Using pictures in the language classroom

By Yolande Deane
DELTA qualified EFL teacher with 5 years’ teaching experience

I always think that images are an essential speaking stimulus in the language classroom, and they are often more interesting than just a list of discussion questions.  I have a folder, which is now bulging with pictures and images taken from magazines and newspapers. Students are bound to have pictures on their mobile phones, which can be used as talking points. You can also start taking pictures of unusual images or objects you see around you on your phone, and use them as talking points as a warmer or a filler during a lesson. The great thing is that images can be found anywhere.

Using images to support fluency and accuracy

There are many ways to incorporate images into a lesson to encourage fluency, one of the ways in which I use images is by giving students a picture for them to study for a minute.  During that minute they should write notes about what they think about the picture, where and why they think it was taken etc.  It is similar to part two of the speaking section from FCE, but I give them some time to think about what they would like to say.  They are allowed one minute to talk about the picture individually in front of the class, and I note down any mistakes or useful language I think they could have used.  You may want to give them the useful language before, but I often choose the Task Based Language route, where the useful language is provided afterwards, in order to make them more conscious of their gaps in lexical knowledge and grammatical structures.

Take two

Once I have provided feedback to each student they have to repeat the task again, incorporating the feedback I have given them, at this point they are now able to focus on the accuracy of language.  At this stage I give them a little longer than a minute to plan. I find that the students motivation is higher the second time round because they know that they have a second chance to shine. What I like about this task is that it moves in stages from fluency practice, to accuracy back to fluency, because the last stage of this task requires the students to repeat the exercise for a third time, but within a shorter time limit of thirty or forty seconds depending on the theme of the picture. As the time limit is shorter they could practice with each other before talking in front of the whole class. You will find that the students’ confidence increases greatly, and after all, confidence is often what students need when learning a language.

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