There's been quite a bit written in education circles and in the ESL community about lowering the affective filter. I've always found this term to be a bit cumbersome--lowering the affective filter? It sounds like something you might do when cleaning a pool or landing an airplane. This is just a fancy way of saying that the more comfortable a student feels in class, the greater quantity and quality of work they will produce.
my site, you'll see that I'm a fan of Power Point. This is partly because of it's ability to display images. Over the years, I've collected some goofy pictures that work well as conversation starters. The pictures have a two fold purpose. One, a funny pic lightens the mood and helps lower that affective filter. Two, these pics are great for intiating conversation and driving home grammar points. The picture on the right is classic that works well for the theme of opposites and using the present progressive tense: "What are they doing? The large monster and the small boy are yelling."
One tip I have for beginning teachers-- if you like to use Power Point and often use pictures, start a collection of your own useful pictures. There have been many times when I've found that perfect picture, lost it in the maze that is my hard drive, and then spent way too long scowering the internet for the same pic. Creating a picture gallery will ensure that the useful pics you find will always be handy.
Have a look at the pictures I've collected at Active ESL. Go the Resources page and look under Templates. For an example of a Power Point using some of these pics, go to the Resources page and look at the Scare, Scared, and Scary--English Survival Skill PPT in the Adult ESL section.
Also, I'd like to know about any resources you have for finding good, conversation inducing art. How do you use visual media in the classroom? Drop me a line if you have the time.