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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Picture Perfect: Make Your Own Motivational Posters

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant

OK, I admit it. I have been known to leaf through the catalogs that live in the seat pockets on airplanes. I never find anything I have to have, but I always look at the motivational posters -- in part because I see a lot of these in the schools I visit.

You know the ones I mean: These posters have an image of an eagle soaring, a team of climbers reaching a snowy mountaintop, or rowers carving through the still waters of a river at dawn. The images are above some simple text that states an eternal truth. For instance, one poster shows a tousle-headed young boy looking out at a lake as the title below reminds us all to "Do It Now." The text beneath the title states, "When you are done living, you'll be remembered for the lives you touch and not for the meetings you attend."

Click to enlarge picture

Credit: Courtesy of Jim Moulton

What I have also noticed is that these posters are not cheap. In fact, though I may be a tad on the frugal side, I have to say they are pretty costly. And one more thing -- the images may be romantic, but they are always of places I have never been, and they feature people I will never meet.

All of which is why I love BigHugeLabs.com. Imagine being able to make your own motivational posters using your own images and your own words. What if the poster intended to encourage extraordinary effort on the part of your third graders featured, rather than some anonymous mountain climber or unnamed racehorse, a candid image of your very own student Hector -- tongue stuck out, pencil gripped, brow furrowed, intensely focused on the job at hand -- with the title "Effort Makes the Difference" and the text "Come on! Try as hard as Hector!" Your student. Your words. Your motivator. Now, that is a poster.

But imagine that Hector is not a student who traditionally puts out this kind of effort. I have to believe he will be motivated if you capture an image of him working hard, put him on a poster, and use that image to inspire others. It's a reversal of the old self-fulfilling prophecy: Tell a person he's lazy and never works hard, and that's what you'll get.

Once you have created the poster, you can easily save it. If you want it made into a real poster -- big, laminated, and so on -- BigHugeLabs.com would be glad to sell that to you. But for the classroom, you can simply download your handiwork as a JPEG file and print it locally.

Plus, it is not just for motivation. What about using the site to make safety posters for the chemistry lab or advertisements for the spring play? What about sports posters or funny posters? And what about, on the personal side, using it to make a poster for someone you care about who is celebrating a significant event?

I will always remember the time -- it was in Alabama, I believe -- I showed this Web site to a group of educators. Within twenty-eight minutes, one of the teachers had gone to her room, taken a picture of her reading chair, uploaded the image to her laptop, made the poster at BigHugeLabs.com (with the title "Welcome to Mrs. Hughes's Grade Four!" and the words "We're going to have a great year!"), saved the finished poster to her laptop, uploaded the poster to her Wal-Mart account, and ordered enough 4 x 6 prints (at twelve cents apiece) to be able to mail them to her students as postcards with a personal note on the back. And, yes, she picked them up at the store on her way home that night!

This tool is only one of about thirty you will find on the site, all of them free and all highly empowering. You can make trading cards, badges, albums for pocket-sized photos, and more. All you need is a digital camera, the Internet, and some motivation. Come on! Work as hard as Hector, and let me know what you make!

And if you've already used BigHugeLabs.com or other sites like it, let me know, and share recommendations of similar online tools.

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant
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Kimberly Bridges's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I love this idea. In one of my graduate courses we were just talking about the need for motivational items in the classroom. This looks like a quick and easy (and cheap) way motivate our students. Seems to me that pictures/posters of themselves would ean more than a picture of an eagle or a bunch of kids that they don't know. Great idea. Thanks for sharing.
Kimberly Bridges - Monroe, Georgia

Stephanie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I must say that this idea is great!! Our students are bombarded with advertising that promotes unhealthy and sometimes unrealistic images of social ideals. Teachers can use these ideas to enable students to relate to their real life events and situations. Students that see themselves as positive role models will conduct themselves as such. I can envision many uses for this website and connect with my students on a higher level.

Vickie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This is a great idea! I really like Roger's idea about taking a class photo and having the students decide together on their own class saying or motto. My mind is already on the go for what I can have up in my room for September. Thanks so much!

Tammy Borchers's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

What a wonderful topic. I have often thought about creating inspirational posters in my own classroom. This past year I have done a few with the students. One sign I created was using the students hands we painted a picture of the world and the words were "every hand makes a difference". The students loved it:) After reading your blog it makes me excited to try new ones and use your ideas to expand on! Thank you!

Tammy Borchers's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

What a wonderful blog! I already try different signs in my room using the students. One poster I made this past year was using all the students hands we painted a picture of the world. The words I wrote were "every hand makes a difference". I than had the students write what those words ment to them. It was a great lesson and the students really shined. Thank you for keeping my motivation to keep doing this there!

William Muhn's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I really like the idea and how easy it is to make the poster. I have a smartboard and will use them as my background a lot, but it would be really nice to have one that really relates to the students. Another idea I had was if you are an art or language arts teacher, you could have the students make posters themselves.

Kristin's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Jim, this is a great website, thank you so much for sharing it. One of my undergrad field placements was in an autistic support classroom. This website would have been so helpful when we were creating a book for the students that reviewed the important steps they needed to take as they walked to the local grocery store to purchase various items. Using this website would have made this process much easier.

I also liked the idea you shared about sending a personalized postcard to each of your students before school starts. I have been reading and discussing how important communication is, and also reaching out to the families before the school year even begins. I am definitely going to share this website with my friends. I can't imagine how excited the students get when they get involved with a project like this.

Elizabeth Johnson's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I just went to the website. It is amazing!!! There are so many uses for it, both for me and my students. Thanks for the great information!

Jim R. Moulton's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Roger -

OK, responding because you need to have a discussion post by Wednesday may not be the best reason ever, but I hope my posting reinforces an understanding that our greatest strength is in the human network, and that a human network connected through a technical one is even stronger... All teaching and learning is relationship based.

Also, have you read my post about blogging, here at the Spiral Notebook?

http://www.edutopia.org/blogging-purpose

Cheers!

Jim

Erica's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I love this idea. I will use it this year in my fourth grade class. This is a great way not only to motivate the class, but also for them to take ownership. I remember specifically some of the posters hanging in classes as I grew up. This is a great idea!

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