I was given Working with Images [affiliate link] when I was doing a CELTA at IH Palma, as they had a couple of extra copies left over after a conference. As one of the curators of the amazing resource that is ELTpics, I am very interested in how images can be used in the classroom, although I have to say that in the past I have tended to stick to tasks involving describing the story behind an image or using modals of deduction (because they’re easy, not because I don’t know about many other ways to use images!)
This is a useful resource book full of ideas for different types of images, not restricted only to photos as is often the case. It includes ideas for analysing adverts, icons, and works of art. There are activities for every level and age group, and it is accompanied by a CD-ROM with all of the relevant images. Every activity is explained step-by-step, and often includes many variations to adapt it to other age groups or images, or to extend the core activity.
A lot of the activities could also be used in conjunction with ELTpics sets:
- 1.4 Points of view / 1.5 Who am I? / 2.3 Connecting people: people set
- 1.8 Minimal differences: windows and doors set
- 1.9 Flickr colours: colours set
- 2.8 What’s changed?: spot the difference set
- 2.9 Sequencing: sequences set
- 2.14 Abstracts: close ups set
- 2.15 What’s in your bag?: a variation could be done with the bookshelves set
- 2.16 Concepts: examining happiness could be done through Things I like doing
- 4.7 Hotel rooms: roads set for the ‘paths’ variation
- 5.7 Culture shock: signs set
- 5.8 Image history: lots of hearts in the love and romance set
- 5.9 Hands: busy hands set
- 5.12 Alphabets: things shaped like letters set (although we’re missing some of the alphabet!)
Having read all of the activities, I certainly have a much better idea of how versatile images are and the range of different ways that you could exploit them in the classroom, moving beyond storytelling and grammar activities.
There are activities that will prompt critical thinking and visual literacy, particularly those in the section about advertising, such as 6.6 Adverts everywhere, which encourages students to consider how the positioning of an advert can effect their response to it. 2.19 Coursebook Images challenges students to say what kind of images should appear in a coursebook, and think about how representative the images in their coursebook are.
For those of you who want to incorporate PARSNIPs (a variety of potentially taboo subjects, covering politics, alcohol, religion, sex, narcotics, -isms, pork) into their lessons, activities like 6.8 Subvertising look at how advertising messages we are familiar with can be subverted to make us think about a company or an issue in a different way. 5.7 Culture Shock uses signs to prompt students to consider differences in attitude and exposure to different situations in different cultures, such as the sign ‘no ice cream or guns’.
Working with Images [affiliate link] would be useful to have in a school library as a reference for teachers who would like to push themselves, although I suspect that as with many resource books like this, teachers would also need to be prompted to use it or it will just sit on the shelf gathering dust. That’s not to say that it isn’t full of great activities, just that it can sometimes be difficult to know where to incorporate them if you are working from a syllabus.
My challenge now is to start trying out some of the activities I keep reading about in resource books more actively in the classroom, slightly hindered by the fact that I now only teach for three hours a week! I’ll take it into school for our teachers to use, and hopefully it will be just one of the books which I use next year as I try and make our professional development for second years at the school more research driven. Watch this space to find out if I manage it…