It’s about Time

After a couple of weeks with longer posts, this week’s idea is shorter but equally effective (as well as aesthetic ūüôā ). It’s #eltpics co-curator Sandy Millin’s turn, so I leave you in her hands:

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(These ideas are mostly based on the ‘Time‘ set.)

Telling the Time

After teaching students how to tell the time, you could use #eltpics to revise and to push the students a bit more. Here is a collection of clock faces and other ways of telling the time (some are a little small, I’m afraid) with an assortment of different times. It should be a bit of a challenge, as very few of them are nice round numbers like “Two o’clock” or “Quarter to five”. Here are a few ways to do this:

  • Write a list of times and ask students to match them to the images.
  • Students work in pairs/small groups and go through all of the pictures working out how to say the times together.
  • One student says the time and their partner has to identify the photo it is from.

Clocks photo mosaic

1. Clock on Cathedral (@sandymillin), 2. Digital or Analogue time 2 (@SueAnnan), 3. Digital or Analogue time 3 (@SueAnnan), 4. Ariadne~The steam clock (@SueAnnan), 5. night1 (@fionamau), 6. Three extra minutes (@SueAnnan), 7. Alarm clock (@aClilToClimb), 8. Times two (@sandymillin), 9. Znojmo town hall clock (@sandymillin), 10. Jakubska, clock in Brno, Czech Republic (@sandymillin), 11. Digital alarm clock (@aClilToClimb), 12. Painted clock, Mikulov, Czech Republic (@sandymillin), 13. Flat Stanley on a clock (@mrsdkrebs), 14. Train times (@sandymillin), 15. Clockwork (@sandymillin), 16. Big Ben (@aClilToClimb), 17. Next story time (@sandymillin), 18. Guinness Time (@sandymillin), 19. Guiness time, Newcastle (@sandymillin), 20. Time gone wrong (@sandymillin), 21. Flower time (@sandymillin), 22. Clock on Rathaus wall, Chur (@vickyloras), 23. Clock with Roman numerals (@sandymillin), 24. 10:45 (@sandymillin), 25. Selling time (@sandymillin)

Dividing up the day

You could also use pictures to talk about how we divide up the day in English. The images below show morning/sunrise/dawn, noon/midday, evening/sunset/dusk and night.

  • Is this the same way you divide up the day in your language? Do you have other words for different parts of the day? (For example, in Spanish the ‘madrugada’ is roughly equivalent to ‘the early hours’ in English – about 12-3a.m.; in Czech ‘cervanky’, while not a time, is the red sky that you get in the evening)
  • What do you/your family normally do at these times of the day? Is this similar to/different from what is normal in your country?
  • What is your favourite time of the day? Why?

Parts of the day mosaic

1. Sri Lankan sunrise (@CliveSir), 2. Three extra minutes (@SueAnnan), 3. Sunset fishing (@sandymillin), 4. night2 (@fionamau)

Know your photos; know your camera

When it came to deciding who to ask to post the first guest post of 2012, the answer seemed obvious as soon as we started preparing the calendar for the Christmas post. We would invite the most prolific contributor from 2011, excluding any of the #eltpics curators. After a day counting, the list of the top ten was compiled so we could create the calendar and the name of our first 2012 guest blogger became clear….

Chiew Pang is a teacher based in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands, around 1,000km off the south coast of Spain. (You can read his Burning Questionnaire here). He’s best known for his ground-breaking blogs, in particular iasku, and is a keen photographer. I leave you in his capable hands:

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I can’t remember when it was that I first heard of #ELTPics; I think it was in an interview with Victoria Boobyer; anyway, I checked it out and I got involved with it almost immediately as the idea appealed to me. The group has progressed steadily since then, and has amassed quite a respectable collection of images. So, it was with a feeling of honour that I accepted the invitation to guest for this blog, such a natural progression of the hashtag.

I’m not sure why the number 2 keeps cropping up in my brain lately. First, I wrote Two for the price of none, then I published the double bill in iAskU, and when I was thinking of what to write, this occurred to me…

As far as I can tell, most, if not all, of the photos in ELTPics¬†have been taken by casual¬†photographers¬†like you and me, with a basic point-and-shoot camera. The essence of this article is two-fold; you may or may not need the second “fold”.

First, the lesson idea.

Enter the classroom, write P H O T O S on the board, hand a few markers around the classroom, sit down, or stand back, and watch.

You will get some funny looks until someone catches on, and start writing something on the board. What we’re doing here is basically to brainstorm words related to photos. Anything is acceptable, of course. Encourage variety; most will probably just write nouns as “photos” is a noun, but it’d be nice to have verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc.

