I consider myself a Dogme teacher, it’s what interests me, or, more than that, it’s what motivates me, and, even when not in ‘full Dogme mode’, the principles behind Dogme underly my teaching philosophy and practice. I firmly believe in the student’s right to choose, to learn in their own way, to be respected by their teacher(s) and not simply treated like ‘just one more’, but of course most of us work within the constraints of an institution, with a syllabus, a coursebook, tests to be passed, a Director of Studies (and parents) to be kept happy, boxes to tick. In my ‘institutional’ work, I have a coursebook, but also a very open-minded, ‘tuned-in’ DoS who is happy to allow me to be as learner-orientated as I wish / they need, but my classes are generally of 20+ students, so true personalisation is on a student-by-student-per-class basis, or by applying a type of democracy. Not so in my one-to-one classes. Pure Dogme (or Dogme 2.0, as I always have my laptop to hand and my students usually arrive armed with smartphones and/or iPads) is par for the course (with a Plan B, just in case), and the ELTpics suite of resources is a big ingredient in some of the more successful lessons.
The other day I was talking to a student, a journalist by profession, about the interview blog, the Burning Questionnaire (*for the origin of The Burning Questionnaire, see the end of this post) – I can’t remember why, but as a journalist, we may have been talking about – hey – interviews. We went into the blog, and I showed him some of the mosaics chosen by interviewees (see above for examples), and we spoke about what they might say about those people. My student’s curiosity was piqued, so we read Dale Coulter’s interview. I hadn’t particularly noticed the language in Dale’s answers – the blog is aimed at ELT people after all – but my student found it fascinating. He is of what used to be called Intermediate or Upper Intermediate level – B1 or B2, depending on the day – and he enjoyed reading chunks out loud and playing with the pronunciation, for example with Dale’s description of Vince Vaughan in Swingers as an ‘outrageously misogynistic character’ (and this reviewed the word ‘tongue-twister’ from an earlier lesson..). We spoke about music, motivation, why we become what we become, professionally, and about the film – and book – High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. My student (J.R.) was genuinely interested in Mr Coulter, to the extent that we decided to read another interview and compare them. Ian James was our next subject, and my student was even keener, particularly upon reading Ian’s musical tastes, as J.R is a music buff with even more musical knowledge than the guys in High Fidelity. Ian’s explanation for where it all started brought mirth, then
the musical recommendations agreement; vocabulary items were discussed ‘scribblings’, ‘pews’, ‘toad-in-the-hole’, and we compared notes on Ian’s recommended films, particularly as one of them is set here in Extremadura, more language chunks for pronunciation, the meaning of inspiration, and just who WAS (IS) Jenny Agutter…
I asked J.R if he fancied writing his own answers to the Burning Questionnaire, and he agreed, seeming quite keen after having read two examples and, I think, been impressed by the eloquence of the ‘average’ ELT person I slightly modified the questions to suit a journalist rather than a teacher. and emailed them to him. A day or two later, he sent me his first draft, and we looked through it in class, without writing on it in any way. I pointed out areas that I felt could be improved on, either in language or spelling, and we discussed his answers in terms of content, much as we had discussed Dale’s and Ian’s. After class, I highlighted in yellow the areas we’d suggested he improve on, and he redrafted his answers. Very few errors remained. I sent a quick email querying a couple of things and he sent me his final draft, and his choice of four ELTpics. I have asked his permission to reproduce his work below. And believe me, this is a student who is B1- B2, but you can see how his imagination has been caught by the writings of Messers Coulter and James, and how the desire to write well shines through. If you have any one-to-one classes, or perhaps even groups well managed (reading and discussing in smaller groups), you may like to try this idea. It certainly worked for J.R.
My Student’s Burning Questionnaire (NB this is his third draft, uncorrected, and presented in the same way as those on the Burning Questionnaire blog, with his mosaic and individual images):
What is your full name, and where did it all start?
José Ramón Valdivia González, heir to a dynasty of conquerors from Extremadura. Hahahaha. One of my history teachers told me that my ‘great, great, great grandfather’ Pedro de Valdivia, conqueror –or defiler of Chile, as we see- was killed by the natives, who used his bones to make cups, plates… cookware . I guess it all started there.
What music do you listen to while driving/cooking/contemplating your navel?
Depends if I’m alone in the car or not. With (my wife), rumba and singers like Pablo Alborán. It’s a dictatorship. When I can choose – most of the time- I turn on my iPod, connect it to Chevrolet and and let the music play randomly: Sigur Ros, Love of Lesbian,
Maga, Belle and Sebastian, Leonard Cohen, Dylan …
When I cook, I do the same. Sometimes I prefer flamenco, especially Camaron, El Cabrero and Poveda. By the way, ‘Three daggers’ is a masterpiece. “I’ve bought three daggers for you to give me death. The first: indifference. The second: betrayal. And the third: stainless steel if you have courage”. Great! I have recommended this song to all my friends.
Do not usually look at my belly button … metaphorically, either.
What’s the most satisfying – or frustrating – aspect of your job?
Satisfying: Communicating. Informing citizens and stimulating their analytical and critical capability.
Frustrating: Seeing every day unscrupulous businessmen who do not know the mass media are demolishing the foundations of good journalism and democracy.
Writing or on the air? Why?
Both of them. I still haven`t found what I’m looking for. Today, I prefer to fly on the air. Tomorrow, who knows… But always writing.
A teacher from your schooldays:
It’s hard to say, but none of my teachers — and I’ve had dozens- influenced me. In none of did I find that mixture of passion and knowledge to become a reference in my life. I barely remember the names of ten or twelve.
