How to easily and effectively use posters to teach new vocabulary

  • Post last modified:18 November 2021
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You see them on the walls of every classroom you have ever walked into. Walls and walls filled with wondrous displays of current learning themes, key words, children’s best work etc. When I worked in schools, we had monthly thematic posters. It was beautiful, bright and dazzling, and works to catch the student’s eye even when they did not intend to. (Sort of like those pesky advertising posters you find on the back of the bathroom doors in restaurants/bars.)

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What does research say about posters as a teaching tool?

Researchers have found posters to be a particularly effective teaching tool, especially for visual learners. To quote from the research paper “visual sense is responsible for 90% of brain stimulation and that vision and visual memory take up to two-thirds of the brain.”  It’s astounding why posters are not used more frequently in teaching!!

Pictures, used in conjunction with text have a dual learning effect, as it creates deeper learning connections between images and vocabulary words. Furthermore, the use of pictures in teaching has been found to aid in the retrieval of information as well. 

Why use posters to teach new vocabulary?

For young children, concrete representations are more easily understood. So for example, to teach a child “tiger 老虎”, you show him/her a tiger in real life! Failing that, a photograph of it, or a video of it. To see is to believe, and to see is to connect and learn. 

Which is why posters, flashcards, books and videos are all very effective visual teaching tools for young children. Such medium of teaching are also especially effective for visual learners.


🧐 So you must be thinking now, how can you utilise this minimal prep and optimal learning teaching tool??

teach poster
Happy Little Learner!

How we use posters to teach at Mandarin Homeschool

At Mandarin Homeschool, my teaching is organised by theme. Every month, I concentrate on one topic to teach my children. 

Using posters at home is one of the easiest ways to increase their Chinese language at home effortlessly. I basically place the poster at their eye level, stuck on an accessible spot, and refer to it while teaching. I can also move it around to work on their matching skills, play games, or even use it as a placemat!

You can basically use the entire poster as a labelling activity which is the quickest, easiest and most direct way to teach. See the video below of Xiao Bao (3.5YO) learning with the poster. 

We always start off with 

  1. labelling the pictures
  2. reading the Chinese words 
  3. and finally, reading the English words

*Top tip: See how I point to the pictures or the Chinese words in the video?Depending on what I am teaching, I direct her attention to the said element in the poster. 

These beautiful and stylish bilingual educational posters are available to download instantly to print off at home so you can start your teaching right away! 

I created these posters with real pictures whenever possible.  As mentioned earlier, the use of images can create deeper learning connections between the images and learning vocabulary words. It makes sense to start off with photographs and then generalise to other digital images. 

There are 24 images in each poster. Each image is labelled with the Chinese character, pin yin/Zhu yin and English word. They are conveniently available in Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese. There are two Traditional Chinese version: with pinyin or with zhuyin.

All posters are optimised for economical ink-saving home printing on A3 cardstock paper, or you can print it out at your local printing service (e.g. Office Depot, Staples, Cosco).

Currently, I have created 15 different themed bilingual posters, all for sale on the Teacherspayteachers website. Scroll down to the end of this post to see what these themes are!

What you need

First off, we need to talk about equipment. A good home printer. One of the things in a homeschool that you really cannot scrimp on is a solid, quality printer. Personally I have an A3 Canon PIXMA TS9565 Printer (APAC version)/Canon PIXMA TS9520(US version) and it is the best investment I have made for my homeschool. Not only is it good for printing out posters, I can also print out board games at a decent size! 

teach poster

Secondly, get A3 size cardstock paper.  

Third, you will need an A3 laminator if you intend to use these printouts again. Laminators are so affordable these days. I got mine at K-Mart Australia for AUD$30. That’s about the price of a Chinese picture book here! 

Finally, you are ready to download, print and display these awesome learning posters!

Fun teaching activities using posters

“I spy” game

Just like the classic game of “I spy…” “我看到了。。。”, one player will describe an item, without naming it, and the others try to guess what they “spy”. Whoever got the correct item gets to say “I spy” next.

For example,

  • “我看到了红色的水果。(苹果/西瓜/草莓)” give more information to help your child narrow down their choices “它戴着一个小草帽。(草莓)”
  • “我看到了一条很凶猛的动物 。(狮子)”

Search and Slap! Game

Each player gets a stack of different coloured blank cards/post it notes (something you can put on top of the pictures). Teacher will call out the word, and each player has to try and be first to find the picture.

Individual activity modification. Using the corresponding themed flashcards, students have to find the picture on the poster according to the flashcards. Put some flashcards of other themes in to trick them and at the same time, teach them about categorisation!

Match it!

You will need to get the themed flashcards for this game.

Speed match – each player gets the same number of flashcards. Be the first to match all your flashcards correctly! Depending on your child, you can use either the pictures, Chinese words, or English words as the matching cards. 

You can also use plastic toys for matching as you can see from the picture below.

teach poster
Matching toy insects to the poster


Find the Chinese character/Chinese radical game

Looking at the Chinese words on the poster together, see if you can find 

  1. Same Chinese words 
  2. Same Chinese radicals 

If you laminate the posters (which is what I do), you can also use whiteboard markers to circle the radicals and practise the strokes on the poster itself.

Find the pinyin tones game

Looking at the Chinese pinyin on the poster together, see if you can find pinyin of the first tone, then the second tone and so on. Practise making all four tones to one pinyin sound correctly.

What is it? Labelling game

Use post it pads (or reuse your bottle caps which is what we did) and cover up all the words on the poster. Can you accurately say what the picture is? In Chinese? And English??

With 2+ players, you can keep score and give one post it pad/bottle cap for each correct answer. Tally up and see who got the most number of correct answers!

teach poster
Cover up the words and be the first to label them correctly!
teach poster

Make the same shape game

With the shape poster, we used lego to try and make the same shapes.

Counting Activity

With the number poster (FREE to download! Scroll down 👇 for link), we used little plastic figurines to match the correct number of items to the poster. 

teach poster


While you’re here, don’t forget to get this FREE number poster on the Mandarin Homeschool Teacherspayteachers Store, and don’t forget to follow me on TpT for updates on any new updates, fantastic and easy Chinese teaching ideas.

And of course, sign up to the Mandarin Homeschool mailing list for our latest posts, updates and member freebies!

Choose from 3 bilingual Chinese/English versions:

numbers poster

Have fun learning and teaching effortlessly!

Further Reading

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