When the pace starts to die down, ask a few students to explain the link between their word and “photos”. To vary, ask them for their opinion on someone else’s word.

That’s the first part.

Then, ask if anyone has a photo, which they themselves have taken, on their mobile phone, a pen drive, etc, to share with the class. If they haven’t, use some you have previously chosen (from ELTPics, naturally!). Beam one up. Talk about it. Or better still, hand the class over to a student – I’m very fond of doing this. Very often, teachers do all the asking with the result that the students don’t know how to structure questions! Encourage the others to ask this student questions based on the image. Take notes of emergent language to go through later! Repeat with other students.

Think of questions yourself. Throw one in every now and then to encourage them to think critically; you’d want more than just the normal ‘”Who is it?” and “Where was it taken?”

Examples:

What were you trying to capture when you took this photo? Were you successful?
What were you doing before taking this shot?
What was the weather like? The whole day?
Where was the sun?
If evening/night, what/where was the source of light?
Where was the camera (at which level)? How did you hold it? With one hand or two?
If you could take the same shot again, what would you change?
What do you like/don’t like about the photo?

Ask if there are any enthusiasts of photography. If you’re lucky, there will be some! Do they consider themselves knowledgeable on the subject? You’ll be even luckier if there are some yesses!

If the answer is positive to either of these questions, tell these aficionados to explain to the class what makes a good photograph. If not, ask the whole class what a good/bad photograph means to them. Show a few from ELTPics and ask for their opinion, why they consider it good or bad, why they like it, or not. Show a few images and ask if they think there were taken by the same photographer. Why (not)? How can they improve the shot?

As a follow-up, why not have a competition? Get your students to submit one photo each. Here’s a good excuse to start a class blog! Load them up, set up a poll and they themselves pick their favourites.

How to make the most of your compact camera

OK, now comes the second “fold”. To prepare yourself for the above lesson, you’d need to familiarise yourself with some aspects of photography: you don’t want to be caught in a situation where you don’t have a clue as to what your students are saying, do you?

I don’t consider myself an expert, but having dipped my toes in photography on and off for the past few decades, I’d like to try to pass on some of the rudiments.

First of all, there’s nothing wrong with a point-and-shoot. Try to learn its strengths and weaknesses and use your eyes and imagination to create shots you’d be proud of. A great photographer can produce sensational shots even with the most basic of cameras, but the best camera money can buy won’t guarantee you a sensational photo. Remember that it’s the carpenter, not the tool.

You’d also need to know the basic photography vocabulary, so take out your camera manual and have another look. Learn the names of the parts of your camera. Know its features. Apart from the physical components of the camera, you’d do well to know this short list of important words especially if you want to try the above lesson idea.

aperture (also referred to as f-stop): this controls the amount of light entering through the lens. Note that the smaller the f-number, the greater the aperture is, and the more light that enters. It usually has an ‘f’ displayed before a number, e.g. f2.8, f16. Generally, when shooting in bright light, your automatic will narrow the aperture down to 11, 16 or even 22 (less light enters), and the reverse will happen when shooting in low light: my present camera only opens up to a maximum of f2.8 (more light enters).

The other important thing to remember is that the higher the number the more depth of detail you will get (see below).

depth of field:¬†this refers to the range between the nearest and the farthest object in sharp focus. Generally speaking, you’d want the greatest depth in a landscape shot, but the contrary on a portrait so that the focus is on your subject, and not on the background (which will be in “soft” focus).

exposure (or shutter speed): this is the amount of time the aperture remains open. The slowest speed at which I’d recommend shooting hand-held is 1/60th of a second, maybe 1/30th if you have steady hands. For slower speeds, use a tripod if you have one; otherwise, support your camera on some steady surface.

ISO: International Standards Organization. All things being equal, the lower the value, the better the clarity and quality of the image will be. Bear in mind that the lower the ISO the less sensitive will the film be to light, meaning it would need more light.

JPG or JPEG: this is the file format most of you would be familiar with, and, unfortunately, is the only type most point-and-shoot will allow you to save your photos in. Just remember that it is a lossy format, meaning it’s compressed ¬†and each time you save the file, some detail will be lost. RAW is a lossless format, and TIFF is almost lossless.

Megapixels: This is the number of pixels a digital camera can record. 1 megapixel = 1 million pixels. Contrary to popular belief, greater does not necessarily mean better. Sadly, this value has become more of a marketing gimmick than anything else.