What was the first thing you learnt as a journalist?
Absolute truth does not exist. Nor does objectivity.
What motivates/inspires you most?
The good people always motivate me and inspire me. Every day I search for them in the pages of newspapers, on the television news, on the streets, in the family, among my friends…
Do you ever cry in the cinema?
Many times. Especially with emotion. With ‘Schindler’s list’, ‘Cinema Paradiso’, ‘It’s a wonderful life’… The list is very long. My private little secret (not anymore) is related to a Jennifer Lopez’s movie called ‘Maid in Manhattan’. I’ve seen this film twice and I cried both. She is an immigrant hotel maid and a famous congressman falls in love with her. Cheesy, no?
Your favourite meal? Where? And perhaps with whom?
A good stew of chickpeas, with their meat and vegetables. With good wine, of course. Best at home. Although I would say that the most pleasant culinary moment is when Mati and I eat paella at the beach bar in Aguablanca (Ibiza).
See my son become a honest, honorable and happy man.
I will not be original: The Godfather saga. Under the excuse of the mafia and the family, the three films complete a metaphor for life, with their miseries and greatnesses. Few days ago, when Ratzinger flew, I remembered the third movie. If we talk about Spanish cinema, I love –and hate– ‘Los santos inocentes’, because it’s masterful and reflects the Extremadura that should never exist again. Not everything is going to be drama. ‘The front page’, from Billy Wilder, is the best comedy I’ve ever seen. Oops, I said five movies … and
all, including the last, are dramas. I’m sorry.
Rugby, because it contains all the human values that I cant`t find in football or basketball. In rugby, players fight to the death to win, but always respecting the opponent, without tricks. Also, this historic sport has managed to integrate new technologies to solve problems. Basketball begins to do it. In football, it’s unthinkable. Football is another world. “Football is football”, said the historic coach Helenio Herrera.
Beach, mountains or city?
Beach, of course. It is the ideal of every ‘extremeño de dehesa’. Few things are comparable to a day at the beach, swimming, talking to friends, reading a book, having a beer at the beach bar and watching the sunset. In Ibiza or Zahara better.
Day or night?
The night, because the night belongs to lovers, as legendary musicians like Patty Smith, The Boss or Natalie Merchant have sung. At night, I find the necessary solitude to cultivate my spirit, or to destroy it. I always find inspiration, peace and food for my life. Also at night I have shared the best moments with my family and friends. Definitely, I’m a vampire.
* The Burning Questionnaire was originally a feature in an old ‘webzine’ of mine called The Atlantic Forum, back in the day (about 12 years ago, I think). Apart from articles on ELT and news, I used to ask a ‘Name’ in ELT to do The Burning Questionnaire, and ‘victims’ back then included Mario Rinvolucri and Mark Hancock, whose BQs I still have on my computer When Take a photo and… was about a year old, I decided to reuse the format with contributors to this blog, and hey presto. SO be warned, all contributors past, present and future; your turn will come…..
Fiona Mauchline 2013
Well, what a wonderful surprise. The ELTpics suite of resources for teachers, including
this blog, has made it to the shortlist of nominees for an ELTon, so we’ll be there at the ceremony in London in May.
Literally hundreds of teachers from around the world have helped make ELTpics the resource it is, and we’d like to thank each and every one of you.
Fiona, on behalf of the eltpics curators.
Paul Braddock is one of the brains (brainses?) behind the British Council’s wonder-web TeachingEnglish, a former ‘Barefoot blogger’, a teacher based in Barcelona, webinar host extraordinaire and all-round nice guy – and it’s a great pleasure to include his post amongst the collection of guest posts we’re so lucky to have on Take a photo and… So without further ado……. Paul Braddock.
This is a lesson I’ve used a few times using the ‘Bridges’ collection. It has always worked well and can be adapted for a range of levels & contexts. It is a more tech-integrated way to focus on the topic of travel and gives students a chance to personalise their learning.
After conducting feedback and writing their guesses on the board (next to the picture if you’re using an IWB), show the pictures with the correct locations below.
Put students into pairs and ask them to choose one or two of the photos. They should make notes about the place(s) they have chosen, including facts they know about the country together with some ideas about why they would like to go to their chosen locations, or what they might expect the place to be like. You can use simple sentence heads to guide them:
- What I know about X is that it is / has…
- If I went on holiday to X, I would…
- One reason I would like to go to X is…
While they are working with their partner, place the individual bridge pictures around the room. This will give you an opportunity to listen to the different discussions without it looking like you are monitoring too closely.
When they have finished (give them about 5 minutes), form new groups of students and invite them to give feedback on what they had been discussing to their new partners by walking around the room, stopping at the different pictures they chose and talking about what they had written in their notes.
Explain to students that they are going to find out more things about one of the places shown in the pictures. Make a list with the class of things that they would want to know if they were going to a place. If you have slightly less motivated students, you could do this as a ranking exercise by giving them a list of things they might want to know and asking them to put the list in order of importance.
- Recommended Sights (monuments, squares, etc.)
- Cost (hotels, meals, public transport)
- Shopping (the best places for x, y, z)
- Restaurants / food you should try
- Galleries / museums
- Festivals & Celebrations
- The people
Once you have a list of 8-10 things, or you have finished the ranking activity, tell the students that they are going to find out some of these facts by researching them. A problem I often find with these kind of “we’re going to the computer room so you can do some research” activities is that there is often very little communication going on in English between students. To a large extent, an overuse of L1 is sometimes unavoidable, although this is also true of activities conducted in the classroom. At the same time, there is a tendency for students to look on websites written in their own language, or to simply copy and paste text without even understanding the gist. To avoid this, it is important to give students clear tasks with tangible outcomes. For example, in this activity, where students are being asked to look at different websites to gather information, I tend to give them the url’s for a small number of sites via a sticky wall (see below) and tell them to use only these few sites to conduct their research.
