Working with pictures is one of the basic tools in English teachers’ work. But does it really have to be just about describing them? Of course not! In this post I will show you seven cool ways of working with visual content. By using these methods you will trigger your students’ creative thinking, stimulate their imagination, engage them emotionally and forget for a moment about the textbook. Here’s my list!
1. TALK FOR A MINUTE
It’s one of my favourites. The student is tasked with speaking continuously for a minute about one image. It doesn’t have to be a description! They can talk about their own feelings, life experiences, loose associations (This picture reminds me of...) or create an improvised story (especially if you’re practising the past tense)! What they say can be absurd or a bit chaotic – it’s all about creativity after all. You will find a Talk for a Minute presentation HERE. Stay tuned as in my next entry in a couple of days you will have a chance to get an idiom edition of the game!
… where you work with a series of pictures. The more difficult version involves including specific vocabulary or grammar in the challenge as well. I like it when students work together to build a story (one person starts, another continues the thread, etc.). Drawing a picture from the pile just before they continue the story will definitely stir up emotions! You can find an example HERE (3rd page).
3. THOUGHT-PROVOKING PICTURES
The main point here is to provoke discussion. I recommend the works of Polish designer Pawel Kuczynski, whose art deals with various contemporary problems. You can find some of his works HERE.
… about how the person in the photo ended up in a given situation and what may happen later. The weirder the photo, the better! You can practise modals may, might, could, must (have done), will (probably) or structure be going to. You will find cool pictures HERE.
5. VOCABULARY BANK
You choose a picture that contains a lot of things you would like to teach your students. The more items in the picture, the better! The task is to name as many objects as possible (using a dictionary, if necessary). How can you quickly find the photo you need? What I do is google “messy X” (X = kitchen, living room, desk, etc.) :-).
If you want to revise those words, you can do a storytelling session or talk for a minute.
Take a look at the picture below. Its author Gatot Indrajati is famous for his incredibly detailed paintings, and it so happens that they’re perfect for this activity!
6. WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?
If you are intrigued by this photo, you can have a fun class based on it. You will find the article explaining the story HERE.
You find pictures of various objects in unusual places (e.g. a toaster in a bathtub full of water), and the student’s task is to explain what is wrong with them. It’s a cool way to revise modals should, shouldn’t, must, can’t, mustn’t. What could you say about the toaster? It shouldn’t be in the bathtub full of water. Or: It should be in the bathtub full of water if your mother-in-law is just having a bath! 🙂
7. VISUAL TABOO
I’m pretty sure you know taboo! 🙂 My version is based on photos. Students draw a picture from the pile, they describe it, and the group tries to guess what it represents. I created 3 categories for this game: painting, film and famous people. If you want the game, please post a comment HERE starting with #game and the number of the method you like most (e.g. #game 3), and you will get the link via Messenger. You will find the rules of the game in the file (feel free to modify them to suit your needs!) (Please let me know if you don’t get the message with the game). The QR codes are clickable, so you can check them out before the class.
GAME UP FOR GRABS!
It’s not over yet! The next entry on this topic will be available in a few days, loaded with useful links (plus the sources from which I have taken some of the ideas) and materials. Make sure to follow my fanpage on fb so that you don’t miss out on a chance to get an idiom edition of Talk for a Minute!
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