Food for thought

This week, we have another guest post. So far, most of our contributions have been from folks based in Europe (apart from Tara), so when I heard that Beth Konomoto was an avid #eltpics user, I asked her to join us here. Beth, who is Canadian (something else she has in common with Tara), is based in Japan and has been there since 2005. She works with EFL students of all ages, and is finishing up a masters in TEFL/TESL. She’s also not long started a blog, so if you’d like to welcome her to the blogosphere and give her some encouragement, you can find her at

Warning: don’t read this if you’re hungry 😉


Feeling hungry?    All images from the #eltpics food set.

I regularly use ELTpics as supplemental vocabulary and conversation practice for my junior high and high school conversation classes. The class sizes are usually small, 1-4 students, so I bring my laptop into the class. We have wifi in the rooms where I usually teach, so it makes it easy to work directly with the site. 

I usually choose a set of pictures that goes with what we are studying in the book, but sometimes for a warmup or quick activity I let the students choose what they think will be interesting based on the set titles. The pics naturally bring up language negotiation, asking questions, and asking for clarification when we brainstorm the topic, set title, or individual pic title. The pics also easily work for sorting activities.

Here are some of the ways I use the sets on ELTpics.

One really successful set has been the ‘food’ set. In the textbook we use there is a unit on food with linguistic goals for countable/uncountable nouns and “Do you have any ~?” “How much/many ~?” However, most of the food in the book is generic ‘American’ food which leaves a lot out.

I start off this lesson by using the top page of the ‘food’ set and leave the thumbnails small so that the students can see the pictures, but not very well in order to peak their curiosity. Then we brainstorm food on the board. We go back and look at the small thumbnails and try to fill out our brainstorm a bit more. 

We go through the pics in a slideshow on the flickr page and briefly talk about them. I also print out the thumbnails page and cut them up for a sorting activity. After spreading the thumbnails out all over the table, the pics get sorted into countable and uncountable and then we count what we can.

The other set that has generated a lot of discussion is the ‘-ing’ set.

Mostly, this set generates questions: who? what? when? where? why? what time? what country? 

With the pics in slideshow view, I stick a post-it on the screen over the title (I know it’s not very high tech, but it works!). Usually when we are asking questions and talking about the pics, we get the “wrong” idea about what the pic is “do-ing”. This leads perfectly into writing new titles for each pic and we try to make at least 2 different titles for each. 

Similar to the sorting activity with the ‘food’ set, we sort the pics into categories like: times of day (morning, afternoon, after school, after dinner, etc.), things we ‘have to do’ vs. things we ‘like to do’, and even more general pics we like and don’t like.  

ELTpics is a great resource for enhancing lessons that use a textbook. It makes class more personal and more connected to real people in real life!

Thanks ELTpics!

From the heart

Here's one about hearts... Image from eltpics by @AriannaBasaric

February 14th was approaching. Hm. What to do for a special Take a photo and… post? Where to find ‘the love’? Love is….  I love…..  I love eltpics? I love photos? And then the idea came. As the phrase I love images popped into my mind, so did the name of a well-known ELT person who has not only contributed photos to eltpics and supports it by mentioning it/us in sessions he gives around the world BUT has written books about using images in the ELT classroom, books such as Working with Images and The Big Picture. So I asked. And guess what? He said YES.

So, without further ado, I shall wish you all the love in the world today and every day, and hand you over to……(Valentine drumroll)… Ben Goldstein.

Heart as Symbol.     Various tasks

As we are celebrating Valentines this week I thought I’d look at symbols and icons, in particular the significance of the heart symbol. The original idea for these tasks came about when I was writing my Working with Images book. I came across the work of Iranian photographer Moza Hantoush who created a number of artistic images based around the heart. Also, a friend of mine in Barcelona Maria Molsosa was an inspiration – she has an impressive collection of heart images, some of which are included in this activity and also makes her own artistic hearts.

A     Brainstorming hearts

1  Brainstorm with learners different contexts where they might find the heart symbol, e.g. on a box of chocolates, one of the suits in a deck of cards, on most commonly on “I love…” posters, badges, flags or stickers.

You could also mention less likely contexts which feature hearts, (e.g. on the froth of a cappuccino), or those things which can be designed in a heart shape, e.g. cakes, chocolates, balloons. Hearts can be used in contexts in which there is no association with love, for example in campaigns to give blood. The heart is clearly not just a romantic symbol.

2  Brainstorm places where learners might write the symbol of a heart, perhaps as a romantic statement to somebody: e.g. scrawled on a beach (as in the image of this blog’s home page), cut onto a tree trunk, painted as a piece of graffiti on wall or a tattoo on their body or simply as a way to sign off when writing a letter or an email.