This avoids long periods of time spent on Google looking for relevant sites. There is still the issue of understanding the content, but if students choose the ‘copy & paste option’, you should build in activities that focus on some of the vocabulary and also allow for students to develop their summarising skills.
Once your students have made their relevant notes, either on their own virtual sticky wall or in their notebooks, tell them that they are going to create a virtual display highlighting FOUR key facts about the city they have researched.
Go to popplet.com which, if you don’t know it, is a fantastic online mindmap resource. It is incredibly simple to use and is free! In the computer room, if you are still there, or in the classroom if you have an IWB or data projector, demonstrate the different features to the students by building a mind map for one of the locations the students didn’t choose as in the popplet below of Tokyo
If you are still in the computer room, give students time to sign up for an account. Go through with them again how to use the site and then give them a time-limit for creating their Popplet. Ideally, it should include some video content and images as well as a small summary sentence to go with each image or video.
Explain to your class that, now they have compiled interesting information about their chosen location, they now have to get back home. Tell them this is not as simple as getting on a plane and flying back to their home town.
In order to get back home, they need to travel by four different means of transport.
Elicit the different possibilities (boat, train, plane, bus, hot-air balloon(!), etc.).
Tell them that each group will be competing to see who can travel home the quickest using the different forms of travel and also spend the least money. Obviously at this point, any students that have chosen Venice, for example, will be smiling at those who chose Vietnam.
If this happens and you have groups travelling back from a nearby country, make sure you give any group that chose a nearby destination 4-6 hour penalty as well as a suitable amount of your country’s currency as a forfeit.
Students should plot their journey home on the Popplet they have created and demonstrate they have researched travel options by explaining how they travelled, how much the journey cost and how long it took as well as one interesting fact about each place they stop (see example Popplet below).
The nice thing about Popplet happens that you can share your canvas with anyone who also has an account and allow that person to edit it. This makes it a perfect activity for students to do at home if you run out of time in class or if you are teaching online. If you look at the different ‘popples’ on the popplet, you can see the name of the person who created it, so you know (if it is a homework task) who has put some effort in and who has slacked off!
Anyway, once students have finished their journeys home, ask them to give a small presentation outlining how they travelled and some of the interesting information they came up with. Total up their full journey time and cost and announce the winners.
What I like about this activity
- There is a lot of room for personalisation. Students are able to ‘choose’ at pretty much every point – which image do they like? where do they want go & why? Travel options, choice of information to represent on the popplet…
- A lot of rich language emerges from the activities – describing the pictures (useful for exam classes), travel & transport vocabulary, sequencing events (we started in… then we travelled by boat to… after we had arrived in… etc.)
- A number of skills are used (reading for gist, summarising skills, presentation skills, agreeing/disagreeing, working collaboratively (either face-to-face or remotely), selecting & justifying.
- There is a harmless competitive element to the final activity which motivates the students to do the task well.
- There is the option to spend time at the popplet-creation stage to focus on copyright and copyright-free images that can be used.
(For an earlier Take a photo and… post on using the Bridges set with ESP learners, see here.)
eltpics used in ‘bridges’ worksheet
- NY bridges by @shaunwilden
- Rainbow bridge, Tokyo by @pacogascon
- French bridge in Vietnam by @elt_pics
- Venice by @mkofab
- Bosphorus bridge by @arzuteacher
- Dublin by @mkofab
Images used in Popplet
- Tokyo Tower by Another side of yukita
- Kimonos by starfires
- Cosplay Parade by chooyutshing
- Lunch at the station by @grahamstanley
How to introduce this guest blogger when in fact he has saved me the job, and kindly added a short bio at the end of his article? Adam, who is based in Istanbul, is one of those people you meet on Twitter or Facebook (@yearinthelifeof) and you feel you just have to meet in real life too (and not only because Tweedeck flatly refuses to let me see his avatar photo ). Always a source of interesting references, blog posts and musical titbits, I have actually yet to meet him (so many reasons to go back to Istanbul one day…..), but am extremely pleased to be able to welcome Adam to Take a photo and… in the same month as the British Council ‘TeachingEnglish’ team has shortlisted him for the Blog of the Month ‘accolade’. So, it’s over to Adam………….
How do you work with your course book? Do you ever get your learners to look forward to coming units in anticipation, or do you take each unit – or even the coming page – as it comes? While books are organized in a certain way to promote their linear, chronological use, there are benefits to looking ahead to what’s coming up. With this is mind, here’s one easy activity that I’ve used to get your learners actively talking about their coursebook in a positive and engaging way.
First, I’m going to describe the procedure of the activity, and then I’ll tell you why it’s so beneficial.
What you need
Go to ELT Pics and have a look around. Now that there are more than 11,000 pictures available, you have a good chance of finding something that will fit your needs.
Choose a bunch of pictures based on the contents of your course book contents. Naturally, the number and content will depend on what comes up in your book.
How to proceed
I’ll describe how I did this in the context of my own book.
My course book is split into two books, each book containing five units. Each unit is split into four inputs, each focusing on either reading or listening.
At the start of the semester I found four pictures for each unit, one for each input.
I had sixteen learners in the class, so I put them into four groups of four.
To get them into the activity, we all looked at the pictures I’d chosen for unit one.
Each group got a copy of the set and had to:
Decide what each picture could represent
Decide what could possibly connect the four pictures
After several minutes of discussion in groups, they shared their ideas among one another.
