An open door…..?

The door to a new idea... (photo by @nutrich)

Welcome to our third weekly blog post, and the first of our regular Guest Blogger spots. To launch this spot, we have asked one of #eltpics keenest contributors and greatest ‘promoters’, Ceri Jones, to add one of her ideas to this collection.

Ceri is a well-known ELT writer, teacher trainer and teacher, as well as one of Wales’ finest exports. She currently lives in Cadiz, in Spain, with her partner and children, and her blog is a treasure trove not to be missed. Over to you, Ceri; take a photo and…..:

(Read Ceri’s Burning Questionnaire here. )


It’s a great honour to be asked to write a guest post for the #eltpics blog. I’ve always been a big fan of the #eltpics initiative, and was so pleased to see the photostream “coming of age” on its first birthday with more than 5000 photos and a great new space for sharing ideas for the classroom.

I’d like to introduce one of my favourite webtools for working with images: the mosaic maker.  It’s so easy to use and produces interesting collages at the press of a button. Coupled with eltpics, it’s great. Here’s an example:

'Doors' mosaic (credits below)

I made it by adding links from the #eltpics “Doors & windows” photostream and the mosaic maker did the rest. I don’t know why I like mosaics so much, I think there’s something in the symmetry that’s appealing, and I guess maybe they’re one of those formats you find all over the place  – on billboards, in magazines, online – and they have a kind of familiar yet contemporary feel to them.

I like to use them in class. If I can project them on a whiteboard, that’s great! But mosaics can work just as well as photocopies too. Maybe just one on the floor in a circle of students, or three or four per group around the class – on their desks or maybe pinned (or blutaked) to the wall. See how well the one above works in black and white:

"Door" mosaic, black & white

Here’s one idea for how to use this particular mosaic in class. I’m sure there are lots of others too. And obviously each new mosaic lends itself to a new idea, but I hope that some of the steps here are generative enough to be used with any mosaic or collection of images on a similar theme.

Step one: choose a photo …

Ask the class to look at the mosaic. Is there any one door that attracts them in particular? It may be the first one to catch their eye, or they may need to look a little longer, linger on the details, before they choose.

Step two: thinking time

When you see that students have chosen a door, ask them to think about why that particular door attracts or interests them. Do this quietly and individually, letting each student work at their own pace. After a few seconds of thinking time, give the student a slip of blank paper – not a page, just a thin strip, to emphasise that they don’t need to write a lot, they’re just writing a quick note – and ask them to quickly jot down a few thoughts. (This can mean quite a lot of monitoring in a large class – one way around this is to write the prompt at the top of the strip of paper.)

Step three: micro writing

I go round the class encouraging the fast finishers to write more, to stretch themselves, maybe nudging the slower students with prompts, leaving the thinkers alone to gather their thoughts, trying to allow everyone the chance to write something. I use micro writing tasks a lot to generate ideas and scaffold speaking tasks, especially with multi-level classes.

As the students are writing I often pick up a text by a fast finisher and read it out to the class. In this case I’d ask them to guess which door is being described. My rationale here is to provide a model for the weaker/slower writers, but also to give feedback to, and stimulate, the faster/stronger writers. As I read out the mini texts I paraphrase or correct if necessary – and when I hand the paper back to the student ask them to check what they wrote and to write another text. I might repeat this two or three times before drawing the writing stage to a close.

Step four: speaking

Once you’re happy that all the students have chosen a door and are confident enough to be able to explain why they chose it, collect the strips of paper from all the students. Ask them to work in small groups. Ask them to explain which door they chose and ask their partners to guess which door it is. To round up ask for a show of hands for the most popular doors and the most popular reasons for choosing them.

Step five (optional) : redrafting

If you want to, you could return the slips of paper to the students at this stage and ask them if they want to change anything or add anything to their notes. If they hadn’t written in full sentences earlier, ask them to do so now, working towards a redraft of their initial writing. Often coming back to their writing, they will want to rethink and reshape what they’ve written.

Step six: bring it closer to home

To round off, ask the students if any of the doors look like doors they know in the real world, and if they do, where they are and what significance they hold (if any) for the students. This stage can throw up interesting conversations.

And a seed for another lesson … please help it grow!

If you are one of the photographers, please leave a comment with the story of your door (I’ll add mine in a comment box). We could use these in class too as a follow up task. Students could read your stories, match them to your doors and then made make a story of their own. (If you search on google images for door + book cover the results can be quite interesting and are a starting point for a whole new lesson plan … but I’ll leave that one to you 🙂 )

And, of course, if you have any interesting photos of doors, please add them to the eltpics “doors & windows” set!

Oh, and here are the credits for the doors, starting from the top left

Row 1 – @asalinguist, @aClilToClimb, @cerirhiannon, @asalinguist

Row 2 – @theteacherjames, @nutrich

Row 3 – @europeaantje, @antoniaclare, @mamalarut

Row 4 – @aClilToClimb, Jane Arnold, @nutrich, @aClilToClimb

35 thoughts on “An open door…..?

