Happy holidays folks!

So this is Christmas; and what have you done?

To be honest, we eltpicsers have really been pretty busy – all 126 of us – and I’m feeling particularly festive and smiley because this week our blog post is a little different and a lot special, largely because it is by Victoria Boobyer. Victoria is not only one of eltpics’ top contributors with photos ranging from gorgeous to amazing, but, as one of the founders of #eltpics, whose tenacity and drive despite all odds in the last 14 months or so is not a little inspiring, she is, for me, the top of my list of ‘ELT People 2011’. Without any doubt. So I am genuinely over the moon to be able to say: Ladies and gentlemen, Victoria Boobyer…:

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Our most prolific contributor/curator @sandymillin

As you’re reading this, the chances are that you’re already familiar with #eltpics and how and why it works. If you happen to have stumbled upon this post, I’ll write a very potted history. In 2010, myself, @cgoodey and @vickyloras lived in very different parts of the world. We began sending each other images of Vietnam, Scotland and Switzerland, and taking our cameras out on a daily basis. One very late night we came upon the idea of storing these photos on flickr for other teachers to use. During the night we refined the idea of #eltpics: a collaborative Creative Commons collection of images for teachers sent by teachers via twitter. At first we changed the topic/ theme every week but recently this changed to every fortnight.

This year we celebrated our first birthday and 5000th #eltpic. The original curators were joined by the marvellous @sandymillin and @fionamau. Then there was the birth of this blog, superbly managed by @fionamau. The curator and guest posts, with ideas for using images, tie in perfectly with the collaborative ethos of #eltpics. It seems that with the blog and over 5,600 images in 56 sets we’re still going well.

#eltpics posted by the curators: @cgoodey, @vickyloras, @elt_pics, @fionamau

 We all know that this wouldn’t have been possible without those wonderful people who take their time to send us their images. So, we decided to make a little thank you gift to everyone who has ever contributed to #eltpics and also share it with everyone who works in this crazy ol’ world of ELT. 

Introducing… the #eltpics 2012 calendar!

Click to play this Smilebox calendar
Create your own calendar - Powered by Smilebox

You can download this superior calendar to keep on your computer or even print it and stick it on the fridge door.

The calendar was created using images from our top ten contributors (ie who have contributed the greatest number of images so far), the winner of our December ‘newbie’ competition (drumroll….check out the December page – is it yours?) and a selection of other wonderful images. It would have been impossible to choose the top 10 best images but we hope you’ll agree that the images that make up the calendar would grace any monitor/ fridge door! We haven’t included images from any of the curators…so we’ll add some to this post. As the most prolific contributor, @sandymillin gets a deserved place at the head of the post. I had turning the pages of a photography-inspired calendar in mind when I knocked up the music that accompanies it.  You’re welcome to mute it!

That leaves me with nothing else to say apart from thanks, as always, to the contributors, curators and users of #eltpics and happy holidays to you all reading this.

Victoria Boobyer
@elt_pics

p.s. Here’s a post about how to join in if you haven’t already.  http://goo.gl/V1xdY

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And as a closing note from all of us eltpics curators, may you have a wonderful festive season; although we’ll be here next week to close the year with you, for now wishing you “A very merry Christmas And a happy New Year Let’s hope it’s a good one Without any fear” (J. Lennon).

FM

Silent night....

What does your table say about you?

Ready for Christmas by @nutrich

This week we have another Special Guest Star. Dale Coulter, from near Reading in southern England. Dale, who is currently based in Rome, is increasingly well-known for his great blog, languagemoments, and his thoughts (and talks) on reflective teaching. Apart from his great ideas, one reason I invited Dale to write a post was because I wanted to see how a teacher who isn’t so familiar with eltpics would use the resource, and (minor spoiler alert) Dale’s chosen topic of tables has, in turn, given me an idea for a ‘challenge’: after you read Dale’s post, please tweet us a photo of your work table (or play table! remember to use the #eltpics hashtag) and I’ll upload it here and send you an invite to write about your table in the comments section (see Dale’s post for details about what to write). If, by the way, you don’t use twitter, you could leave me a link to your photo in the comments section with your text, and I’ll add it to the main area of the blog. Enough from me, over to (fanfare)…………DALE!