Here are the pictures I used:
So, what do you make of those four pictures? Can you guess what the theme of the unit is?
Well done! The subject of the unit is indeed education. Now, can you assign one of the photographs to each of these four headings?
Intelligence in seven steps
Restructuring education: Rationale and methods
The future of learning
There are no correct answers at this point; all learners need to do is to connect a picture to one of these headings and try to justify why they made that choice. The important thing here is making a connection between the image and the thing they will be studying at a later point.
Here’s how I continue:
I assign a set of pictures to each group, one set representing four images for one of the other course book units.
They looked at the pictures and decided an overall theme for their unit.
Each group received the headings of the reading and listening content of their unit and allocated one picture to each heading.
At this point, you can take the activity in a couple of different ways:
The groups intermingle and share their ideas with members of different groups. Each person should have their own copy if you do it this way, so they can show others what they are talking about and why they connected one particular image to a part of the book.
The groups present their ‘findings’ to the other groups. Each group takes it in turn and can have a Q and A before explaining their pictures if they wish.
Benefits of this activity
This is a simple activity that could easily be used to get learners talking and listening to each other, in a meaningful way, around the contents of a given unit of work.
This gives the learners the sense that you’ve planned ahead and are in control of the whole course, plus they get a sense of everything that is in store for them.
You can do some pre-teaching of vocabulary that is pertinent to any given unit.
You can pre-activate schemata for any given unit.
You can generate a bit of excitement about the upcoming unit(s) of study, having already built up some anticipation of what is to come.
You can give the learners a sense of ownership of the book, as you can return to this activity when you eventually arrive at a particular unit and hand over the class to your ‘unit experts’ to introduce the subjects that will be studied in the coming days/weeks.
A note of thanks
This activity is based on an idea for introducing the course book which I saw in a conference presentation by the ever excellent Ken Wilson.
Adam has been fortunate enough to spend the last twelve years of his journey as a life long learner working with others in what some call the ‘language classroom’. He is currently privileged to have the opportunity to help young adults meet their educational goals at Sabanci University in Istanbul. His professional interests include flexibility within the curriculum and the considered use of technology in the classroom. He occasionally finds time to blog about his life: www.teachthemenglish.com.
As a post to close the door on 2012 and kick off 2013, I thought I’d answer that question: What have we done? ELTpics and its curators have been pretty busy, so here’s a ‘Compendium of Stuff‘ for you to mull over while your wine does likewise close by and a new term beckons with glee. Happy New Year to you all.
ELTpics busyness: the Resource
ELTpics turned two in mid October, 2012, and celebrated it with its 11,000th image being added to the resource. Not bad, considering the whole thing started as a photo-swap between three friends (Victoria, Vicky and Carol). We had wanted to celebrate with some sort of symbolic action and photos, something like setting off balloons, but ecological and time issues dampened the fuse on those plans. However, we did celebrate by posting an article written by Shelly Sánchez Terrell on Take a photo and… , and subsequently had our Best Day, hitwise, thanks to that article. The blog has had, as I write, just under 13,200 hits since its start some14 months ago, and we hope to keep it running strong, through 2013.
Another birthday ‘present’ came in the form of the ELTpics portal, a webpage bringing together the various sections or facets of ELTpics to increase user-friendliness. If you’re a regular ELTpicser, you may like to bookmark the portal.
Around our second birthday, we also started to talk about spreading from Twitter to Facebook, to reach more people via a more visual medium. Thus, at Christmas 2012, a page was born… and the ELTpics facebook group took off. As an open group, it had 83 members by the time it was 24 hours old. Right now, it’s 48 hours old and has 121 members. Let it grow…
The last set to be opened in 2012, and therefore the first to collect images via Facebook was Dreams and Ambitions, which looks set to be a great way to wander the pathways of your imagination as you peruse and use photos of dream cottages, guitar-players, balloons, travellers…. At the time of writing, our latest contribution via Facebook and the last one from either source in 2012 was from Antonia Clare
and a few hours earlier, our last image via Twitter was from Michael E Griffin in Korea, which, while it was meant for Food, certainly shows a Dream and Ambition of mine….
The first image to reach us in 2013 was this Dream/Ambition from Christian Schenk
and, at a little before lunchtime on New Year’s Day, we already have 7 images this year.
In addition to Take a photo and…, in April 2012, we added a second blog, The Burning Questionnaire, which is a collection of interviews with the guest writers who have posted on Take a photo and... As well as answering the questions in the interview, the guests choose four ELTpics which say something about them, and the images are used to illustrate or decorate their interviews. I have to admit to having become a bit slack re sending out the interviews since summer – sometimes life just gets in the way – but I intend to come back with a vengeance now in 2013, so look out guest bloggers past, present and future, you have been warned….
ELTpics busyness: the Events
ELTpics is increasingly being mentioned by people giving talks at conferences, training days and so on, with ELT folk such as Ben Goldstein, Ceri Jones and Jeremy Harmer waving the flag for us, for which we are immensely grateful.
Jeremy Harmer, in fact, used ELTpics to create his Pecha Kucha when asked to compère the IATEFL Glasgow Pecha Kucha evening in Spring 2012. He then wrote a post for Take a photo and… and added his interview to our Burning Questionnaire.
ELTpics was also invited to take part in round table (or rectangular screen, I guess) as part of the online Virtual Round Table organised by Heike Philps in April. This was a new web experience for me. I sat newly showered in my slippers, smart from the waist up, in a tiny hotel room in Córdoba, very few metres from the Mezquita, with the windows tightly closed in the hope that the street sounds wouldn’t interfere too much, and presented ELTpics to people around the planet via slides made using, hey guess what, ELTpics. It was a great feeling of intimacy and expansion at the same time, and was vaguely reminiscent of the opening sequence of The Brady Bunch.
