Fun with Pictures for ELT

Written by: Simon Mumford

This was a demonstration of ways in which pictures can be used in ELT. It started with a display of juggling to illustrate the point that in language practise activities, a number of components can be ‘juggled’, eg memory, question and answer, descriptions, indirect answers. This was to show that good picture activities consist of enough components to make them challenging, but not so many that they become confusing.

Eight activities using pictures were then demonstrated and the audience was invited to take part in these and also to note down which components were used. The activities were as follows:

1 ‘Yes/No’
The audience was invited to guess what was in a picture they were not able to see. They were only allowed yes/no questions and the only clue was the way ‘yes’ and ‘no’ were said

2 ‘Family relationships’
Here the audience was invited to construct a family tree out of a set of seven random pictures of people and follow up activities were suggested, including writing and role play

3 ‘Whose is it?’
Three large pictures of people were displayed. Small pictures of objects were turned over and the audience was invited to say whose they were, and then the pictures were ‘given’ to that person, practising possessives.

4 ‘All tense revision’
A picture and gestures were used to elicit sentences in different tenses.

5 ‘Picture pass around.’
An activity in which students built up a sentence about a picture, by passing a picture and adding to the sentence was demonstrated.

6 ‘Future faces’
Two pictures, one an old woman and one young were used to demonstrate future tenses. The older picture represented the woman in the future, thus a variety of future tenses were practised.

7 ‘Surprise surprise’
Some surprising ‘facts’ were given about a picture of a person, so that the audience could practise the intonation of surprise.

8 ‘Vocabulary bids’
Members of the audience took part in a game involving 2 people competing to bid the highest for the number of vocabulary items they could get from a picture.

A brief round up concluded the session. Competition, cooperation, description, movement, intonation, gestures, repetition, imagination, giving opinions, and time limits were some of the components noted by the audience.

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