Vivid display work is an area in which primary schools can and do excel. But with an overloaded curriculum, teachers could be forgiven for wanting some help with this time-consuming task. One way of alleviating the burden is to take advantage of the wealth of published materials available in poster form.
How many thousands of teachers have turned out home-made posters on such topics as the rain cycle when all they had to do was get in touch with the British Meteorological Office, which publishes an excellent range of posters in its Weather Phenomena series. They combine large photographs (always a success) with clear and colourful graphics. Bold, user-friendly diagrams present the information in an accessible way.
Posters are a valuable teaching aid for even small children. They impart knowledge, provide a stimulus for learning and promote a wider interest.
A good poster is one that demands attention and presents information without making the viewer search for it. The Pictorial Charts Educational Trust (PCET) Our World posters and Life Story friezes are excellent. The latter tell their stories with no need for words. Clear colour photographs introduce concepts of time and change.
For very young children a poster should be uncluttered and colourful. An effective poster should get its message over without resorting to too much print. If the poster conveys a great deal of information, the print should be bold and broken up by illustrations. Print should not run vertically for young or immature readers. There is a case for catching the eye with a variation in print direction, but this works only for an older audience of more able readers.
Flexibility is another attribute, particularly when the poster is removed from the wall for closer inspection. It is important for children to be able to take them down and examine them closely in a group exercise. This is an exercise in spontaneous reading as well as visual discrimination skills. Of course, posters that encourage such interaction and repeated use must be durable, preferably laminated.
Some posters promote an interest in books and are designed to stimulate reading. Those produced by Walker Books and Ladybird are especially suitable for the early years. Laminated and made to last, they are colourful with immediate child appeal. Artwork and texts are taken directly from the books, and not only encourage further reading but also act as useful learning tools.
Sometimes posters offer opportunities usually unavailable to pupils. The Royal Microscopical Society's highly magnified prints have been turned into poster form by British Nuclear Fuels and give children the chance to examine a bee's wing, sand, salt and a nettle in minute detail.
Posters can also bring an awareness that we live in a multi-cultural society. In areas where children may meet few people from different ethnic backgrounds to their own, it is especially important to create awareness of the traditions, values and cultures of others.
Colourful, positive images of children playing together, such as those produced by Hartwood Adventure Playground Association (HAPA) help promote an understanding of the many cultural strands that make up our society. Posters are also an ideal way for children to learn about disability or other minority groups.
Other posters can be used to develop language skills. Examples are the PCET series Words at Work, Animals in Poetry and The Jigsaw of Meaning. This latter is a gigantic chart that supports the national curriculum for English. Its sophisticated images and large amount of text make it suitable for older key stage 2 children and upwards.
Some innovative posters lend themselves to interactive activities Brighter Vision's All Year Weather Calendar includes stick-on weather symbols and calendar numbers so teachers and children can compose their own weather graphs, including daily temperature readings.
A poster that develops concentration, discussion skills and mathematical understanding, such as the Ladybird Colours and Shapes, is useful for group work and for developing visual acuity, while posters such as Ladybird's Nursery Rhymes and Walker's Lullabies promote shared class reading, with the added advantage that they can be seen better by a wider audience.
PCET, 27 Kitchen Road, London W13 0UD. Tel: 0181 567 9206; Walker Poster Publications, 87 Vauxhall Walk, London SE11 5HJ; Ladybird Posters, Ladybird Books Ltd, Loughborough, Leics; The Met Office, Education Services, Sutton House, London Road, Bracknell, Berks RG12 2SZ; OU Department of Plant Sciences, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3HB; The Royal Microscopical Society, CO BNF, PO Box 10, Wetherby, West Yorkshire LS23 7El. Tel: 01937 840209; HAPA, Pryors Bank, Bishop's Park, London SW6 3LA. Tel: 0171 731 1435; Brighter Vision Education, CO Folens, Boscombe Road, Dunstable, LU5 4R1. Tel: 01582 471166.