ELTpics also went to TESOL France in November, and provided me, at least, with one of the most satisfying moments of the year, in true ELTpics ‘togetherness’ style. Prior to the Colloquium in Paris, Bethany Cagnol the then-president of TESOL France, mentioned on facebook that the speakers would be coming from over 30 countries. We decided to ask them to send photos from their country – either of residence or origin – which we would then use to make a slideshow.
This was to be beamed onto a wall during the coffee breaks. Little by little, the photos arrived, and by the time the Colloquium came along, I had 97! Some were labelled, some I labelled, then, with the indispensable (ie life-saving) help of Brad Patterson – without whom there would have been no slideshow – we stuck ‘em all together. Well, no. That’s not quite what happened. Two days before going to Paris, I had a message from Bethany asking me to contact Brad about a logistics problem. It turned out that the wall we wanted to beam the slides onto was very brightly lit AND bright red. So it wasn’t going to work. Instead, Beth suggested showing the slides as the grand finale of the Open Mic Evening, and…. turning them into a kind of karaoke sing-along slideshow. With me leading the singing…..eek.
As anyone who saw me there can verify, my knees trembled so hard at the thought, my brain descended to meet them. The original suggestion for the song was Come together, but as I was supposedly going to sing in front of everyone, I wasn’t sold on the ‘…over me‘ bit, so took the liberty of throwing out that idea and choosing something I felt was more in the spirit of what we had done – created a show together, crowd-sourcing the photos which were then to be donated to ELTpics as a set; I chose (oh my goodness, and I then had to sing…) We are family.
On the night, the slideshow came at the end of a great show: beautiful opera, brilliant piano-playing and guitar numbers, Sue Lyon-Jones’ great ELT version of Killing me softly, stand up comedy… my knees dissolved, though if I’m honest, seeing my vastly more talented peers quiver with nerves did help me calm mine. And in the end, it went fine. I found my voice or what there is of it – and even danced, but that’s quite by the way as no one noticed anyway (thankfully); they seemed to love the pictures and Brad’s masterful addition of the lyrics below them in synch with the instrumental version of the song we’d managed to find. Everyone sang along in a truly inspiring show of what people can achieve when they work together. Me, I thoroughly enjoyed dancing in the dark and singing at the top of my voice with no one looking
Those were the three main ELTpics events in 2012 that I know of, but if you know of more, please feel free to drop them into the comments box and I can add an addenda later. 2013 will see us at TESOL Spain and who knows where else – hope to meet you somewhere down the line.
Also in 2013, we hope to continue to expand (the resource, not our waistlines…) and offer teachers of English, and of any language or subject if they’d like to join in, a wealth of great images and ideas, and we also have a couple of surprises up our collective sleeves, so watch this space.
I’ll be back in a couple of days with a second helping of New Year’s Puddin’, for you (ideas, pictures…), but for now:
A very merry Christmas And a happy New Year Let’s hope it’s a good one Without any fear.
Fiona (with a little help from J Lennon)
Instagram is a social network app for photographers. Like Twitter, it enables users to follow the people that they find interesting as well as their friends. It doesn’t seem like the most obvious tool that could be used by English language teachers, but we think it can be a great tool in the classroom.
We live in an era where almost everything can be done by the touch of a button. You can book a table at your favorite restaurant, check if the bus is running late or order a pizza! The mobile revolution has reached our classrooms transforming the way we teach and learn. Today’s iPhone and android smartphones are multimedia studios that fit in our pockets. Users can take photos, record videos, edit and share the world around them on the go.
Apps like Instagram can help teachers guide their students to understand the world and learn a new language. The world is full of visual representations that are core to the understanding of social practices and human interaction. Our 21st century students must be aware of the choices made in a certain ad campaign to discover a possible hidden agenda or go beyond what the eyes can see. For that, we must encourage them to look critically into the world of pictures and photography.
In March 2012,ScottThornbury wrote about using photographs as a way of encouraging students to engage with the language outside of lesson time. He suggested asking students to take photos of examples of English that they see on the street between lessons, and listed questions that they could be asked in the next lesson as a source of research and discussion. Based on his idea, I asked very similar questions to one of my students who had just got an iPhone for the first time and loved playing around with the camera.
My student expressed an interest in something and I used it our advantage. She’s interested in photography and she’s going to take photos whether I ask her to or not. By being adaptable and using the content she has already created, I’m able to have an authentic stimulus in the classroom that leads us to explore areas of language that are genuinely interesting, relevant and useful to my student.
Photography can teach us a number of lessons that can be applied to the learning setting. One of them is that we can always make it better. Tell your students not to be afraid of taking a bad photo, that they will improve their skills, and that they should go ahead, try more and their pictures and their learning will be enhanced day-by-day. Hopefully this positive attitude will influence their language learning too.
Teachers can also make use of Instagram in order to use pictures for their lessons and for presentations at conferences. Tag your pictures with #eltpics and any teacher in the world will be able to use that picture for educational purposes without having to worry about copyright issues. If you are an English teacher who uses Instagram, tag your picture #eltpics so they can be added to the ever growing library of pictures for teachers.
Instagram in the classroom
Instagram can become a powerful tool if you want to explore the world of pictures in ELT. Here are some ideas:
1) Summarizing a caption in 140 characters
Many of our students are regular users of Twitter and other social forms of social media so therefore they are used to creating short texts. Combining Instagram and Twitter can be a way of helping your students to become better at summarizing an event or a narrative.
