Pictures in ESL classes

Lucie Skrčená
There is hardly a teacher nowadays who does not use pictures in their foreign language classes. Pictures are a great help, and not only for visual learners. Moreover, pictures can engage all age groups, from very young learners to adults. Magazines, pamphlets, advertisements and the internet provide endless resources; teachers can scour them for desired images or photographs and adapt them for the students‘ needs. I love using pictures in my classes so I chose this topic for my essay.

Both the original article and the presentation, which I really enjoyed, use the letters of the word PICTURE to present seven ways of how to make use of them: predict, interact, create, talk, understand, reflect and enact. These verbs perfectly display the purpose of pictures. Would it be possible, though, to find other words and be a little original? Let’s see.

The difference in the level of our students within one group can be PALPABLE, however, pictures often help the students smooth the divergence. They frequently learn new words and expressions from each other describing what they can see which is one of the means and goals of current teaching approaches: student-centered learning and teaching.
Not all classrooms are IDYLLIC, mainly when it concerns lower secondary level at Czech schools because the classrooms do not offer much visual support. The teacher, however, can make use of available materials, e.g. modern course books include photographs related to the topics and the internet provides endless possibilities to extend the visuals.

Finding relevant photographs and pictures is oftentimes CHALLENGING for the teacher, he or she can thus transfer this responsibility to the students, setting it as homework. The teacher still needs to prepare some pictures in case that not all students fulfil the assignment and bring their own pictures to the class. It is enriching at the same time as students get to know each other via their own choice of pictures.

There seems to be at least one student in a group who is quite TACITURN and since one of the main goals of language classes is to make the students speak, paralyzing shyness can become a hindrance. Fortunately, pictures can get even tongue-tied students talking if they concern a topic of such students‘ interests.

A class consists of many different personalities, not only shy students. In fact, every student is a UNIQUE being with individual experience, skills and needs. It is highly unlikely if two individuals had anything in common. But if there is such a pair nevertheless, pictures come to save the day.
Working with pictures is immensely REWARDING: even beginners can produce simple sentences about an image or present a person in a photograph. The higher level they are the more they can unfold about a photograph of their choice. The teacher can make an EPIC project where students would see the progress of their speaking skills which is always extremely beneficial and boosts motivation for further learning.

Pictures undoubtedly contribute to broadening student’s learning horizons. Within easy reach, up-to-date or ancient, distinctive or anonymous – every picture suggests a story that can be told.