Sunday, 27 June 2010

How to use pictures in the ESL class (III)

| An interesting photograph, one per small group, mounted on a large sheet of paper, computers with Internet access, paper, pens/pencils, classroom board.

Warm-up | Gather a range of interesting photos so that you have a different photo for each small group of 4-5 in your class. Remove and keep the captions for each, and mount each in the center of a large sheet of paper.

These photos can come from anywhere except the “6 Q’s” feature. You might find them in books or magazines, on postcards, from The New York Times or in other news sources. The Times Lens Blog is a particularly rich source of photojournalism. You may choose photos that are thematically similar, or photos that are completely different; the warm-up exercise will work to make students imagine “connections” either way. Mount each photo in the center of a large piece of paper so that there is room to write all around it.

Put students in groups and tell them that they will be doing what’s called a “text on text” exercise. Their job will be to write comments in the space around the photo, leaving room for others’ writing as well.

Write the following four “response choices” on the board to remind students of the kinds of things they should be writing in response to the photo they receive. Tell them they may do any or all of the following:

  1. Make a personal connection to the photo. (E.g., “Reminds me of when I visited the Empire State Building in third grade.”)
  2. Write a question the photo brings to mind. (E.g., “Why can you see only the backs of people’s heads in this shot?”)
  3. Write a detailed observation about the photo. (E.g., “The color red is everywhere–the sun, one person’s shoes, and the flowers and curtains in the background.”)
  4. Make a guess as to what information the original caption of this photo imparted. (E.g., “This looks like the dedication of a memorial to someone who died.”)

Give the groups each a photo and 3- 5 minutes to write. When each group finishes, have them pass the large paper with their photo to another group, moving clockwise. When each group receives the new photo, they should add their comments to those already there. They can continue the work of adding personal connections, observations or questions, and/or can respond to previous writing as if in “conversation” with the notes left by previous students.

Continue this way until all the groups in the room have seen and commented on all the photos. (Make sure each photo is returned to the group that had it originally, as part of the fun of this exercise is reading the responses to the original comments.) Ask the class to discuss how their relationship to the photos and their understanding of what each “says” deepened as they wrote and responded to what others wrote. How true do they find the saying, “A picture paints 1,000 words?” Why?

Finally, read the captions you removed originally and have students guess which photo went with which caption.

Let students know that they will now be examining photographs from the Learning Network’s “6 Q’s About the News” feature, which highlights a range of Times stories with photographs that are timely, telling, funny, provocative, striking, beautiful and/or absurd. They will be using the same skills they practiced in this exercise to look at photos that document current events and trends.

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