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I was invited to write a contribution for the ‘Take a Photo and…‘ blog and was somewhat stuck for ideas, so I took a look at some of the posts written before for inspiration. I got as far as the third paragraph, then an idea came to me. While reading “are you sitting comfortably“, I thought “where am I sitting?” – at my desk, where I normally sit when I need to do some work, check the various social networking sites I use and catch up on the latest news etc. I then went into the kitchen and had a cup of tea, at the kitchen table… do you see where this is going?

Tables

Tables: for credits, please send end of post.

1. Dining table, 2. Garden furniture, 3. Chess pieces, and a frog, 4. A feast, 5. Dressing table, 6. My home office. This is where the magic happens, or not, 7. Personalised furniture, 8. Tea for two, 9. Holiday, 10. Meeting room, 11. playing with dolls, 12. Table football

We spend an extraordinary amount of time in our lives seated at a table. How many tables are there in your life? What sort of relationship do you have with your tables? Crazy, when you think about it, how much information about someone’s life can be conjured up with this thought. The idea is to connect with your students’ lives, past and present, through their tables.

What does this remind you of?

There’s enough information in these pictures to trigger a whole host of memories and experiences. Not into table football? Never played chess? Never studied? Never been to school? Never eaten dinner?

Warmer: Give learners the question above to answer. Do it in pairs, do it in groups, do it as a class. However it works best for you.

Or, if you want to loosen the reins a bit, give them a question table:

Did you use to________________?

How could___________________?

What’s the best way to __________?

Let learners create questions and then ask them to write their efforts on the board. Tell learners to answer the ones they have something to say about, leaving the irrelevant ones.

Categories: Ask the class to put the tables into categories. This helps make more concrete links between the pictures and concepts, for example, ping-pong table and the table football table could go under ‘free time’.

Develop language: Learners pick a category they want to work on; groups brainstorm vocabulary; pick five lexical items to write on cards with an explanation on the back.

Contextualise: Once you have finished and helped learners develop their language (adding collocations, clarifying, correcting if necessary), distribute cards to groups, they match them to a category, then to a picture. Swap the cards until each group has done this with all the new vocabulary.

Use: learners write a ‘me and my tables‘ description, choosing the tables that reflect their life the most and using the vocabulary produced from the previous activity.

Credits: The photos in the mosaic are by (from top left to bottom right): @aClilToClimb, @sandymillin (x2) / @sandymillin (x2), @Senicko / @mrsdkrebs, @aClilToClimb, @mkofab / @sandymillin, @CeciELT, @mattledding.

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NEXT WEEK: A very special Christmas post by a very special person…..ho, ho ho.

Shopping for Cambridge Oral Exams

“I’m going to give you each a photograph. I’d like you to take turns to describe your photo to your partner, then find similarities and differences.” Or words to that effect.

Exam classes are notoriously hard to make interesting, truly useful, learner-centred and so on, so I thought that for this week’s post, I’d tackle this aspect of ELT. I’ve chosen to use images from the Shopping and shops set, as they often seem to appear in the examiners’ kit. The ideas are variations of old favourites, too ‘favourite’ for me to know whose ideas they were originally, so I apologise for not crediting.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

Choosing the images

As I said, I’m using Shopping here, but there are many others that would do, including Working week. As you look through the photos, you may see some you really like, but be careful – mentally brainstorm the vocabulary for what you can see; are your students going to struggle too hard to come up with the words? Can they see a sufficient number of things they can describe? Look at this picture. I really like it, but had to discard it – can you see why? Try brainstorming it yourself.

by @sandymillin

The next stage of choosing is to cover each side of the images and decide if one side is easier to describe than the other (you’ll be chopping the images in half – I use Paint). Have a look at this photo. My initial reaction was Oh yes! Love this! So British!

by @Amandalanguage

But let’s cut it in half. The student getting the lefthand side might not have too many problems (flowers, boxes, blue plastic, house, windows, trees….)

On the left...

But what about the student with the righthand side? How can (s)he show range of vocabulary?

...and on the right

brussels sprouts, parsnips, turnips, brick wall, broccoli of some kind, metal post, something like dirty carrots…….. Perhaps not. They’d be ok with onions and vegetables, but the panic button would probably be hit.

