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Whether you’re stumped as to how to get your students more engaged, teaching with a really boring coursebook, or dealing with a roomful of unmotivated teens, celebrity photos might just be your salvation.
Now I’m not talking about real, glossy photos, but rather the pics and images you can cut out from any ol’ magazine or newspaper. They are tremendously versatile, and if you have a set of photos, you can whip them out at any moment during your class for an on-the-spot, fun-filled activity!
Gathering your photos:
Go through different types of materials: magazines, newspapers, TV guides, etc…
Once you’ve cut out enough photos, glue them onto some posterboard or cardboard; try to laminate them, if you can. They’ll be better suited to survive the usual classroom wear and tear.
Try to get pics in different sizes, and don’t forget to get full-body and group shots.
Get pics of celebrities doing different things: playing instruments, walking on the beach, in full period costume, performing on stage, etc…
Remember to include different types of celebrities: sports stars, politicians, and writers, as well as actors, singers and musicians. Don’t forget to add some celebrities who are not as well known.
Once you’ve collected enough celebrity pics, you’ll be ready to use them in your ESL class for some fun activities:
Try These 7 Fun ESL Activities with Celebrity Photos
Shall I Compare Thee to…Another Celebrity?
When it comes time to practice comparatives, superlatives and make all types of comparisons, celebrity photos are much more fun than whatever your coursebook might set forth. Show two celebrity pics and ask your class to tell you who is more talented or a better actor. Show one pic of two or more celebrities together and talk about who’s taller, shorter, younger or older.
What Does He/She Do?
Celebrity pics are also ideal when you’re talking about professions: what does he/she do for a living? The more variety of professions you’ve got, the better – they don’t have to be incredibly famous celebrities, nor must students be able to recognize them from the photo; sometimes simply naming them as you show the photo is enough.
No matter how self-involved they may be, students often get tired of talking about and writing about themselves all the time. For a fun writing assignment with a twist, ask each student to pick a photo. Their task will be to write as much as they know about this celebrity. You may also have them draw the pic from a bag and ask them to research the celebrity for homework.
Before and After
For this activity, you’ll need before and after pics of several celebrities, perhaps an older celebrity’s current photo and one from when they were younger. Comparisons are very easy to make, but you may also practice verb tenses like the Simple Past or a structure like “used to”: She had/used to have blond/short hair. Now she has red/long hair.
Quite often magazines print photos of celebrities enjoying some of their hobbies and leisure activities. These photos are great for introducing the topic of what you like to do in your free time.
Young learners may not be into major celebrities as teens or adults are, so it is best to replace them with pictures of their favorite cartoon characters or comic book heroes. Is Bart Simpson younger or older than Lisa? Who’s smarter? What about comic book heroes? Superman is stronger, but Flash is faster.
Sometimes getting your students to ask each other questions is like pulling teeth. This is a fun way to get your class to practice asking questions. Give each of your students a celebrity, but tell them not to show their photo or reveal who they are. Students must ask each other questions to find out who the others are. You can go about this in a number of ways:
You can have them all ask each other questions and whoever is the first to guess one identity wins.
You can give each a limited number of questions, say 20, to ask in total, after which they must guess someone’s identity by using the facts they’ve gathered.
You can divide them into pairs and have them interview each other till one student guesses the other’s identity.
You can have them ask only yes/no questions.
ESL teachers often complain about unresponsive, unmotivated students. Celebrity photos are the perfect answer to this.
No matter how old (or young!) your students are you can always find the perfect set of celebrities to get the conversation going.
Have you ever used celebrity photos in your ESL classroom? Share your experience below!
And don’t forget that there are plenty more “What You Can Do with…” articles in the ESL Essentials section!
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