2 Using pictures in the English classroom

Pictures are a valuable resource in the language classroom. They can be used in any class in a variety of ways. They don’t necessarily need to come from English language newspapers, magazines or books.

Some pictures that you could use include:

  • drawings created by you or your students
  • pictures or illustrations from a book, newspaper, magazine or the internet.
  • images found on posters such as film poster or posters about an event
  • advertisements
  • photos taken with a camera or mobile phone.

Keep the pictures that you collect in a file and build up a collection over time. Ask your students to bring in pictures as well. You can use them in different classes, and share them with other teachers.

You could also paste the pictures onto chart paper and display them in the classroom.

Activity 2: Using pictures to support English learning

There are many different English learning activities that can be enhanced by the use of pictures.

In Table 2 below, teachers describe how they have used pictures creatively to make motivational learning activities. What specific purpose might be fulfilled by the pictures in each activity? Write your ideas here. The first one has been done for you. See Resource 1 for possible answers to this activity.

Table 2 Identifying the purpose of using pictures to support English learning.
Teacher activity Purpose
I draw pictures on the board to explain vocabulary that students don’t know. The picture helps students learn and remember new words and phrases.
I draw a picture related to a traditional story. As I draw, the students have to guess what the story is, and then tell the story.
I ask students to look at a picture that accompanies a story (in the textbook, newspaper or magazine). I ask them: ‘What can you see in the picture?’ and then encourage them to use as much English as possible to describe what they can see. Then I ask, ‘From this picture can you guess what the text might be about?’
I cut out pictures from newspapers and magazines. I describe the picture and ask my students to draw it.
I give a picture to one student in a group, who describes it to the rest of the group. The other students have to draw it without seeing the picture.
I ask the students to work in groups of four or five. I give each group a different picture and ask them to write a paragraph (or a few words) describing their picture. I then display all the pictures at the front of the classroom. I ask one student from each group to read out their paragraph. The other students have to guess which picture the paragraph describes.

Pause for thought

Here are some questions for you to think about after trying this activity. If possible, discuss these questions with a colleague.

  • How did the lesson go?
  • Did you have to prompt or intervene at any point with students?
  • What would you change next time you use this activity?

Be sure to make the most of the pictures that are in the textbook. You can find links to resources with more ideas for using pictures for teaching English in Resource 2.

1 Using resources beyond the textbook

3 Using news stories in the English classroom