Know your camera

So, how would knowing these terms help you shoot better photos with your little automatic camera? Well, first of all, even fully automatic cameras do give you a certain control of the variants. You can probably control the ISO, you can compensate the exposure, and you can play around with the “scene” modes, where the camera adjusts the aperture/speed according to the scene you choose, for example, beach, candlelight, or portrait. There are a fair few possibilities you should certainly play around with.

Don’t shake!

Get into the habit of holding your camera with both hands, your right hand holding the right side of the camera with your forefinger on the shutter, ready to shoot. Support the bottom of the camera with your left hand. Make sure your body is stable: stand with legs slightly apart, feet flat on the ground, not on tiptoes! If doing frog’s eye (see below), lie down flat, supporting your hands on both elbows. You can also place the camera on a steady surface. If you want to be on a squatting level, go down on one knee, or sit down on the floor.

Right Way

Right way

Wrong Way

Wrong way

Distance from the subject

Your camera is likely to be equipped with both optical and digital zoom. There is always a trade-off in zooming. If you can move closer physically, do it. I tend to stay away from digital zoom as the trade-off is usually unacceptable. When doing close-ups using macro mode, use a tripod if possible, and when using a tripod, use the self timer to avoid shaking. Pressing the shutter manually usually involves a little shake.

Angle and level

This is one aspect of photography which a lot of casual photographers ignore. Look at the hordes of tourists taking photos and what can you notice? They’re all shooting standing up, and looking straight ahead unless they’re taking a photo of a tall structure, whereby they will point their camera upwards, or, conversely, if they’re shooting at something below them, they will point their camera downwards.

So, there you have the three angles: up, down and straight.

But, apart from the angles, the level you shoot from can make an immense difference to your photo. The three basic levels are bird’s eye (overhead shot), eye-level and low (frog’s eye). Try taking a shot using all angles and levels of the same subject, and see the difference! Or walk around one day and shoot everything at frog’s eye level. That’s my suggestion for the next set on ELTPics: frog’s eyes!

Imagine... by aClilToClimb on ELTPics

Bird’s eye

Bird’s eye (@sandymillin)

Frog’s eye, looking upwards, almost vertically (@CliveSir)

Low level angling upwards (@fionamau)

Ghosts by Chiew Pang

frog’s eye, camera on floor, angle straight

Focus

This is a bit trickier with fully automatic cameras. The idea is to have the subject in sharp focus, and the rest in soft focus. The following photo was taken at 1/320s with an f-stop of 2.8, ISO-80. Notice that the rose remains in focus while the background, in contrast, is a little softer. It’s important to focus on the subject, and click on the shutter gently. If the subject isn’t in the centre of your frame, you’d still need to focus on it, press gently, but without going all the way. The camera will register the optimum settings. Without letting your finger go, re-frame the shot the way you want, and now, click the shutter all the way.

Sweeter than wine by Chiew Pang

Framing

Try to frame in your mind what you’d like to have in your photo. Are you interested in the background, or just the main subject? Or is there something even more interesting about the subject, such as the ring on her finger, or the tattoo on her neck? Move closer, or farther. Turn more to the left, or to the right. Angle upwards, or downwards. Which format suits better: portrait or landscape? Think about shapes and spaces. Look behind the subject: would he look like he had a tree growing from his head?

Lighting

Where’s the light? Is the subject squinting? At the same time, remember that with the light behind your back, the subject’s face will be clearer, and if the light is behind the subject, it accentuates its form. Shooting subjects from behind can sometimes be very interesting. A fine example is Ian James’ photo (see below) I used for my Lonely Teacher Blues post. Observe shadows, play around with contrasts. If you want your main subject to appear darker, focus on a brighter area, press the shutter gently to get the settings before re-framing and clicking all the way (see Focus above).

The best time for day shoots are early morning and early evening, where the light is softer. The light offered by bright sunny days, contrary to what some people think, is just too harsh. Try stepping into shadows, or as I mentioned above, observe the contrasts.

I normally avoid using flash because the flash in compact cameras is just too hard at the best of times. Force the flash off, and if a tripod is not at hand, place the camera on a steady surface: chair, table, wall, floor… (see Distance from the subject above). Of course, by all means use the flash if there isn’t any choice, but just remember that the effective distance of these flashes isn’t very far. Don’t be like those people shooting in stadiums and concert halls with flashes, unless you’re more interested in seeing the heads of those in front of you.

In this image below, the camera was pointed to the sky first to get an exposure of 1/200s, f8.0; with these settings, the buildings and the tree appear as silhouettes against the brighter sky.

