On the ninth day of Geekmas, some blogger gave to me:  nine pretty pictures

Welcome to the teflgeek Christmas celebration!  Themed around the classic Christmas carol – but going backwards, mostly because it’s more like a countdown that way:

12 blogs worth clutching

11 tips for writing

10 tricks for reading

And nine pretty pictures – or rather some ideas to use with images and some images to use with them!

All of the pictures used below in this post have come from the excellent #eltpics Flickr photostream and are reproduced here under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) licence.

potential by @hartle

(1)  Make me a story – using either a single image or with a series of images (which can give a greater degree of support), learners come up with a story based on the image(s).  By using superlame to add speech bubbles and captions, and by being creative with the windows snipping tool, it is possible to create comic book sequences.  But pen and paper can also work!

Decorated bicycles at Children's Perahara, Tangalle, Sri Lanka, July 2010 by @CliveSir

(2)  Caption Competition – take in a series of images, ideally one per learner in the class, but fewer if you have a large class, and stick them up around the room.  Chop some scrap A4 into sentence sized strips so that each learner has one strip per picture.  So, if you have 12 learners and 12 pictures up, you’ll need 144 strips of paper…  Or you could just give each learner 4 strips of paper, which would be quicker and more manageable.  Learners move around the room independently and when they feel inspired by a picture, they write a caption for it on one of their strips of paper.  Captions don’t need to be humorous (though they can be!).  After a set amount of time, collect all the strips back in and redistribute them, making sure learners don’t have any of their original strips.  Learners then try to stick the captions up next to the picture they think it refers to.  This can then be followed up with learners checking to see whether their captions got put in the right place or not and explaining why they wrote what they wrote.  Plus any language feedback.

Knitting and crocheting-Huayhuash, Peru by @VictoriaB52

(3)  Role play Prompts  I saw this done in a session a couple of years ago – I sadly can’t remember who gave the session or what it was on…  – but I remember the activity.  Using a picture of Van Eyck’s “The Arnolfini Marriage”, we put ourselves in the positions of the people in the painting and then came up with questions to ask each other, which then lead into a sort of role play as we acted out being the people in the pictures.  It was great fun and a really nice way of helping learners to access imagery, particularly for learners about to do exam speaking tasks involving pictures.

Street market, Copacabana, Bolivia by @sandymillin

(4)  Labeltastic  Something that occurred to me as an incredibly simple and effective way of using pictures, which I confess I’ve not used yet – the create-your-own picture dictionary.  Most vocabulary lessons are based around a topic, so why not simply find a picture of that topic and give copies to the learners to stick into their notebooks so that they can add lots of little arrows and labels, thus creating their own lexically organised picture dictionaries?

(5) Mind Mapping  In a similar vein, the idea of using mind mapping techniques with images can extend the labelling idea.  With the mind map, you could not only access the key vocabulary items, but also access learners’ emotional reactions to the images and learners’ speculation on the content and individuals in those pictures.  Thanks to @acliltoclimb for the inspiration from his post  “Every Picture tells a Story“.

Easter in Seville. The park to themselves. by @europeaantje

(6) Dictadraw A very simple premise, but a nice way to revise vocabulary and practice / develop picture description skills.  Essentially, you give different pictures to different learners in a pair.  They take turns to describe their pictures to each other and as one partner describes, the other one draws.  At the end of the activity, they compare their ideas.  Obviously the object isn’t to create a perfect replica – particularly if you do use a photograph! I use this activity more with appearance vocabulary (he has red hair and a big nose) than with anything else, but it can also work with photos – as long as they aren’t too complex!

ET, come home! by @AClilToClimb

(7) Speculation  Using bizarre, odd or unclear imagery can be fun ways of introducing and practicing modals of speculation and deduction.  If you can’t find any pictures that you think are sufficiently bizarre (or likely to lead to enough speculation) then a simple remedy is to take a picture of a mundane everyday item and zoom in really really close on one particular aspect of it, and ask the learners to guess what it is.  For example, the milled edge of a coin or the underneath of a pepper grinder could prove fruitful!

Browsing by @sueannan

(8)  Expert Witness  another old favourite – a memory game where learners look at an image for one minute, the image is then removed (removing the image also removes the temptation to peek!), and learners then have to recall the scene.  With low levels / ages, this can be a Q&A session based on “Is there a ___?  /  Are there any ___? ” to revise a particular vocab set.  For higher levels, it could be situated in a police interview scenario, the learner witnessed an incident (for example in the photo on the right “Browsing”, they could have witnessed a theft) and has to describe the scene.  Or it could be run as a straight listing activity – learners look at the image for a minute and then have a further minute to list all the items they remember seeing in the picture.

(9)  Selection In  This is another fairly obvious one – it might require raiding the school flashcard / image files as it works best with a large amount of pictures.  For a more structured task though, it might be best to generate a handout with a limited selection of images.  In simple terms learners select the “best” image or images for a particular purpose, e.g. to include in a tourist brochure of the area  /  to put on the front page of an nature magazine  (etc).  This is a fairly simple task and one that mimics exam speaking tasks at FCE, CAE & CPE (sort of) – so would be good practice for prospective candidates.  A twist on this is to ask the learners to select three or four similar pictures and to generate their own selection task for another group of learners to perform – they could then give feedback on performance.

Hot Air Balloon by @mrsdkrebs
street painting by Jane Arnold