New beginnings

Take a careful look at these photos and grab a piece of paper and a pen:

Setting your self a time limit of three minutes (get that stopwatch going..) brainstorm your answers to these questions: What do the two pictures have in common? What is the relationship between them? What story do they tell?

Have you got your answers? Now compare your impressions with a partner or two and decide on your pair/group answers. Do you need any help with language? I can help…. OK. So what were your answers? Let’s see how many good ideas we can come up with.

For the record, here are MY answers – in case you just happen to be sitting alone at a computer and don’t have anyone else to compare with.

For me, they are both almost perfectly centred, they show balance and harmony. The one on the right happens to bear the title ‘Peace’; the one on the left suggests a sense of peace, both inner and outer. They also tell the story of eltpics. The one on the left, taken by Victoria Boobyer, was the first photo to be uploaded, kicking off the eltpics resource on 18th October, 2010, whilst the one on the right, by Chiew Pang, was the 5,000th to join the collection – on 18th October 2011. Don’t you just love birthdays?

And in honour of eltpics’ first birthday, here is the first post, giving the first idea, using the first photograph.


This idea will work with any level, even with beginners if you speak their language. Choose a photograph – or show a selection and ask students to choose one as a group.

Students need a piece of paper, divided into four. Ask them to write the headings Questions I want to know the answers to, Adjectives, Nouns, and Verbs / -ing actions.

Give them four or five minutes’ thinking time (or more – you know your class) and ask them to write notes in the four boxes. Beginners can write in their own language, others can write in a mixture of languages or, obviously, in L2. To begin with, sit still – if you move around, you’ll interrupt the thinking – but after a couple of minutes, help students with language, feed in correct question forms or whole questions if needs be, lexical items and so on. With beginners, their questions can be reused later as examples of how questions are ‘built’ in English.

Here’s what my kids came up with:

Questions: What’s he sitting on? How did he get there? What’s the thing in front of him? How is he feeling? What’s he doing?

Adjectives: sad, dirty (feet), alone, not wet, calm, still, empty

Nouns: fishing rod, bamboo, cushions, mud, feet, not a stone, water, hat, net, raft, man

Verbs / -ing actions: fishing, thinking, feeling, (not) going, (not) catching, hunting, sitting, build, float, get wet

You can then have students compare in pairs, but a group discussion is better with many groups as some may feel they have little imagination. Also because ideas sometimes just kinda grow from other people’s. If you have the image on the board (blu-takked, projected, or using an IWB), brainstorm words, write them all up, share those ideas, then invite students to ask their questions for anyone to answer. Answers needn’t be true – and kids will tend to create their own truths anyway “Can’t you see it isn’t a fishing rod? It’s a bamboo thing. For cleaning swimming-pools” (I quote) etc, though adults may want The Real Story….

When you have finished language inputting, discussing, sharing ideas etc, invite students to use their nouns, adjectives etc and the answers to their questions to write something simple inspired by the photograph eg a simple poem, a haiku, a 25-40 word story…..I noticed when I did it that I didn’t need to say ‘now compare and help your partner correct any errors’; because I’d let them work from L1 to L2, they asked each other how things sounded, there was an element of pride, they wanted their story/poem to sound like A Real One. You can then upload the written pieces along with the image to a class blog or wiki, make a poster… whatever you feel.

Here are a couple of examples by Spanish (pre) teens (aged 14 and 11):

A man sitting on water. Not fishing.


He builds a raft,

cushions and wood.

Sits and floats.

To somewhere.


One sunny afternoon, I saw a man fishing. One hour later, he was neither fishing nor hunting. I saw him sitting, with mud on his feet, his bamboo net empty. Not one fish.


And by a highly eminent friend of mine (“JA”):

I am surrounded by the sea.
The sea of loneliness.
Nothing else around me.

Here, alone, I can only be
Sad and lonely
But I am still free.

Wait! What do I see?
My friend in his boat
He is bringing me tea.


If you try it, we’d love to hear how it went – and feel free to add your students’ work to the comments.



6 thoughts on “New beginnings

  1. What can I say? HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ELTPics!
    Brilliant idea for a blog, brilliant photos, if I may so, hehe. Victoria’s shot is simply wonderful. I wish digital cameras existed at the time I was travelling!
    I must admit that this blog took me completely by surprise. I had been hoping I could post the 5000th photo, and when I saw this morning that I still had the chance, I quickly took a few shots (and forsook the overdued housework), but when I saw the results, I knew it was PEACE I wanted to have the honour…not knowing, of course, that you all had planned this blog! So I counted, and hoped that I counted right! Call it intuition, if you like… 😉

  2. FM,

    A grand start to the new #eltpics enterprise …and some lovely ideas to try in class.

    It’s interesting to read your students’ ideas and poems. For me, the fisherman on West Lake, Hanoi, was quite contented and it’s a happy memory of a beautiful cycle ride around the lake – a cycle ride I did specifically for #eltpics’ first ‘theme’ Water. I was just very lucky to come across such a typically Vietnamese sight.

    It would be great to hear what other classes make of the image.

    Thanks for such a super start!


  3. Wow, this is a beautiful blog post. Two beautiful images, one anniversary, tons of great classroom ideas. Thanks for sharing. I love ELTPics! Chiew is the one who introduced me to it this summer. 🙂
    Warm regards to everyone involved,

  4. Pingback: Fishing and Ironing « Plugging the unplugged

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