Remnants of the war by Chiew Pang

1/200s, f/8.0, ISO80

Try doing some black-and-whites for impact or nostalgia.

Old lady by @ij64

So, there you have it. You’re now ready not only to give a super photography lesson, but also to be more adventurous and to take even greater shots than you’ve already been doing, and all with your point-and-click!

All the above photos were taken by myself using a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS62 (unless otherwise stated), and, no, I wouldn’t mind a Nikon D7000, thank you very much ūüôā

For more samples of my photos, look in ELTPics in Flickr. For the full sets, look here.

Janus: A double-helping of New Year ideas from Sandy and Fiona

Sandy Millin: LOOKING BACK

As we come to the end of the year, many people look back over what they have done and reflect on it ready for the year ahead. How about using eltpics to prompt your students to reflect in class?

Before class

Take a screen shot from a set which has a range of pictures from different situations. In this case, they are ‘Close Ups‘, but you could also use ‘Things I Like Doing‘, ‘-ing‘, ‘Every Picture Tells A Story‘ or make your own selection of pictures and put them through the Flickr Mosaic Maker. If you don’t have a screen in your classroom, you could also print a selection of pictures.

Close ups screen shot

During class

Show the images to the students. They should tell their partner anything they can about the different pictures, using any clues they can see. For example: what time of year/day was the picture taken? Was it indoors or outdoors? What materials/colours/shapes can they see?

Now ask them to think back over the last year and look at the pictures again. I have tried to keep them as generic as possible, but if you know your students well, you can perhaps predict better the kind of pictures they will respond to. They should choose one or two pictures which bring back memories from the year.

Put the students into small groups. They should indicate to the other students which pictures they have chosen. Their group should then ask them questions to find out about the memory. You could encourage the students to take this into their senses as well, rather than purely describing the events. This word cloud could help students to think of questions to ask:

Questions and senses word cloud

Once everyone has shared their memories, students could:

  • write a diary entry from the time of their memory.
  • record a video/audio diary entry from the time of their memory.
  • choose their favourite story from the group and write it up, using the picture that prompted it as an illustration.
  • try to remember as much as they can and tell someone from another group.
  • choose a picture that wasn’t selected by anyone in the class and create a ‘memory’ prompted by it, using the word cloud to help them think of questions.

Image credits

From the close-ups set, by:

1st row: @cgoodey; @dfogarty x 4; @sandymillin x 2; @dfogarty; @fionamau

2nd row: @vickyloras x 7; @fionamau x 2

3rd row: @fionamau x 5; @pysproblem81 x 2; @sandymillin; @vickyloras

4th row: @EclipsingX x 2; @sandymillin x 3; @evaguti x 4

5th row: @cerirhiannon (all)

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Fiona Mauchline: LOOKING FORWARD

Looking back, looking forward. Image by @sandymillin

I thought for my post I’d try digitalising something I’ve done many a time with paper and magazine photos: make a glorious, personal New Year poster showing students’ hopes, plans and resolutions for the coming year.

I usually do this with a stack of magazines ‚Äď in groups, students zoom through ripping out any photos they think might be useful until there’s a pile of photos in the middle of their group. They then choose photos they’d like to use for their poster, with no limit to quantity, and after sticking the photos on a sheet of poster paper, they write a sentence, paragraph, a few words… to go with each image, explaining the hope, plan or resolution. The language is ’emergent’ in that the students will be expressing whatever they want to express, so there’s no pre-taught vocab set, but you inevitably review/present future forms, want to etc. Obviously.

The future looks bright... Image by @thornburyscott

When Sandy and I were mulling over what to do for this post, I decided to find a way to create a New Year poster using eltpics and Glogster. It worked, though as I go through the stages, I’ll drop in some tips, as it was not THAT easy ‚Äď at least for a Glogster novice like myself. I think it’s fair to assume that what I did any student could do with perhaps some technical support and creative nudging from teacher, and a little language advice at the text stage. Ultimately, it was fun, creative, engaging (I was engrossed for ages!) ‚Äď and I ended up with something rather different from what I had intended to create!

[this is where I wish I had little photos of my hands doing the different stages, like those How to (cook / sew / do origami…) books years ago] [make that someone with nice nails’ hands]

1Selecting I went through various eltpics sets such as Close-ups, Music, -ing, and Emotions looking for images that drew my attention and downloaded them. At this stage, I hadn’t planned what I was going to say, but had a vague idea of concepts like ‘travel’, ‘write letters’ (note to self: there weren’t any photos for the latter, must take one later today). I collected 25 photos and left them on my desktop.