  1. really like this idea – I always give my students thinking time before asking them to speak about topics, especially with younger learners (teens) given their overwhelming desire to not look stupid in front of their peers. Writing little bits rather than huge passages is also something I do to develop writing so this is an activity I’ll definitely be using! Thanks, Paul

    • Hi Paul, yes, as I’m mainly teaching teens at the moment, I had them very much in mind for the plan. Micro writing for scene-setting, ideas generation, a “buffer” between the students and their shyness, confidence building as writers, working on redrafting – it just makes so much sense 🙂

  2. I love the mosaic maker too! I’ve been using it all summer, but what a brilliant idea for using it for #eltpics sets. I hadn’t realized you could just put the URL for a set and get a ready-made mosaic. Very awesome use of two great resources. Thanks, Ceri, for sharing it with us!


  3. Lovely lesson ideas Ceri. I’m so pleased you chose this set too – it’s one of my favourites.
    The Two French Doors….(antonia’s story)
    I was really taken by these old wooden doors as I wandered around the beautiful, French village of Aigne (Languedoc, France). It was late spring, and we were driving up to the historic Cathar village of Minerve, but this sleepy artist’s village is en-route ( We’d already swum and enjoyed a fresh baguette picnic at the icy waterfall ‘La Source’, just outside the village, but we couldn’t resist a quick pause here too. There’s one bar, with the customary old French men sitting and smoking outside. The mix of pastis and smoke trails behind you as the narrow winding streets snail around towards a secret central square, where the houses are draped with geraniums and sweet-smelling jasmin. There’s a magical silence about the place (or at least there was until we arrived with two chattering young Italian boys, who had discovered how the streets would echo their excited voices and footsteps). The village is home to local artists and sculptors, who often sit outside on their doorsteps as they work. One artist was carving fish and other animals into the ancient stone on the outside of his studio. As you walk around the village, many of the doors are open…

    • What a beautiful story! Thank you 🙂
      You’ve reminded me I have to post mine too.

      The door to the alcazar ( Ceri’s story)

      This door is the door to the old Arab fort in Jerez, a town not far from where I live in Western Andalucia. We were there on a warm late autumn afternoon last year. The outside looks very plain and austere, but inside the doors there are gardens and fountains and pools and fruit trees. The trees were heavy with pomegranates and olives and everything in there is so photogenic: keyhole arches, star-shaped skylights letting in shaft of dusty sunlight. I took a lot of eltpics that day!

      • Hi Ceri
        Didn’t know about eltpics. Thanks for a great post, a lovely story, and letting me know about the mosaic maker – great!

  4. Pingback: Take a photo and … | close up

  5. Love the pics and now off to upload some from China… they’ll be my first #eltpics !!!

    Cheers, Brad

  6. We were walking, hands in our pockets, kicking pebbles and dust, feeling just plain bored. No money to go to the shops, too hot to do anything, and, boy, what we would have done for an ice cream!

    Then, we saw this old grey wooden window, closed but not boarded. It stood out because all around it, to the left and to the right, the windows were, even if not new, freshly painted.

    As we approached it, partly out of curiosity, partly out of our boredom, we noticed a peculiar smell. Maybe it was the heat, but we looked at each other, and we knew, instinctively, what the other was thinking…

  7. I’m just getting too old for this; seven flights of stairs and my heart is pumping like a Hogwarts train. My knees are shaking. My throat cracks. One more flight to go.

    After what seems like an eternity, I see the door, a plain door, like the rest of them in the building, but it’s one that I haven’t been so glad to see before today.

    The lift has never broken down before; at least not as far as I’m aware. But, today, as Murphy’s Law states: something that can happen will happen! I’ve got 20 minutes now to clean up, and rush out for an all-important interview. Will I make it?

    I put my hands in my pockets, feel only my wallet. The rest of them are empty. Mmmm… I reached into my rucksack, searched all the compartments, and nothing. I empty the contents onto the floor. Nothing.

    I can’t find my goddam keys!

  8. It looks like a heavy steel door, always closed, painted to match the walls on either side of it. In spite of the natural curiosity abundant in kids his age, Brian has never touched it before, even though he walks past it at least six times a day. Hard to believe, but true.

    In fact, he probably doesn’t even realise it’s there anymore!

    However, today, just when he was about to walk past it, he stopped. Faint and muted it was, but Brian heard it just the same.

    A distant moan…

  9. My photos were taken in Brussels, the city that is currently my home. For some reason, people seem to think that this city (and country) are boring, but the more places I visit, the more I find that it has some of the most beautiful architecture in Europe.

    One example is Art Nouveau in Brussels. This was an architectural style that started at the end of the 19th century. The buildings have detailed and very beautiful decoration on the outside, with unusual shaped windows and doors.

    As a fan of architecture, I decided to make the most of this opportunity, so with my great guide book ‘Secret Brussels’, I went for an Art Nouveau stroll around my neighbourhood. The pictures here are two of the prettiest doors you’ll ever see, but the one on the left is perhaps the most famous door in Brussels. In fact, it’s so famous, it’s even on the cover of my guide book!