- Have your students take pictures of a topic you’ve previously assigned and upload it to Instagram and Twitter simultaneously.
- Tell them they have to come up with a caption that summarizes the story behind that particular photo in no longer than 140 characters.
2) A narrative picture sequencing
With this idea, your students will have fun and learn how to create narratives from photos taken by themselves and get engaged in a meaningful way.
- If you work with groups, create a hashtag for your class to use on Instagram such as #brunosclasslevel3.
- Assign participant numbers to your students. Student number one is the one to start the story with his picture. He must include a short introductory text to the narrative plus another tag: #photo1, for example.
- The following students have to pick up from where the previous student left off and continue the story plus the appropriate tag: #photo2, #photo3 and so on.
3) Mine is bigger!
Practice comparatives and superlatives with pictures.
- If you’re teaching comparatives and superlatives, ask your students to take pictures of a given object, person or attitude (whatever that works for you).
- In class, group your students in pairs and have them compare the pictures
- So as to practice superlatives, ask three students to come to the front and show their pictures. One of them has to describe the pictures by using superlatives.
4) I spy… something environmentally incorrect!
Help your students to become more critical thinkers by searching for environmentally incorrect attitudes and capturing them.
- Ask your students to take photos of attitudes they consider to be environmentally incorrect and post onto Instagram using a hashtag you created with them (e.g: #school_environmentallyincorrect)
- Ask them to include a text saying why they consider that certain attitude environmentally incorrect and to provide a possible solution
- Back in class, ask them to share their findings in a small group and to choose the most serious problems and report it back to class with its possible solutions.
5) There’s beauty in trash
What happens to an object before it is thrown away? Get your students thinking about waste and the trajectory it has made until it reached the bin.
- Get your students to take photos of objects that have been thrown away that triggered their curiosity as to what might have happened before it was tossed away.
- Have them upload a set of photos on to Instagram under a commonly decided hashtag (e.g: #beauty_in_trash2012)
6) Cliché hunt
Just like every popular service, Instagram inevitably has it’s clichés. If your students are active Instagram users, they may enjoy this activity.
- Ask your students what they understand by the word cliché.
- Once you have checked their understanding and given them similes and connected words (e.g. stereotype, tired, lazy, unoriginal etc), ask them to create a list of the kind of photos that a lot of people upload to Instagram.
- Once they have finished, compile their lists onto the board.
- After getting feedback, ask them to have a look at their own Instagram images and find their own clichéd photos.
The Practical Stuff
At the time of writing,Instagram is an iOS and Android app only. The app is only designed for smartphones, however there are free apps you can use on the iPad such asinstaflow which enables you to view your and others’ pictures. It is only accessible on computers via websites such asink361.com, statigr.am/ orweb.stagram.com.
As with any web service not designed specifically for ELT, there is always the risk of inappropriate content and advertising. In general Instagram are good at blocking obscene or explicit material, but there is a lot of spam advertising at the time of writing. It would be good to make your students aware of this if you choose to use it.
And remember to tag your Instagram photos #eltpics!
Creativity is often cited as one of the 21st Century skills we need to be teaching our students. Being creative seems to be an inherent part of what we think helps us to be good teachers. But why is creativity so important in language classrooms? And what exactly do we mean by creative thinking skills? I’ve run a number of workshops and training sessions recently which look at these questions and explore how we can nurture a culture of creativity in our classrooms, demonstrating practical ideas for exploiting images, video, poetry and online tools, and looking at the use of frameworks to encourage learners to actively and creatively engage in the learning process.
I like to think that the materials I write can act as a springboard to encourage teachers to be creative in their teaching and allow learners opportunities to be expressive with their language. Several of the ideas I use mention the wonderful ELTpics as a resource, so we thought it would make sense for me to write them up for you here.
1 A Story in Five Frames
This idea was inspired by this website: Five Card flickr stories
Put students into small groups and set them up to play a round (or two) of Five Card flickr. Students work together to create stories by choosing from five random pictures selected from Flickr. The random nature of the selection ensures that students put their creative thinking hats on, and you’d be surprised at what they can come up with. Obviously, if you wanted to focus on specific language, you might look at narrative tenses, or useful language for telling stories (e.g. time linkers: as soon as, by the time, during, while, etc. ) Or story-telling discourse markers like: In this story….Before long…All of a sudden…Anyway….In the end etc.
The same activity works well with ELTpics. Get your students in groups to choose pictures from ELTpics to make short stories. You can make it into a game by getting students to choose the first picture and a title, before passing their story to the next group, who write the beginning of the story, and pass it to the next group who continue the story etc. The group with the best story at the end win some chocolate.
2 Getting Emotional
This idea uses some ‘emotional pictures’ as a prompt for speaking and then poetry writing.
Choose some pictures from the emotions set on ELTpics. I particularly like these ones: Photos taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics by @sandymillin @VictoriaB52 @dfogarty @acliltoclimb, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial licence, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/
Ask the students the following questions:
What emotions do you think this person is feeling?
Why do you think the person feels like this?
It’s a good idea to try and include a few ambiguous photos here, so that students have something to say. They may disagree with each other
Tell students that actually there are only six basic emotions, which are recognised by all humans by their facial expressions. Can the students guess what the six basic emotions are? (Answer at the end of this post)
Get students to talk about situations in their lives when they have experienced any of these emotions, e.g. a time when they were surprised, happy, or angry etc.