First idea: Matching (needs three photos – or six if you think pairs can cheat by looking over the shoulders of neighbouring pairs)

Create two mosaics using the halves of three photos (three left sides, three right sides in a different order). Try to ensure the difficulty level is similar. I used Paint to cut, stored on flickr and then used the mosaic maker to create the mosaics. You can print and laminate sets (ie pairs) or just keep the digital version.

By @pysproblem81

and

By @pysproblem81

Brainstorming

Give half the class the left mosaic and half the class the right mosaic. Put students in pairs and ask them to brainstorm vocabulary for each image. Remind them to work quietly so the other half of the class can’t overhear/cheat.

Pairwork

Put a ‘left’ with a ‘right’. Tell students it’s important that they do NOT show each other their mosaics until after they have worked with all three photos. One student in each pair chooses a photo to describe to their partner for their partner to guess which half to match it with. They should describe the picture in as much detail as possible while their partner listens silently. (The silence is important at this stage). When they have finished, they swap roles with the other student choosing one of the remaining images to describe. This time, allow the listener to ask questions. They do not compare their photos yet but ask them if they felt different, being able to ask questions or not, and if so, how so.

After a show of hands ‘Who thinks they’ve matched the halves?’, ask them to work with the third image, but instead of describing, they should ask and answer as many questions as possible to work out what the complete picture looks like eg I can see some oranges on the right – is it a place selling fruit? Are there any bananas in your part of the picture? Are they any people buying fruit? Etc.

When they’ve run out of questions and have worked together for two or three minutes, students show each other the mosaics.

Aftermath

Ask students to talk about where they think they photos were taken and why, what time of year they think it is, what any mystery objects in the photos might be etc. Remind them that if they have no idea, it doesn’t matter – saying ‘ I don’t think it was taken in Mexico because….’ is better than saying ‘I don’t know’.

As a nearly-final awareness activity, ask them to the three different ways of working with the pictures (1 describe/listen silently 2 describe/ask a few questions 3 ask and answer questions as a dialogue). Tell them to consider which way was best for showing different structures, vocabulary, communication strategies etc, which way made them feel more supported or more vulnerable etc.

Then really finally, brainstorm the language they used, the language they felt they needed but didn’t have and discuss it as a class, focusing on phrases like ‘In the background…’, ‘I’m not sure what it is, but it looks like/could be etc… and reminding them that there’s more to one of these photo tests than ‘In my picture I can see…’.

Second idea: Picture dictation (Two photos, or four if you think neighbouring pairs can see each other’s photos).

By @chiasuan

Select two photos as before (again avoiding photos with obscure vocab) and make two copies of each, cutting one in half either literally or using Paint, as I have.

Stick the half you want to keep on plain white paper, ranged left or right as appropriate. You can also get students to choose their own pictures from eltpics and prepare this at home, in which case they need only choose one and prepare it. It takes less than five minutes. (Though it’s always wise to have some of your own as back-up in case ‘the dog ate my homework’.)

Let’s call your photos A and B. In each pair, one student has a complete photo A and a half photo B. The other student has a complete photo B and a half photo A. Ask them to look at their half photos, and think of three or four questions they’d like to ask their partner about the missing content. Here are some more half pictures and links to the complete versions (at the end of the paragraph) – see if you can imagine what’s missing before you look, though, and note down three or four questions you’d want to ask a partner. (here and here)

By @dfogarty (above) and @eannegrenoble (below)

When they are ready, they take turns describing the missing bit of their partner’s half picture so that it can be drawn. It’s a good idea to ban questions from the listener at the start then allow them after a few minutes, and afterwards discuss the difference, as with the previous idea. I’d also suggest a final language focus stage as well, so the student has a language reference to take home, rather than just a drawing of debatable quality.

Fiona

Next week… a guest post!

Learners take control

This week’s contributor is perhaps not a frequent eltpics contributor but IS a frequent, and highly creative eltpics user: Tara Benwell. From Toronto in Canada, Tara is a writer – a novel as well as materials – social media director, and Site of the Month editor for TEFL.net and EnglishClub.com. She’s also in charge of admin for MyEC, the social network of EnglishClub.com and hosts the MyEC Monthly Writing Challenges. So. Drumroll and over to Tara…..

