A picture is worth a thousand words, and though your ESL learners may not come up with a thousand words, they can certainly come up with plenty.
If you’ve read and enjoyed What You Can Do with Photos and What You Can Do with Celebrity Photos, you’ll probably enjoy this article, too. Here, we’ll give some special attention to online tools and ways to use digital photos. Not really into printing photos or cutting out images from magazines? Then, this article is for you!
What You Can Do with Online Photos: 8 Creative ESL Activities
For this activity (and for the others), you’ll need to find the right photo first. There are countless websites offering stock images and digital photos, but I recommend using the Creative Commons search tool. With this tool, you can search for images on Flickr, Google Images or Wikimedia Commons, use them in your ESL classroom, and rest assured you won’t be violating any copyright laws. Search for an image that conveys feelings or a mood you wish to explore. I found this one on Flickr. Show this image to your class and ask them to brainstorm and come up with 20 words related to this image. When they’re done brainstorming, they must place these words into categories, for example, “feelings”, “colors”, “nature”, etc.... Finally, give them a writing assignment to complete in class or for homework, like a story based on the photo, in which they must use the words.
What’s He Thinking?
Have you ever looked at a photo and tried to guess what the person in it is thinking? Well, now your students can put those thoughts to good use. With a tool like Bubblr, they can add speech and thought bubbles to images available from Flickr and even make their own comic strip.
Can You Find…?
This is a great way to practice prepositions of place. Find a photo with lots of objects in it like a messy office. Ask your class: Can you find the water bottle? Students raise their hands as soon as they have the answer. Call on a student to answer the question with the correct preposition.
This is a really fun tool, great for writing practice! Have your ESL students play a hand of Five Card Flickr. Students are given a set of randomly presented photos, and they have to choose one. Then they’re given a second set from which to pick one. Once they have picked five photos from five different sets, the real fun begins. They are prompted to create a title for their story and a comment or explanation, which of course they can flesh out into a short story. Because the photos are so random, this is a real challenge and a great creative writing activity.
Images are great prompts for writing, and PicLits is another wonderful online tool that lets your ESL students add messages, thoughts or captions to an image. Students have the option of dragging and dropping nouns, verbs, articles and adjectives from a list. Words are categorized into different parts of speech, so students may wish to try different adjectives or verbs. They also have the option to simply write what they wish to express – freestyle. Their work is saved and a link to it is provided, so they can email their creations to family or friends.
Photos that Babble
PhotoBabble is an awesome tool for speaking practice! Upload a photo you’ve previously selected and record students taking about them. You may have them speak freely and spontaneously, or you may choose to give them time to prepare what they want to say. This works exceptionally well with photos of cartoon characters, comic book heroes or celebrities – your students can give a voice to a wide range of characters and practice their speaking skills at the same time.
Create a Mural
Why simply ask students to talk about what they did over the holidays or how they celebrated Christmas, when they can show you with a mural? Mural.ly is the perfect tool for this. Students can create their own murals with their vacation photos and not only that; they can also add notes, comments and text all around for great writing practice. The beauty of this tool is that students can work on their murals at home and simply add you as a collaborator so you can see their work any day, any time.
If you have a classroom with a computer and access to an Internet connection, I strongly encourage you to try using these online tools and digital photos.
It’s a great way to promote an increasingly paperless classroom. Rather than using technology in the classroom for technology’s sake, you’ll be using it to help your students meet their language goals. And there can be no better use for technology.