Now, it’s time to look at the poems. When I do poetry with students, I like to take them out of the classroom, maybe to a park, or garden, or somewhere where they can breathe fresh air and feel inspired. First of all, I get students to think about the different senses; what can they hear/see/smell? This can bring up a lot of interesting language (especially if you’re sitting in a London park!).
Using some of the language and ideas, I get students working together to choose an emotion and write a poem following a simple framework. Here are a couple of poems that my Intermediate students wrote:
What I love about this activity is that by giving students the framework and a bit of creative inspiration, you enable them to come up with something really special. Most of my students have never written poems before coming to the class, let alone written a poem in English. It is a hugely confidence-boosting activity. And sometimes the results are spectacular. I like to read the poems aloud too and work on rhythm and stress patterns.
‘Poetry is important because it makes us think, it opens us up to wonder at the sometimes astonishing possibilities of language’ – John Burnside
3 A Museum Of Me
This last idea was inspired by a museum exhibition which ran a while ago at the Oxo Tower Wharf called ‘A Museum Of Me’. Visitors were asked to become a part of the exhibition by writing about their dreams, hopes and other secrets and putting their ideas into a tin, or adding them to the exhibition, and reading what others had written.
Go to ELTpics and choose a few pictures which you think say something about you, or your life. Put the pictures into a mosaic maker like this. So, what do you think these pictures say about me? (Answers on a postcard, please)
Image made using photos taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics by@melgarrish @asalinguist @antoniaclare @worldteacher @sandymillin @thornburyscott, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial licence, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/
Show the collage to the students and get them to guess information about you and your life. I often use this activity at the beginning of a course, when meeting with a new group of students. It’s a great get-to-know-you. The obvious follow-on is to get students to make their own collage. Here, you can stick with tradition; give the students a load of magazines, scissors and glue (we are ELT teachers, after all) and get them to cut out pictures that mean something to them, and make them into a poster collage. Or, if you want to involve them in some digital literacy at the same time, just send them to ELTpics and let the mosaicmaker do the rest. (For more ideas similar to this one, see our earlier post Could be, might be, must be… )
I strongly believe that creativity is at the heart of real, genuine learning. We can teach students grammar, CEF statements and skills objectives, but if we fail to engage students’ creative processes, then the real learning is likely not to be there.
If you’re interested, I have made a Scoopit Magazine with various teaching ideas and articles relating to creativity and creative thinking here:
Antonia Clare is a teacher, trainer and materials writer whose special interests include creativity and the use of video and new technologies in ELT. She has taught and trained in many countries around the world, including Italy, Spain, Hong Kong, Portugal, Poland and the UK and is a co-author for Language-to-Go, Total English, English in Common and the award-winning series Speakout (published in partnership with the BBC).
P.S The Answer: The Six Basic Emotions are: anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness and surprise (Speakout Intermediate p68)
Well. Two years. It’s ELTpics second birthday!! And that means Take a photo and… is a year old! A whole year…. So, to celebrate, for the next month there will be a special post each week, three written by Special Guest Stars
The first of those stars is, as A-Listers go, probably ELT’s answer to Meg Ryan in her heyday (a dark-haired, Texan Meg Ryan) with all her bounce and contagious optimism. Let’s face it, anyone who has been with this lady with her brilliant smile and amazing energy (ELTpics set this week, by chance) is likely to place the same order: ‘I’m having what she’s having…’. As the giver of free webinars every Friday, come rain or shine, an integral part of eConsultants, the creator of The 30 Goals Challenge… her achievements speak for themselves.
You may be familiar with the euphemism, “Kick the bucket,” which is another way of saying someone has died. Now, you might be wondering how such a morbid topic would make such a powerful and engaging lesson for learners. From this idiom, evolved a custom or practice that my students living in Germany told me must be American and this custom is the bucket list. When I first introduced this activity to my students, they had never heard of it and that is where ELTPics comes in. A bucket list is simply a list of things you want to do before you die (UrbanDictionary).
Introducing the Topic
In order to introduce this topic, show students a few pictures representing things you would include in your bucket list and have them guess what activities the pictures could represent. Can you guess from the pictures below what is on my bucket list? Whoever guesses right gets to tell me what kind of Roscothepugpic I should add next to the ELTPics pool.
Discussion and Tasks
After this discussion, have students quickly jot down items to include on their bucket lists but ask them not to show anyone, yet. Then encourage them to search through the ELTPicssets to find pictures that represent three of these ideas. Instruct learners to use their mobile devices or laptops to go to the #ELTPicswebsite and browse through the themed sets. Let them know they might find their activities listed under various categories. By browsing through the sets the learners are categorizing the vocabulary and associating the vocabulary with various images which is very effective for learning.
Pair or group students and have them play the same guessing game. Give them time to share their lists with each other and discuss their lists. A lot of language will naturally emerge from sharing their lists. I walk around during this time and take notes for group feedback and also to bring up during our class discussion.
Now it is time to regroup and have a whole class discussion. I ask my students to share the most interesting or surprising item they discovered on their partners’ lists. I write these as I want to statements on the board and also write down any vocabulary or phrases that emerge during the discussion. We also review any grammar structures that we come across. You can see what my board looks like below. I have horrific handwriting, but you can get an idea of the very interesting ideas my students in Germany came up with. The best part of the discussion are the personal stories and reasons behind their choices. I learn a lot about my students from this lesson. From this specific class, I learned about heliskiing and one student also shared how he wanted to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro because he was born in Africa but lived in Germany most of his life and had never been back since he was a child. Climbing the mountain would be a symbol of him visiting his birthplace. I have repeated this lesson again and again and my students really enjoy it. They learn about culture, each other, and it is a lesson they can apply to their lives.