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I’ve admired the eltpics team from the very beginning, and I had the pleasure of interviewing Victoria for TEFL.net back when there were only a few hundred pictures in the flickr collection. Up until a few weeks ago, I thought of eltpics as an ingenius site developed by teachers for teachers. Then one day when I was hunting through my personal photos trying to find the perfect photo for a MyEC blog challenge, I suddenly had a thought. English learner bloggers would love eltpics! Why not introduce them to this collection? Before I went ahead, I asked permission from the team. Would it be okay for our online students/teachers to use eltpics too? The team was quick to confirm that the collection was open for all types of educational use (non-commercial), and I wondered why I hadn’t asked before. Since then, I’ve put eltpics to great use on the social network for English learners and teachers, and I’ve hardly logged in to the clip art site that we subscribe to. What do we do with ELTpics on MyEC? Two words: Wordless Wednesday.

WHAT IS WORDLESS WEDNESDAY?

Wordless Wednesday is a fun exercise we’ve been doing on EnglishClub for a couple of years. It was inspired by the official Wordless Wednesday group. These are bloggers who give themselves a rest each Wednesday by uploading a photo instead of writing a post. These bloggers share their photo posts on a hub blog in hopes of attracting a wider audience of readers. I stumbled upon the official Wordless Wednesday group via my high school locker partner’s blog, imadeitso.

The Wordless Wednesday premise is simple, but like other online challenges that we join as a community, we adjusted it slightly to make it useful for language learning. Each Wednesday I upload an image to my MyEC blog. I invite learners (and teachers) to write a caption in the comments. The winning caption is added to the post the following Wednesday.

While it started out as something I did on my blog, the members quickly caught on and began creating their own Wordless Wednesday posts. This is the way MyEC works, and it’s the best part of blogging in a community. Members are encouraged to submit their Wordless Wednesday post to the hub blog where the original idea came from.

Asking online students/teachers to upload photos to a website can be a bit tricky, however. The last thing we need is more illegal pictures of Brad Pitt! From the beginning of MyEC, we’ve worked hard to encourage members not to steal images from the Internet. We created a lesson on plagiarism, we educated our most active users about artist’s rights, and we began moderating our photo gallery. Our moderators are volunteer English learners and they take their job very seriously. However, it can still be tempting for members to use images outside of their own photo folderS.

CREATIVE COMMONS

Introducing MyEC members to eltpics presented the perfect opportunity to teach them how to use Creative Commons sites. In fact, with thousands of images available on eltpics, there is almost no need for members to go outside these sets, at least for the purpose of Wordless Wednesday. After months of sharing photos from my personal photo folder for Wordless Wednesday, I was ecstatic to suddenly realize that I had thousands of images to choose from. I’ve used images from the eltpics sets for the last three weeks and will continue to use them for future posts. I hope the members who participate in Wordless Wednesday will give it a try too.

SHOW STUDENTS HOW TO USE ELTPICS

If your students are blogging (or thinking of blogging), I highly recommend showing them how to use eltpics.

  • introduce them to the concept of Creative Commons
  • help them understand that plagiarism is serious
  • encourage them to start blogging
  • teach them how to credit a photographer and site
  • introduce them to twitter (in order to credit the photographer properly it may be necessary to credit the photographer’s twitter account)

CREATE YOUR OWN CAPTION CONTEST

If your school has a blog, please join in on Wordless Wednesday. First, show your students how to use ELTPics. Then, invite students to write captions for the photos that they picked (open it up to teachers as well). Finally, teach them how to submit their posts to the official Wordless Wednesday site. If you share one blog, put one student in charge of the Wordless Wednesday post each week. It’s up to you whether or not you want to work on corrections with your learners. You can also send your students over to MyEC so they can take part in our community fun!

Learners Can use ELTpics to

  • add images to school projects and presentations
  • add visuals to school newsletters
  • add photos to personal or school blogs
  • participate in online challenges (such as our Motivational Poster challenge)
  • Image by Phil Bird (@pysproblem81)

    For information on Tara’s novel, see http://www.tarabenwell.com