Posted in Games and activities

Seeing the bigger picture: A simple speaking lesson for busy teachers

Using pictures in ELT

I think you’ll agree that this is a rather boring picture:

A middle-aged man sitting in a garden reading a newspaper.

In this post, I’d like to show you a simple way of making a simple but effective lesson with no other materials other than this single image.

Show the picture to the students. Expand it, print out copies for them to share. Stick it on the board and let the students come up and see it. Post multiple copies of it around the room and ask them to look at it in pairs. Do whatever you like as long as they all see the image.

Then, start asking a few questions. Why not use a ball and throw it to the student you want to answer. Here are some example questions.

  1. Who is he?
  2. What’s he doing?
  3. How long has he been reading the paper?
  4. Is he drinking tea or coffee

When the students have got the hang of the task, put them into smaller groups (3-4),  let them throw the ball to each other and make their own questions. I suggest that you don’t do too much explicit correction here but note down errors and deal with them later. Let the students repeat or reformulate if their peers don’t understand them at first.

If the students run out of questions, write a few prompts on the board: reading, should, finish, feeling, last night, tomorrow, worried.

The more creative students will lead the way and the small groups should make all students feel comfortable. Soon, they’ll be creating plotlines and narratives from these questions and answers.

When this activity has run its course, do some feedback, correcting errors, discussing the best questions and answers and ask the students what they have just practised (lots of different structures)

As a follow-up activity, hand each group an image and ask them to write 5 or 10 questions about it. Ask the groups to swap the images with each other and let them discuss the questions. For homework, tell them to find an image (something more eye-catching obviously) and write questions about it. This can be your warmer for the next lesson in which students exchange images and question each other.

Variation: If you want to spice up the activity, tell your students that it is a picture of :

  • a middle-aged man with a terrible secret sitting in the garden reading a newspaper
  • a middle-aged man sitting in a prison garden reading a newspaper
  • a middle-aged man sitting in a garden reading a newspaper while waiting for a very important person
  • a middle-aged man who has been in a coma for 10 years sitting in a garden reading a newspaper

Any image with a person or people in it can be used to create a story. We share information, form bonds and learn so much through stories.

Hope some of you try this activity with your students. If you do, let me know how it goes.