B       Hearts and words

3  Sometimes hearts have words written in them, particularly on Valentine’s Day cards or messages when hearts are used as symbols of love. Learners complete the gap fill task. Younger students might like to draw them.

hugs   love   mine   ever   me

A Be ______

B True _____

C Big _____

D For______

E Love _____ Tender

Do people send similar messages in hearts in their language? What do the class think of this custom? Sentimental? Fun? Romantic?

4  What words are associated with hearts apart from love and what mental images do these conjure up in the learners’ minds?

Ask learners what the significance of these words might be? Do they have the same associations in their first language?

(e.g beat, broken, arrow, key, gold, stone (as in “to have a heart of….”)

Show this photo from ELT Pics and ask learners to think of a suitable title:

Image by @sandymillin

(answer: an arrow through my heart)

5  Present some song titles which might include these words or others (e.g Heart of Glass, Unbreak my heart, Heartland, Heartbreak Hotel, etc.)

Ask students to picture or think of an image that could match these songs. They could design a CD cover for the song based on their image idea.

Artistic hearts

Maria Molsosa

6  Look at these different images of hearts uploaded on to Flickr/ELT PICS by Maria Molsosa. Maria goes around the world taking photographs of hearts which she finds in unlikely locations. Look at these two images of hearts that have a connection with trees.

Image A

Open heart

Open heart Image by María Molsosa

Image B

The girl who watered hearts

The girl who watered hearts Image by María Molsosa, by kind permission

Look at image A. How does the image make you feel? Why do you think the photographer called it ‘open heart’?

(Sample answer: The image is a sad, even brutal. Trees have long lives and this has been chopped leaving just a short trunk behind. The essence of the tree has suddenly been exposed like an open heart. The title ‘open heart’ could also refer to ‘open heart surgery’. In fact, ‘surgeon’ is used to refer to people who operate on human hearts and trees.)

Look at image B. In what way is this is a positive image? What do you think is its message?

(Sample answer: It could be positive because the girl is watering a tree that may bear many fruit or produce a lot of love in her life. However, the graffiti could also be asking: “Can love grow on trees?”

Moza Hantoush

7 Match these heart images with their titles. What do you think the different photos are saying about love? Which image do you think is the most striking or original? Why?

Seven Images by Moza Hantoush


Served with Love

Even when the heart stopped beating

A very special penny

With love comes pain

True inner beauty

Love is a gift

You don’t die of a broken heart


Consider the symbolic nature of other images. What diverse cultural associations does this image have? What does it mean to you, literally and metaphorically (e.g. the apple is the forbidden fruit, the record label of the Beatles but also the logo of an important computer company).

A quickie

This morning I clicked on a link that was tweeted to me by a teacher from Cazorla, a beautiful part of Jaén in the south of Spain.

Someone else from Cazorla, Jaén.

The teacher, Carmen Martínez, who goes by the twitter name of @educandoando had read this blog and had taken Paco Gascon’s idea and developed it with her students. I’ve read her blog and it has really REALLY made my day – her take on the #eltpics idea alone is perfect for Easter, or for any time of year really. Apart from that, all the ideas in the blog are fresh and creative, not an adjective you can apply to much of the mainstream education syllabus nowadays, and I love the direction in which she has taken ‘our’ (Paco’s) #eltpics activity. If you teach children, and can understand Spanish (or can get a friend to help you) I can only recommend you take a look at Escritores Tiernos.


Photo credit: Image of a deer in Cazorla by Jashir at flickr.

The Getaway

This week’s guest has provided me with a ready-made introduction 🙂 so what can I say? One of #eltpics more recent but incredibly supportive contributors, Paco Gascón is about to take you on a trip…


When I asked Fiona to post an article for the eltpics blog I had some ideas in mind I found totally original but, after going through all the stuff published, I just realized there was nothing new under the sun…

I’m a Secondary Education teacher in a state school in Martos, (South East Spain), so my target groups are made up of teens with a low/low-intermediate command of English. Most of them are mixed-ability groups that normally include some students with special educational needs, so it is important to provide assignments and activities that cater for such a wide range of abilities, motivations and interests. Pictures are valuable resources as they allow for a variety of multilevel tasks.

Lesson planning #1: The getaway

These activities – based on the eltpics Roads set – was intended for intermediate level students (15 year olds, equivalent to KS4, roughly) and was (fairly) successfully carried out a few days before the Christmas holidays. The educational objectives include:

  • Writing a collaborative narrative text.
  • Using sequence connectors to make texts cohesive.
  • Making landscape descriptions.

  • Using different ICT tools to carry out a task.

  • Valuing the advantages of collaboration and group work

Warm up : How to make an omelette

Students brainstorm all the steps to follow to cook a delicious omelette and the sequence is arranged on the board after the appropriate sequence linker:

First, we get a couple of fresh eggs

– Then, we crack them open and pour them into a bowl.

