Using Pictures in Class

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A treasure trove of ideas for using pictures – Davinna

What a great wealth of ideas and links! Sue

What is ELTchat?

#ELTchat is a weekly, (more or less) hour-long conversation which takes place on Twitter every Wednesday at 7pm BST (20:00 GMT/UTC).

On Saturdays one of the moderators puts up a blog post where
followers can propose topics for the following Wednesday. Once the
moderators have reviewed the topics they create an online poll and #ELTchat followers are asked to vote.

Summaries and Transcripts Index
At the end of the chat someone ‘volunteers’ to make a Summary of the discussion, the moderators providing the Transcript.

Contributors to the ELTchat Using Pictures in Class on 11th May 2016 :

Sue AnnanSue Annan
Davinna Artibey
Jack BarberJack Barber
Teresa BestwickTeresa Bestwick
 Angelos BollasAngelos Bollas
Marisa Constantinides Marisa Constantinides
Glenys Hanson
Hada LitimHada Litim
 Tammela PlattTammela Platt
 Sandy MillinSandy Millin
 David ReadDavid Read
Marjorie RosenbergMarjorie Rosenberg
Colin SageColin Sage
Mildred SamanoMildred Samano


  1. I love showing the students a picture and asking them to ask at least 10 questions about it. Hada
  2. I like to cut up pictures where students have to mingle to find their other half. Sue.
  3. Portrait interviews! Students play characters in a painting and improvise answers. Great for language + rewarding to look at art. Colin
  4. Show pictures and ask students to create a story out of them. Hada
  5. A picture and a caption a day. Hada
  6. Take a picture and make a meme. Sue
  7. Students choose 3 small pictures from a pile that are connected to their life in some way. Then explain the connection to their life in pairs. Colin
  8. Use large wall pictures so all the class with their heads up and collaborating with each other. Easy for the teacher to intervene too. Glenys
  9. Use a picture of a house (a room, a street, a beach…) and build a picture of the people who live there. Sue, Glenys
  10. Jigsaw puzzles with pictures. Do a quiz, right answer gets part of puzzle until they know what it is. Sue
  11. I like picture dominoes – pile of pictures for students to pick up and continue a story. Marisa
  12. In Jill Hadfield’s book Intermediate Communication Games Ch 9: Sci-fi dominoes / Fairytale dominoes – but can make your own. Marisa
  13. Murder Mystery. Draw round someone’s body and lay
    it out on classroom floor. Put some clues round the class and they
    speculate what happened – great for past modals of speculation (but
    GLOOMY!!) Colin, Sue, Marisa
  14. Predict the story in the picture. Mildred
  15. Prediction can be used in TBL lessons – students write the story or dialogue FIRST and THEN hear or read it. Marisa
  16. Get groups to blutack their pictures to different boards & tell their story to other groups. Glenys
  17. Questions Please – Show pictures from a story,  students ask LOTS of YS/NO questions to discover story – then they tell or write it. Marisa
  18. Once they’ve told a story in the Present, remove the pictures and get students to retell in the Past. It feels psychologically past that way. Glenys
  19. I use #ELTpics of energy types to elicit discussion with my scientists. Then they debate pros and cons. Sue
  20. Also use a lot of pictures with my IELTS students to generate content points on a specific theme. Hada
  21. And build on other topics of course EAP – ESP whatever. Marisa
  22. Draw round someone’s body and lay it out on classroom floor. Depending on age/level, they could do comparatives…measure themselves against the outline. Colin, Teresa
  23. Use pictures from the urban landscape for language discussions, e.g. Funny t-shirts from China, cute signs or advertising signs  Sue
  24. Hilarious texts can be produced on the basis of images used for safety from something – government drawings often confusing. Marisa
  25. Pictures of funny toilet signs add fun to lessons. Students can guess where they came from too. Sue
  26. Could also translate the bad English photos people post there’s loads at Teresa
  27. Use pictures of steps in a recipe and write the recipe. Hada
  28. All “how to” images work well and are easy to find on the internet. Glenys
  29. There’s an activity somewhere of ordering the relationship in pictures – when do they argue/get married? Teresa
  30. Put out a number of images in a version of Kim’s Game (look for 30” and then remember as many as you can). Marisa
  31. Using holiday snaps to make little e-books is good for students to take home. Sue
  32. Start with an image of a person and draw their home. Sandy
  33. Students find images to accompany a story. Marisa
  34. Giving students a set of pictures to produce ‘used to’. Hada
  35. Students provide picture of something they used to do. Stick pictures on the board  – students ask questions to find who used to do what. Glenys
  36. Head dictations. Students put their paper/notebook on their heads head. Listen and draw without looking. Then compare and remember. Sandy.
  37. Running picture dictations are great too as avoid learners dictating phonetically – emphasis less on correct spelling at that point. Teresa
  38. Sit students back-to-back. They describe something for the other student to draw. Sue
  39. How about picture dictations or describe and draw. Marisa
  40. Fold paper into e.g. 8 squares. Students draw
    pictures in the four squares on the left. Each picture is one
    sentence/phrase/word. They pass it to another pair. They remember and
    write phrases in the other four boxes. Pass back. Check. Sandy
  41. Use pictures  of famous people. Get students to work out relationships between them. Sue
  42. Put pictures of famous people on students’ backs. They ask 20 questions to find out who they are. Sue
  43. Or scan picture and upload on to a puzzle making app ( and have students predict the pic as they get the pieces. Hada
  44. Use pics of nice places and ask students to write the guide book entries. Sue
  45. Make sure copyright and attribution given. Sue.
  46. Images good for writing captions. Tammela
  47. Running dictation: A dictates and B draws pic of sentences, then when they have all pics, write the original sentences. Teresa


  1. Pictures are useful as scaffolding for lower level adults. Colin
  2. Maybe one of these days I’ll understand what “scaffolding” means. Glenys
  3. I only got it recently 🙂 It’s breaking things down into small manageable steps so students don’t have to leap. Sandy
  4. But isn’t that what good teachers have always done? Glenys
  5. It can be useful to have a term to remind people. New teachers often find it difficult/miss key stages out. Marisa & Sandy.

Using smartphones

Pictures in ELT are great because they allow the students to use their devices in class. Hada

  • Ask students to get their phones out, show a few pictures and describe or discuss them. Hada
  • Using pictures on their phones to find similarities and differences. Hada, Jack
  • Students take own pictures around town and use to discuss rules, e.g. Keep off the grass. Sue
  • Take close up pictures of every day objects and students guess what they are. They then do the same for each other. David
  • At start of week, students share an unusual picture from their weekend. Other students have 20 yes/no questions to guess what they did or where they were. David


The Memes factory, Jack

Mematic, Kombie, Dubsmash. Sue

Sketchnoting. Marisa. See: Sketchnoting in the Classroom  – Kathy Schrock

From Images to Words Marisa Constantinides
Activities described in detail:

  • Find the Differences
  • Describe & Draw
  • Find your other half
  • Pictures & Texts
  • Questions Please
  • Musical Portraits

Ben Goldstein Working with Images. Reviewed by Sandy

ELTpics blog Sandy

Picture this recorded webinar – Sandy Millin

Free Picture Puzzle Makers – HadaLitim

Taking the Pics out of Coursebooks Dave Dodgson. Sandy

Picture Scavenger Hunt – Adam Simpson. Sandy


I used, to find the collage I used at the beginning.
Clipart is not free but a very practical way to find a specific image

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