It will have transpired by now that I find images a great tool to stimulate learners’ imagination and provide them with some concrete basis on which to build language.
Having said this, however, I must make it clear that I don’t normally ask for a description of a picture as this is far too vague and leaves the students at sea as to which aspect of the image to focus on.
An image may simply serve as a source of inspiration for creative writing without further prompting on the part of the teacher. In fact, I often find that the more uncomplicated the image, the broader the scope for letting your imagination run away with you.
Depending on your students’ level and ability, you can move from the basics to more sophisticated questions and make tasks gradually more challenging.
Here is an image which is highly suggestive and lends itself to all kinds of activities. If nothing else, it puts the learners into a trance, numbing all kinds of inhibitions that they might harbour towards writing!
I prefer to prompt my students by providing some basic clues and brainstorm for words or phrases which can be used to answer these basic questions.
Here is the framework for building a text, whatever form of writing the student or the teacher might choose.
WHERE scene, children
WHEN time of day, time of year
If you find that the learners are not prepared to do their bit of research in order to find some appropriate words and phrases to use, you may wish to do what every self-respecting teacher does(!): supply a list and demand the students to use them all while answering the questions.
An indicative list follows:
half way along
on the edge
on an autumn afternoon
11 or 12-year-old children
cast a fishing rod
peer at the sea
sound the depth of the sea
You may want to ask your students, after they have answered the questions, to flesh out their notes into a story entitled, for instance, A summer day in the life of three childhood friends.
On the other hand, if you are in the mood to teach describing simple processes, you could do so by asking your students to explain step by step how one can fish.
Here is a very schematic plan, which you might want to expand into full-length text.
Get a fishing rod
Get a bait
Hook the bait on
Cast the fishing rod
Dangle the rod over the water
Sit and wait till the fish bites
Hook the fish
Lift the rod
Pull the fish out
You could ask your students to link the ideas by using some linking words or phrases or you could even proceed to ask them to orally describe a very simple process to one another without completing it and get them to name the process or continue one another’s processes.
Take a small cup.
Fill it with bottled water.
Put a small pot on a cooker ring.
Turn on the cooker.
Pour the water into the pot.
Open the sugar bowl.
Scoop a spoonful of sugar.
For those who have not guessed yet, the answer is :
making Greek coffee!