Using photos to learn English
Using photos to learn English
Most teachers like taking photos with their mobile phones and sometimes we don’t realise that these images can be a very engaging and effective resource in the classroom. The good news is that most teenagers and adults enjoy taking photos too. What they might not know is how these can help them to improve their English. In my experience the activity below is one of the most simple and effective ways of using photographs in the classroom.
Guess what I did….last weekend
Target language: past simple
Objective: students guess what the teacher did at the weekend.
Outcome: written composition or oral presentation.
Level: A2 upwards
Age: probably 9-10 year olds upwards
1. Take some photos of your weekend. I’d avoid partying, drinking and any other situation that could be controversial in front of your students, especially if they are young.
2. Ask your students: What do you think I did at the weekend? Guess 3 things I did. Let them discuss their ideas in pairs. Elicit class feedback. Encourage them to produce complete sentences. E.g. We think you met your friends.
3. Explain you’re going to tell them about your weekend… with pictures. The objective is for students to write the most accurate composition about your weekend. Show them your photos. Get them to discuss them and put them in order.
4. To help them with language encourage them to use language like How do you say X in English?
5. Once the students know more or less what you did, allow them to ask you questions. They are not allowed to ask you Wh- questions. E.g. Where did you go? Instead, they can ask you any other type of questions. E.g. Did you go to the cinema on Friday evening? Get them to include as many details as possible.
6. Once they have some details, get them to write a composition. As they’re writing they can ask you more questions. Walk around and answer their questions. At this point you can also highlight any mistakes they’ve made as well as good language.
7. When they’ve all finished, students swap compositions and read what other students have written. Get them to find differences. E.g. Ana and Juan wrote that you ate out on Saturday but we think you ate out on Sunday.
8. Collect all papers for marking.
Ask the students to take some photos of their weekend. Get them to bring them to class the first lesson after the weekend. Get them in pairs and follow a similar procedure.
You can also ask the students to send you their photos so that you can project them on the board. If you do it this way you can ask the student whose photos you’re showing to sit in front of the class so that the class can ask him / her questions and guess what he or she did at the weekend.
- You can do this activity with higher levels, just get the students to include more details.
- Instead of showing photos of your last weekend, you can show photos of your last holiday, Christmas, when you were a kid etc
- Use short or long answers depending on what you want them to practice and stick to it. E.g. Did you go to the cinema on Friday? No, I didn’t. / No, I didn’t go to the cinema on Friday.
- You can show single photos or you can make a collage of photos of the same activity. You can see a couple of examples below.