Using photographs in the classroom

Using photographs in the classroom

Teaching tip

Most students have a fantastic resource of pictures and photographs at home and it can be a rich and rewarding lesson to use them.

When students bring in their own material to the classroom, whether it’s photographs, mementos or other possessions, they are making a significant investment in the classroom.

They are bringing something from their private life to the lesson and they will be keen and motivated to talk about what they have brought.

Here are two ideas how to integrate students’ personal photographs into your lesson:

Who’s that boy/girl?

In the lesson before:

Ask students to bring in a photograph of themselves from their childhood to the next lesson (and make sure you bring in your own photograph, too).

In the classroom:

  • Clear a table and, as discreetly as possible, put all the photographs on the table. If possible, number the photographs. (You could use plastic envelopes you have already numbered before the lesson.)
  • Students gather at the table, look at the photographs and try to identify which child is which student. This should be done individually.
  • Encourage note-taking: the eyes look like (Susi’s), he has black hair so it must be (Karl). If students have already learnt ‘must’ and ‘can’t’ for deduction, then encourage this usage.
  • When students have written a name for each photograph, they should sit down and discuss their answers in pairs.
  • After this discussion, hold up each photograph one by one and ask students who they think is on the picture and why they think so. Ask the owner of the photograph to reveal his / her identity to the class.
  • Return the photographs to the rightful students and ask students to think of five questions to ask their partner about his / her childhood, e.g.: Did you live in a big town? What was your favourite toy? How did you travel to school? Did you have a pet? What did you like doing in your free time?
  • This activity could also be used to practise the used to past: Did you use to play football after school?

Holiday snaps

Most people take hundreds of holiday photographs these days on their digital cameras, but it is always nice to have a real photograph in your hand, that you can handle.

In the lesson before:

Ask students to bring in four or five holiday photographs (from the same holiday - it could also be from a stay-at-home holiday) to the next lesson. (And bring your own photographs.)

In the classroom:

Model the activity: Show your own photographs and talk about where you were, who was with you, whether you enjoyed it, e.g. We stayed at a hotel in Dorset, on the south coast of England. The weather was terrible. But in this picture the sun is shining!
In pairs, students talk about their photographs and the things they can see in them.
Allow three or four minutes per student to speak. When both people have talked about their photographs, ask them to each find a new partner to talk to.
Students continue exchanging partners as time allows.
At the end, ask the class: Where did (Susi) go on holiday? Who went the furthest away from here?



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