I must admit that when Barb invited me to submit a guest post, I felt I wasn’t worthy of such an invite. Later, I thought… if she’d felt that I had something to contribute, well, then I couldn’t very well let her down, could I? Besides, one has to step out of one’s comfort zone every once in a while!
For the purpose of analysing an image lesson, I’ll use a simple photo of mine, taken while waiting at a bus stop after a lesson at a student’s house.
Images are often used in the classroom, of that I have no doubt. What I find, however, is that, most of the time, only a fraction of their potential is taken advantage of. More detail on how to use this image can be seen here.
I start this with ‘Tell me what you see’. No doubt they will say it’s a door, or a window, which leads me to ask them if they’re sure, which, in turn, almost certainly, will cause them to change their minds! Whatever their choice, they will be asked to justify.
As you can see, a good few minutes will be spent talking about not only what they see, but on analysing what they see, especially the tiny details. Think question words. What is it? Where is it? Why is it barred? When did it happen? How? Who is the owner? What else can you see? The important thing is that the discussion doesn’t stop here. Tell students to imagine they have satellite eyes.
We zoom in – what do we see in this room? Think the five senses. The teacher’s role here is much like a presenter in a chat show. Minimum interruption. Ensure everyone speaks, one at a time. Prompt with questions to encourage imagination. Zoom in and out as you see fit. There may be a limit to how far you can zoom in (even so, there’s so much that can be visualised and verbalised – the room itself, the objects, the people, the neighbours…), but the universe is the limit when you zoom out! What’s outside? Tracks? Roads? People? Shops? What country? Endless questions, endless answers.
What is also important is to note down emergent language, including vocabulary. Go through the language from time to time, if necessary, or do it at the end or in the next lesson.
In a largish class, working in groups is advisable. A writing task to be done at home is equally recommended. Ask them to invent a story based around the image.
The beauty of using images is that they can be used for any level. I’ve used this particular image with different students at all kinds of levels. And they almost always surprise me with their imagination and their reasoning!
- the outside – bars, rust, shutters; the inside: shelves, crates, overturned, spill, pungent, damp, etc.
- words related to symmetry – one student deduced that the image is that of a door because of the metal bars, that they’re not symmetrical, suggesting that they continue further downwards!
- countries & nationalities – where was the picture taken? Some suggested the Caribbean because of the colour of the paint. Cuba was mentioned, so were Venezuela, Jamaica, Africa…
- farm and animals – someone suggested it could be part of a farm! This scaffolded onto animals, tools, farmers, and so on.
- urban life – violence, drugs, pollution, poverty…
Analysis and deduction
Always ask students to justify their analyses:
- I think it’s in Cuba because the houses are brightly painted.
- Since the bars aren’t symmetrical, I’d say it’s a door.
- There are likely to be other doors as this one is permanently barred.
- It could be in a poor district with problems of crime and violence.
- I doubt if anyone is living in here…
- If there is someone living in there, the bars won’t be so rusty.
- If this was the only door, they would have to cut the bars to be able to get in.
- If the owner hadn’t got into drugs, this situation wouldn’t have happened.
When you decide to take the plunge, be it with this image or with others, please don’t forget to share your experience with the rest of us! I’d just like to end here by thanking Barb for her kind invitation, and I’ll see you all in my own blog sometime!
Chiew Pang is currently based in Las Palmas in The Canary Islands, which are politically Spanish, but geographically, African. He has his own blog, a cLiL to cLiMB, a name alluding to its raison d’être, but is now focussed on resources and ideas for ELT teachers and their students. You can also find Chiew on Twitter (@ClilToClimb)