    And what is even more incredible is that the house is privately owned. It’s not a museum and it’s not owned by the government, it’s just somebody’s house. I’d love to live there myself, but I can only imagine what it looks like on the inside.

    So if you ever find yourself in Brussels, I recommend you head to 6 Rue du Lac where you can see the house. Maybe one day you could even buy the house for yourself!

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  11. Hi Ceri,
    Love the mosaic idea and I think I might try a variation of it for my writing classes this semester. I’m thinking it could be a fun, creative activity for after their writing exams.

    My first picture was taken on a grey, cold, snowy day in Hudson, NY. There were beautiful architectural details everywhere but it was hard to get a good picture because of the flat light. And then I saw the bright splash of red against the brick and saw how it contrasted so dramatically with the black and white image next to it. The whole image seemed almost surreal and beautiful. I took the picture and then we hurried off to the warmth of coffee and baked goods.

    The second picture was taken in Cold Spring, NY on a warmer day at the end of the winter. The main street descends gently toward the river and there’s an old walkway under the train tracks. When we emerged from the tunnel, there was bright sunshine hitting the bottoms of the buildings, highlighting the beautiful old brick, the vibrancy of the colors, and the coziness of the cat soaking up some warmth.

    Both pictures struck me visually with flashes of warm color and light in the midst of the typically flat, grey Northeast winter. They felt like such brief moments of life – the ghostly image, the falling snow, the fickle cat that jumped off the sill as soon as I snapped the picture, the shifting sunlight…all so temporary but vibrant.

  12. Hello! Thanks for using my pictures, I never thought that my strange love of taking photos of doors would bring me so much fame, ahem…

    My pictures are from two different places. The beautifully coloured glass door used for the main photo at the top is the door of the house in Seville where I lived while doing my Delta course at CLIC. I shared the house with two other course participants and I remember having a really good time living there. The house is near the Alameda de Hercules, which is an area with lots of bars and restaurants, so there is always a lot going on. Down our street there was a small bar where impromptu flamenco would occur some evening. My room in the house was at the front, looking onto the street and next door lived a guy who played saxophone, so the soundtrack to my essay writing and studying was often some very smooth jazz – he seemed to love playing Miles Davis. Beautiful door, beautiful place, wonderful memories.

    The other doors are in the beautifully exotic and often very strange country of Uzbekistan, where I travelled for two weeks while living and working in Almaty, Kazakhstan. I loved Uzbekistan, but it is a nation of both beauty and disaster, rich history and oppressive poverty. If you know nothing about Uzbekistan, check out the Wikitravel page and the photos here

    The doors on the right of the second line are from a house in the ancient town of Khiva (if I remember rightly) and our yurt where we slept for two nights in the desert nearby. The yurt camp was close to an old hill fort from the days of the silk road camel trains. The fort was like a giant, semi-eroded sand castle and had stood for hundreds of years. The sun set behind the fort creating a spectacular view as we drank (bizarrely) gin and orange juice with a group of travelling middle-aged French people by a campfire. Later they decided it would be a great idea to start jumping over the fire, which provided a comedy experience, until one of them got burnt.

    My final image, on the bottom line, is from a stunning mausoleum somewhere near Buhkara, though I forget the name, where we spent significant periods of time having our photos taken with young Uzbek teenagers who were excited to meet the strange foreign travellers. We were the first Europeans they had ever met. The doors were beautifully carved and the buildings covered in fabulous tiles, which provides a significant connection with the architecture of southern Spain, where I am now. The site of ‘Moorish’ influenced art and architecture in Andalucia often makes me think about Uzbekistan and wonder if I will ever return. I hope for the best for the people over there, some of whom were lovely enough to welcome us into their house for a meal and brave enough to talk to us about their problems and criticise their president. I have wonderful memories of this trip, partly because of the beauty of the architecture, of which the doors are a significant part!

  13. What a surprise to see my door as part of this great activity. Thanks for the very useful ideas.
    See you in Cadiz or Vejer. A lot of doors still to be opened.

  14. Good morning Ceri
    I found this blog via your blog!
    I was putting the finishing touches to a seminar I gave in Bilbao last Friday when I discovered both! They both look like they will be treasure troves!
    I am writing about your blog the takeaphotoand blog and eltpics on the Cambridge ESOL Spain blog for teachers this week.
    The Cambridge ESOL Spain blog is just a baby – it started last week. I’ll be sharing tips and useful resources for teachers on it.
    Thanks to you and all the other teachers for creating eltpics!
    Anne Robinson
    Senior Presenter
    University of Cambridge ESOL Spain

  15. Thanks for choosing one of my door pictures. The one pictured here is from the Spielberk Castle in Brno, Czech Republic. Great job on this blog post–I hope the readers will enjoy it!

  16. Pingback: #ELTPICS Crowdsourcing your classroom’s visual media | A journée in language

  17. Pingback: The Burning Questionnaire: Ceri Jones | The Burning Questionnaire

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