martes, 22 de marzo de 2011

I can explain everything...

David Deubelbeiss at EFL Classroom 2.0  posted this morning about photographs - "the fundamental intermediary for context in language teaching" as he writes. While I found myself agreeing totally, I also realised that my main use of photos is entirely different, and the photos I tend to use are also different. Which is one of the joys of a humanistic job, don't you think? No wrong solutions, and lots of right ones.

My own photo library - built slowly from magazine cutouts - has a selection of the lexical sets David mentions and includes in his post. However the ones I come back to again and again are all very similar: all cryptic or incomplete, and almost all captured rather than posed. Here are a couple of my favourites. (I also take the time to cut them out and mount them on decent card to protect them, by the way.)

NB These were cut from magazines, so are not in the public domain. I'll let you know if the Copyright Gestapo kick my door down in the middle of the night.

Here's one activity you can use with teens upwards and lower-int upwards.

I Can Explain Everything

1. Choose one cryptic or strange photo for each student. Don't give them out yet!

2. Ask the students to sit as far apart as your classroom will allow - this is an individual exercise, so give them space to think.

3. Explain that they will each get a photo and a blank sheet of paper. They will have to look at the photo and write a few sentences explaining or interpreting the picture at the top of the paper. Make it very clear you want an explanation, not a description. Ask them to write legibly.

4. Give out the photos and leave them to think and write in peace - usually 2-4 minutes is enough, but play it by ear. Be on hand if they call you, and monitor unobtrusively near the end of the time limit. (I usually do the same as them, BTW.)

5. Ask them to draw a line under their paragraph. Tell them that they are going to get a new photo and paper, which will already have an explanation. They will have to look at the new photo, read the existing interpretation, and write an alternative one, which must be totally different.

6. Ask them to pass the photo and paper to the student on their left, then look, read and write.

7. Repeat this until each photo has been round the class once. You will have several different interpretations of the same photo written on the same sheet.

8. Pin up each photo on the wall, with its paper, allowing students to mill and read. They can each vote for their favourite interpretation - but of course, can't vote for their own.

9. Round up vocabulary.

This lesson has the great boon that it allows your students to appear smart and imaginative to each other, which is vital with adolescents. I haven't tried it with younger learners - as always I'd love your feedback.

PS In a lovely moment of synchronicity, I found this glorious collection online.

7 comentarios:

  1. Alan,

    Glad I "spurred you on" - excellent writing and thinking exercise! I think too often, we don't get our students thinking in class - and "thinking" to me is the same as "engaging" them.Pity.

    This activity is kind of like the video activity of "what happened previously" or "what will happen next". Using it with writing and an alternative time frame, as you do - avoids the trap of good photos - that they totally dominate the context and then take away from any student input. (and video does a marvelous job in this vein - too marvelous)

    I really insist, even in this day and age, that any serious teacher have a great photo library. A folder of wonderful contextual photos that can be used for plenty of activities and language prompting. An online portfolio is good but it isn't near accessible enough or "human" enough.

    Once you have the photos (like you do), they can be used in endless variation. Plus, they are you and will suit your own teaching style.


  2. Couldn't agree more, David. A cliche is worth a thousand words as they say. Glad you dropped in.

  3. Great blog, and I love the photo collection! I am going to use these as speaking exercises for a certain group of high school students...

  4. Do let me know how it goes Matt. Thanks for the visit.

  5. Great activity, creating a real desire to read and find out what others have said. And clear explanations for what to do too.

  6. Really nice Alan, but then I wouldn't expect anything less from a teacher like you. Love your blog, getting loads of ideas. And yes, reading TEFL blogs is extremely helpful, makes me feel like a rookie after 13 years of teaching...


  7. Glad you're finding it useful. And especially glad to hear from you after a while.