Photos are a great tool for teaching or revising language. You can do so much with them: practise grammar, revise vocabulary, or simply have some language fun. In this article we’re telling you where to get photos and how to use them in your classroom
Where to get photos?
If you’re using photos from the internet, you have to be careful with the copyright. You can’t always just take any photos from the internet and use them for your lesson. But there are websites which allow you to download the photos and use them under the Creative Commons licence.
10 ways to use photos in your classroom.
Here are 10 very quick ideas for using photos for teaching English. All you need for any of these activities are just photos!
#1 Vocabulary revision
Photos you’ll need: photos which have a lot of objects in a category you want to revise.
Students work in pairs, groups or individually. Distribute the photos. Students’ task is to look at the photos and name as many objects as they can from the photo. If you want to make it more challenging you can set a time limit or give them a number of objects to name.
Photos you’ll need: photos with people in conversation.
This is a great way to practise functional language. Students work in pairs or small groups. Their task is to write dialogues for the people from the photos. Make sure to prepare photos presenting people talking in different situations. That way you can practise small talk, ordering food, buying tickets, complaining, etc.
#3 What’s going to happen next
Photos you’ll need: photos presenting some kind of situation or action, e.g. a person chopping vegetables.
Students look at the photos and talk about what’s going to happen next. This activity is great for revising future tenses.
#4 What’s just happened
Photos you’ll need: photos presenting some kind of unexplained situation, e.g. a messy room.
Students look at the photos and talk about what happened before this picture was taken. This activity is great for revising past tenses.
#5 What’s happening
Photos you’ll need: photos presenting people doing something. The more people doing different actions, the better.
Students look at the photos and talk about what’s happening. This activity is great for revising Present Continuous.
#6 Storytelling with photos
Photos you’ll need: multiple photos with different objects, actions or places. If you can find two or more photos of the same people doing different things, it would work perfectly.
Students work in small groups or pairs. Give each group and selection of photos. Their task is to put them in order and create a story. Additionally, you can provide them with phrases such as: and then, suddenly, next, finally, etc.
#7 Find your partner
Photos you’ll need: any kind of photos, printed and cut in half.
Students work as a whole group. Give each student in a group half of a photo. Their task is to find out who has the other half of their photo. But they can’t show their photos. They can only describe them.
#8 Describe and draw
Photos you’ll need: any kind of photos, depending on what you want to revise. Use photos of rooms for practising house objects and prepositions of place. Use portraits for practising vocabulary connected with appearance. And so on.
Students work in pairs. Each person gets a different photo. They take it in turns: one student describes their photo, while the other one draws it. When they’ve finished, they swap roles. As a follow up, students can compare their drawings with original photos and talk about similarities and differences.
#9 Appearance and personality
Photos you’ll need: portraits of different people.
Students look at the photos of different people. First, they describe their appearance. Next, they talk about their personality. They make guesses and hypothesise, based on what they can see. Additionally, students can make comparisons between people from different photos.
#10 Guess what it is
Photos you’ll need: take any photo and cut it into smaller pieces. For online lessons you can simply present a zoomed-in part of a photo.
This can be done as a group activity. Take out one piece of a photo and give your students time to guess what it could be. After they’ve made their guesses, show them another piece of the same photo and see if their guesses change. And so on, until everyone has guessed correctly. At the end present a full photo.
For online lessons you can zoom in on a part of a photo and just keep zooming out as your students try to guess.
We hope you get inspired for your next class! Happy teaching!