Taking it Further
I like to encourage my students to share their lists online. This way they continue to use the language outside the classroom. Students can read other bucket lists and watch videos at the Bucketlist.org community or help others accomplish their bucket lists in thiscommunity.
Another idea is to have a follow-up class where students share items they already accomplished from their bucket lists. You can either have this lesson straight away or give them till the end of the semester to encourage them to either share something they accomplished from the past that would have been on the list or for the very brave to try and accomplish by that class date. I believe everyone has thought of what they would like to accomplish or do before they pass away. Have students share videos and pictures of one of these accomplishments and reflect upon how they felt about the experience in a video or Pecha Kucha like presentation. They can add these images and videos to the ELTPics collection. Here’s a recent picture I added to the collection of me riding an elephant in Thailand which was on my bucket list.
Normally I introduce our guest posters, but on this occasion the post includes a photo and bio at the end , so there is little for me to add apart from saying it is a genuine pleasure to be able to offer you the ideas below, the timing of which is perfect, and to say THANK YOU to….. Sue Lyon-Jones….
Take a photo and…. cultivate parsnips with it, by Sue Lyon-Jones
Image made with BigHugeLabs Mosaic Maker using photos taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics by @mrsdkrebs, @aClilToClimb, @sandymillin (x3), @teacherphili, @pysproblem81, @elt_pics (x2) used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial licence, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/”
In the wake of the Diamond Jubilee and the UEFA cup, and with the 204-nation-strong summer Olympics just underway, I thought patriotism might be an interesting topic to explore with students for those amongst us who are brave enough to venture into parsnips territory… parsnips being an acronym for politics, alcohol, religion, sex, narcotics, -isms (and/or Israel) and pork, in case you didn’t know
With that in mind, here are a few ideas that could be used with Intermediate level learners in an unplugged conversation class.
Age group Level
Adults and older teenagers Intermediate +
Taking part in group discussions
To practise using polite phrases used for expressing agreement and disagreement
To listen and respond appropriately to questions
To respect turn-taking in group situations
To use and understand non-verbal cues
To explore a range of differing viewpoints about patriotism
To encourage students to reflect on and critically examine their personal view of patriotism
To consider ways in which patriotism might be regarded as a force for good
To discuss ways in which patriotism and/or nationalism can be used to mislead, manipulate or oppress
To consider and explore differences between patriotism and nationalism
To discuss strategies for guarding against those who seek to misuse patriotism
Make sure your students have bonded as a group and you know them really well if you are thinking of using these activities, and proceed with caution if you have asylum seekers or refugees in your class who may have fled from situations where they were being oppressed or victimised by others, in the name of patriotism or nationalism. Even if you think you are on safe ground, I would still recommend checking that all your students were happy to discuss the topic before beginning the lesson, and arrive prepared to do something else instead if needs be.
Pre-task activity 1
Explain to learners that they will be debating a controversial issue in today’s class, to practise taking part in group discussions. Elicit polite expressions and phrases that can be used to interrupt the flow of conversation or express disagreement with someone’s point of view, and get students to write them on the board. Run through turn taking conventions and non-verbal cues that are used to convey information during discussions.
Pre-task activity 2
Write or display the sentence ‘What is patriotism?” on the board.
Ask learners to discuss the question for a minute or two with another student.
Give each learner a post-it note and ask them to make a note of what patriotism means to them.
Instruct students not to show their post-it note to anyone yet, and to put it away till later.
I prefer to avoid taking a “do this” or “do that” approach to mapping out lesson activities, because I think the most important factor in the equation is the learners, and what works well with one class may be entirely the wrong approach to use with another group of students. The slide show here provides some suggestions that can be adapted to suit most contexts.
I’d probably start off by displaying slide three, and asking learners to discuss it with the person next to them before feeding back to the whole class. As it’s a fairly provocative quote, hopefully this would spark sufficient interest to get the ball rolling; but if not, I’d repeat the process until things clicked.
Be prepared for the discussion to head off at a tangent at any point and let it do so, as long as it turns out to be a productive one. Step back, monitor and make a note of any language which emerges and how the learners interact with each other. Play Devil’s advocate to nudge the conversation back on track if it reaches a dead end or starts running out of steam. Make sure you allow enough time at the end of the lesson to run through anything you picked up on that needs clarifying, wrap things up, and give feedback. Encourage students to evaluate the lesson, and reflect on whether they enjoyed it and found it useful.
Ask learners to look at the post-it note they used for the pre-task activity. Does it still reflect the way they feel about patriotism, or not? Invite them to share what they wrote on their post-it note with the rest of the class compared to how they feel now, if they feel comfortable doing so.
Ideas for follow-up activities that students can do at home between lessons, using technology
Encourage students to create their own word clouds about patriotism, using tagxedo.
Ask students to create an electronic poster about a patriotic event or aspect of patriotism, using Glogster.
All images used in this blog are taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics and used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial licence, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/”
Sue Lyon-Jones is a freelance ELT materials developer, ESOL tutor and teaching with ICT consultant based in the UK. She publishes and writes the content for the free English lessons and ELT resources site, ESOL Courses. Her current areas of interest include teaching with web based technologies, interactive materials development, educational games, mobile learning, and Dogme ELT.
Note: This article by Sue Lyon-Jones originally appeared as a guest post on take a photo and… The eltpics ideas site for teachers, and is licensed under a Creative Commons, Attribution-Non Commercial, No Derivatives 3.0 License. If you wish to share it you must re-publish it “as is”, and retain any credits, acknowledgements, and hyperlinks within it.