers and plans with one another. Have students use the Poster Session Rubric to guide their responses.

  2. Gather the class and answer any questions that students have about the project.

  3. Review the details on the Poster Session Rubric that apply specifically to the design and graphics used on the posters.

  4. Share the Graphics section and the Layout section from the Colorado State University Writing Guide. Be sure to drill down and discuss the information for each of the bullet points.

  5. Return to the Poster Session Rubric and characteristics of effective posters from the first session, and ask students to discuss how the information about the Colorado State University Writing Guide aligns with the information.

  6. Allow any time remaining in the session for students to work on their presentations.

  7. Use The Transport Problem from the Colorado State University Writing Guide to review the resources that will be available during the poster session and to discuss how to carry drafts to school.

  8. For homework, ask students to complete a rough version of their poster presentation to share for feedback during the next session. Allow several days for students to work at home. Add in-class work sessions as desired.

Session Four

  1. Arrange the class into 4 or 5 small groups. Ask students to set up their drafts for the class to view, keeping each group together in a specified section of the room.

  2. Give students 5 to 10 minutes to set up their drafts and make any changes.

  3. Pass out copies of the 60-Second Poster Evaluation Chart and ask students to write their name and the name of their presentation on the sheet. Have them place the chart face down on a table or desk near their drafts.

  4. Explain how groups will rotate through the room, commenting on the posters:

    • Each group will move to the first poster in the next group’s collection, moving clockwise around the room. Students will skip their own collection of posters.

    • The group will review the poster, using the 60-Second Poster Evaluation printout to guide their discussions.

    • If desired, students can use the 60-Second Poster Evaluation Notes to take notes as they examine the posters.

    • After groups have spent 60 seconds evaluating the poster, ask them to turn over the 60-Second Poster Evaluation Chart and add their comments.

    • After adding details to the Chart, groups should turn the sheet face down, so that their comments do not influence the next group that reviews the poster.

    • All members are to contribute to this process. Comments should be original, not copies of the comments of other groups nor “ditto” marks.

    • After each poster is finished, students move to the next poster, rotating through the classroom until every poster has been evaluated by 3 or 4 of the groups.

    • At the end of this process, students should arrive back at their own group of posters.
  5. When the 60-second review is complete, have students return to their posters and read the comments the groups have left them.

  6. Ask students to take a few minutes to look for similar comments and think about changes that they can make to improve their posters.

  7. After students have had time to read the feedback and gather their thoughts, ask groups to reassemble. Have group members share the feedback and their plans for revision with one another. Encourage students to make supportive comments and concrete feedback.

  8. Have group members use the Poster Session Rubric to guide suggestions that they make to others in the group.

  9. For homework, ask students to create polished versions of their posters to share during the practice presentations.

  10. If students will complete supplemental handouts (the ideal situation), complete Session Five and ask students to bring a draft of their handout to the session. Otherwise, move on to Session Six.

Session Five (Optional)

If students should include a presentation handout with their poster presentation, review the information from the Prepare Supplemental Handouts from the Colorado State University Writing Guide. Allow time for students to share their handouts in small groups and provide peer feedback. Because handouts should be only one page and easily read, students should have time to review their work and begin revisions during the session. Provide mini-lessons as necessary on any writing techniques that students need help with.

Session Six

  1. Again, arrange the class into 4 or 5 small groups. Ask students to set up their posters for the class to view, keeping each group together in a specified section of the room.

  2. Give students 5 to 10 minutes to set up their drafts and make any changes.

  3. Working within their small groups, have students each give a practice presentation for other group members.

  4. Ask students observing the presentations to keep notes on notebook paper, using the Poster Session Rubric and 60-Second Poster Evaluation to guide their comments.

  5. To ensure that everyone has a chance to practice, you can set a time or announce when students need to switch to another presentation. If a student has not finished a presentation when time is called, indicate that the student needs to shorten the presentation.

  6. Once everyone has presented, ask groups share feedback with one another. Emphasize the importance of providing supportive comments and concrete suggestions.

  7. With 5 to 10 minutes left in the session, gather the class and answer any questions students have.

  8. For homework, ask students to make any final changes to their poster presentations.

  9. Remind them of the resources that will be available for the official poster presentations that will take place during the next session.

  10. Review information from The Transport Problem from the Colorado State University Writing Guide if students need additional tips.

Session Seven

  1. Before students arrive, make any changes necessary to set up the space for the poster presentations.

  2. Give students several minutes at the beginning of the session to set up their displays and complete finishing touches.

  3. Explain the procedure for visiting the displays: students move from area to area in groups of two or three so no display is ever overcrowded.

  4. During the fair sessions, circulate through the presentations yourself, using the Poster Session Rubric to assess student work.

  5. After students have had a chance to visit all of the presentations, gather the class together and invite students to share their reactions to the presentations.

  6. For homework, ask students to choose some superlatives. Shape a list appropriate for your class. Options include the following:

    • Three poster presentation topics I want to know more about

    • The most surprising presentation

    • The presentation that had the biggest impact on you
  7. In their homework responses, ask students not only to share the titles of the poster presentations that match the superlatives but also to explain why they chose the presentations that they did.

  8. At the beginning of the next class session, collect the homework responses.


Student Assessment / Reflections

Check graphic organizers, outlines, drawings, and designs as students work for completion and effort. Assess students’ final drafts using the Poster Session Rubric and the criteria for effective effective posters that students created during the first session of the lesson. Keep anecdotal notes on students’ participation during the final poster session, and provide any feedback as you respond to the superlatives that students submit after the project.

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