2 seconds of technology, 1 photo, for hours of language

From my session at IH Barcelona's ELT Conference yesterday…

As you'll see if you follow through on the link to National Geographic, it's not the dirty coffee cup fungus I thought it was!

What was the point of the activity?
The preparation time was virtually none as I'd spotted the photo during my self-imposed maximum of 2 minutes a day on Twitter (though you might want four or five similarly "strange" pictures if you wanted to practise, for example, the language of speculation).

And for our two-seconds viewing in class, we're going to get two, three… minutes of talking, of interaction, of use of language. If for 2 seconds of "technology" we're getting 120 or 180 or more seconds of language, then that's a proportion that is starting to feel right.

Use great sources for your images
One of the things I suggested in my session was that not using Google Images and instead using better sources of images is likely to lead you to better pictures for use in class; that in turn will lead to more language — because people will find more to say about them.

Of all the image sites on the internet, National Geographic has got to be one of the best — and out there among all the garbage on Twitter*, most definitely a feed worth following.

Here's another site well worth "following" on Twitter — photofocus.com — and another of the creative writing activities I suggested in the session, using a single image as your starting point:

You could do a similar thing with the photo there: show it for 2 seconds, and ask those questions (the questions being there to kick-start the ideas — and the language); and, if you then get your learners to collaborate on writing a single story between two or three people, from your one photo, you are getting hours of language.

No interactive whiteboard?
If you have a projector in your classroom, but no interactive whiteboard, that's not a problem. You have a "blank" button on your remote that turns the projector off and on instantly? That's possibly the most useful, most powerful, of all the billions of buttons and keys at your disposal. Turn the technology off!

See also

*Sorry, that's the Mr Grumpy in me slipping out again 😉 !

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  1. Jeje, can I be grumpy too Tom and say something I've told you before? This is great for higher levels but with low levels you just don't get 1000 words from every pic.

  2. Hey, we can all be grumpy together, Rachel ;-)!

    Can I answer with what I know I've said to you before?

    You're right, and the ideas suggested were for intermediate levels and above (and up to proficiency).

    But even at lower levels, I still think the amount of language I'm going to get per image I find and take to class is important… and the higher the level, the more words (from the learners) I'd expect per image.

    Think of all that time and effort that goes into finding the images! I want a huge return on my investment…

  3. In the session, I also mentioned 500px as a great source, and another well worth following on Twitter.

    Here's an example of another great pic for a creative writing prompt, from my 2 mins on Twitter this morning.

  4. Nicola Yeeles

    Well, with lower levels you could ask them to redraw the picture from memory, and then compare it to the original picture – inputting comparatives, superlatives etc.

    I enjoyed your conference session on this, Tom, and have used many of your ideas since.

    Proud NOT to be grumpy 🙂

  5. I like that idea very much, Nicola, and not just for lower levels.

    Thanks for sharing it!

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