A picture is worth a thousand words

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A picture is worth a thousand words

This is a simple, effective and engaging activity to introduce and revise vocabulary. It’s also a good activity to practise describing pictures using language for speculation, a task students face in many speaking exams. This is how I use these pictures with older children, teenagers and adults.

1. Choose a set of words you want to introduce or revise.

2. Take a close-up photograph that shows only part of the image.

3. Take another photograph that shows the whole image.

4. Arrange the students in pairs or 3s.

5. Show the students the close-up photographs.

6. Number the pictures. 

7. Get them to guess what they are for a few minutes. 

8. Write on the board: Language for speculation and elicit some examples from the class. Then add some more examples. E.g. It could beIt might be It looks likeI suppose it might beMaybe it’sIt must beI suppose it’sMy guess is that it’sI imagine that it’sI bet it’s

9. Get the students to speculate about the photographs in their small groups again. This time ask them to use the language on the board. 

10. Point to the first close-up photograph and get some ideas from the class. Make sure they’re using the target language

T: Look at photograph number one. What do you think it is?

S1: I think it might be a notebook.

T: What makes you say that?

S1: It looks like the spiral of a notebook.

S2: I don’t think it’s a notebook. It looks like some paper clips to me.

T: What about the rest of the class. What do you think it is?

11. Show them the whole image.

12. Continue with the rest of the photographs. 


1. Ask the students to take some photographs for the rest of the class to guess. They can send them to you so that you can show them in the next class or if you have a Whatsapp group they can send them to the group. 

2. Notice that in this lesson we used the sandwich technique

You let the students discuss the images using their own language.

Then you teach them the target language (language for speculation).

Finally, they do the activity again but this time using the target language.

When you use this technique you can ask them to compare the first time they discussed the images and the second time. 

3. You can use this activity with Very Young Learners too. You just have to use images they recognise and are relevant to them. 

Example photos