2 Poster maker I opened a Glogster account (There’s also Glogster for Educators). Free. Now this is where it got a little tricky, as there isn’t a ‘How to make your first poster‘ tab, so ‚Äď if you’re technologically dim like me ‚Äď you wander around Glogster for a bit wondering what it’s all about and how it works. However, despite getting mildly frustrated, abandoning the project and coming back to it after a coffee, it worked out well in the end. Once you’ve set up your account, you just hit Post New Glog (sounds more like a nice festive drink, surely?)

A nice drop of Glog or will a wee dram do you? Image by @cgoodey

3 Starting your poster What you get is a what looks like a poster made of old red jeans, so you go to the top menu bar and click on Content. This allows you to select the photos you’ve left on your desktop. It’s a bit temperamental, though, so I found that it was actually easier to upload in threes or fours. When your photos are in the Content window, you can drag and drop. Once you’ve dragged and dropped all three or four, delete them from the window and go for the next few. Repeat the process.

Curiously I found that as I was dragging and dropping, I was mentally writing the texts and began to discard some images that didn’t quite allow for the same feel. For example, I had this one:

Vejer de la Frontera, Spain. Image by Jane Arnold

but the text in my mind was ‘spend more time in Vejer‘ ‚Äď which, as you’ll see, was more specific than the rest, less poetic, so I blipped it. In all I blipped 8 photos, a third of the originals. I’ve noticed that students also discard magazine images as they create, sometimes because the colours, shape or size are wrong, but also because of the ‘inner composing’ that goes on. One of the images I’d chosen refused to be uploaded, so that had to be discarded too, but I’ll add it at the end of this post to make up for it.

4 Composition Change the Background to Solid Colour (you can change your colour later, but the red jeans thing is distracting at composition stage). You can now move your images around your poster, change their size etc. You may find that, like me, you shrink some of your photos during stage 3, so you have an idea of how many will fit.

This is the stage at which it’s a good idea to encourage your students to begin to plan their thoughts/texts so they can group images a little. If they leave it until later, they’ll go nuts moving images and text boxes around and trying to get everything to fit.

5 Adding text When you have your images more or less where you want them, it’s time to add text. Go back to the Add Content button and then hit Text. Hit the Use this button several times (again, I batched them in fours) so you get several text boxes. They’ll appear somewhere around the middle of your poster and are not necessarily easy to spot if you have a dark colour there. Drag and drop the boxes towards your photos. These text boxes are fiddly until you get the hang of it, but if you select the words ‘Sample text’ so they are shaded, you’ll be able to delete them without deleting the whole box. If the shading doesn’t appear, you’ll zap the whole text box and get mildly annoyed the fourth or fifth time you do it. Believe me. By clicking on the little ABC that appears to the left of the text box, you can change font, font size, colour, go Italic, Bold etc etc. It’s worth playing around with font colour as, unless you leave your texts between photos, the images will render some colours invisible. My final poster is in pretty glorious Technicolor but I think it’s legible.

6 That’s about it. You can change the way the photos overlap, move texts and images etc as you please. I can’t see a Print button but the amount of ink you’d consume would be pretty major anyway. You can also embed all your posters on a class blog or wiki and use them as a ‘read and comment’ activity. The posters are bright, fun and personal, and at least one of my own sons is just waiting to get his hands on the computer to have a go….here’s a sneak preview of mine:

Part of Fiona's 'glog'. Image credits below.

And here’s a link to the complete glog (NOTE: WordPress blogs aren’t very Embed-friendly, and their hostility extends to ‘glogs’, so I’m giving you a link, but if you use a wiki, Blogger etc embedding is possible. Here’s a link to show you how, and many thanks to Marjana aka @mscro1 for sending it to me.)

Next week, a guest post by one of eltpics’ top contributors…. Oh, and here’s the photo I couldn’t upload:

 Photo credits on the poster: red hair Р@pysproblem81  weights Р@AnthonyGaughan   trolley-bus Р@olgabarnashova   water Р@fionamau   sunrise Р@CliveSir   coffee Р@melgarrish    Buddha Р@pacogascon    daisies Р@aClilToClimb   fireworks Р@elt_pics   parrots Р@thornburyscott    musicians Р@mrsdkrebs   Brussels sprouts Р@Alice_M   painting Р@fionamau    connected to home Р@Amandalanguage   figure and sea Р@mkofab    windows Р@nutrich