– After that, […]

– Finally, we serve the omelette very hot

This is an easy way to review connectors and arrange events chronologically.

The getaway

Two criminals have escaped from prison, stolen a car and now they are being chased by the police. They’ll try to reach the coast where a partner will be waiting on his yacht to take them away to another country. While trying to get away, they drive across different places which are shown in the pictures. In pairs, students will share a computer to type a collaborative description of this getaway. They’re shown a mosaic of landscapes and each pair chooses one of them as the setting for their contribution to the collective task. The starting out and winning post places (top left corner and bottom right corner pictures, by @cerihiannon and @SueAnnan) are provided together with the beginning and the end of our story:

Doc McCoy, a dangerous criminal who was convicted of bank robbery, broke out of Folston prison early this morning. His wife, who had stolen a sports car in a private car park nearby, was suspected to be waiting for him to get away with part of the loot she’s believed to have been keeping since her husband was jailed. The police was immediately warned, but the criminals managed to get away. Several witnesses maintain they’ve seen Doc and Carol driving fast down Southern Avenue, dashing out of town…

Now they could see the sea down there, at the end of the winding road that began to slope downwards into the waves. They knew Sascha would be round the bend, waiting for them to take them on his boat somewhere safe.

Pairs are assigned turns and a text document is opened on GoodleDocs for all to share. We’ll use the slide projector to show the photo mosaic on screen so that each pair chooses an only image that will constitute the background of their part of the story. The first ones resume the narrative at the point where it’s been left and according to their choice picture. Kids are asked to write a single paragraph including no more than four sentences and strongly advised to include sequence connectors that will be the glue that brings every chunk together into a cohesive text. They’re also allowed to look up key words in online bilingual dictionaries. Once they’re done, they pass the baton on to the next pair, who must ease the story they receive into their own landscape. It is important that the pairs are balanced and tasks are fairly distributed according to individual capabilities.

When they’ve all finished, the text will be printed and copies of it will be given out for all to read. They will also download the mosaic and open the image to re-edit it by drawing the route the couple has followed – this will ensure a full and comprehensive reading. Finally, sketches will be reviewed and corrected.


As a follow-up activity, students who wish to could brush up the collective story, polish and rewrite it, so it can be published on the class blog.

Lesson planning #2: Landscape contest

This time, landscape eltpics will be used. I created a mosaic on Adobe Flash and embedded it on a web page where students can black out images by clicking on them. There is a serious disadvantage about this format: it can not be reproduced on iphones or ipads and html5 yields similar results, but I’m afraid I’m not acquainted with this script language. If you’d like to embed this flash movie on your own website, see it here or you can just watch it here:: eltpics on flash

The mosaic will initially look like this:

Images are buttons, so students will wipe them out by clicking on them. In fact, we can switch images on and off by alternatively clicking on them:

I haven’t put this activity into practise yet, but it was thought for 2nd year secondary students (KS3 equivalent) aged 13. The educational objectives include:

– Asking and answering yes/no questions.

– Assimilating intonation patterns.

– Talking about landscape features.

– Reaching agreements in teams.

Students gather in teams of two or three people. We can use a laptop to open the swf file with the images and project them on a wall or an in-ceiling projection screen. The first group of students is asked to go out of the classroom and the rest of them choose a picture from the set (the teacher can take down picture number on a piece of paper to avoid cheating). Students are called back in and sit in front of the computer: they’ll have to find the picture their classmates have chosen by asking them ten questions, at the most, being yes or no the only possible answers. When they get the answer they have thirty seconds to discuss and decide which images to discard. They must be careful to ask relevant questions that allow for multiple discarding and not to switch off the target image; if that’s the case, their turn will automatically end and they’ll get no points at all. If they aren’t able to come up with the right image after using up all ten questions, they won’t score, either. Teams that manage to find the chosen picture will score according to the number of remaining pictures (each one will get them two points). Obviously, the team with the highest score is the winner.

Photographs authorship (left to right, top to bottom)

The Getaway panel

@cerihiannon @abfromz @JoeMcVeigh @VictoriaB52 @thornburyscott

@thornburyscott @VictoriaB52 @cgoodey @VictoriaB52 @GoldsteinBen

@Harmerj @cgoodey @abfromz @ALiCe__M @cecilialcoelho

@thornburyscott @melgarrish @ShellTerrell @ShellTerrell @SueAnnan

The landscape contest panel

@fionamau @Raquel_EFL @Raquel_EFL @worldteacher @ij64

@thornburyscott @pysproblem81 @escocesa_madrid @thornburyscott @sandymillin

@ij64 @ij64 @pysproblem81 @sandymillin @CliveSir

@thornburyscott @pysproblem81 @malusciamarelli @SueAnnan @cerirhiannon

@worldteacher @ij64 @worldteacher @cerirhiannon @thornburyscott