Random ideas for ELT people, plus guest blogs & travel notes

My latest guest blogger is Ceri Jones, an ELT writer for Macmillan and Richmond. We first met at IATEFL Cardiff, in an art gallery for the launch of Inside Out Second Edition.  In fact, she wrote part of Inside Out with another of my recent guest bloggers, Russell Stannard. Ceri lives in Cádiz, a place I would highly recommend for anyone visiting Andalucia (Cádiz, that is, not Ceri’s house).

Thank you so much for inviting me to write a post for the blog, Ken.  

I’d like to use it to pay a tribute to a great initiative on Twitter; the #eltpics image bank.  One of the founders, Victoria Boobyer, explained what it is and how it all started over at TEFL.net back in the autumn in a “twinterview” (a term she coined to describe the twitter interview) with Tara Benwell.

Since then #eltpics has grown and grown. On March 15th, the 2,000th picture was added in the 23rd set, under the title Close Ups. On May 18th, it reached 3,000. At the time of writing this, there are 36 sets in the collection. 

To see all the sets and browse the galleries click here.

It’s an amazing collection and an incredible feat. Recently  Sandy Millin (@sandymillin) and Fiona Mauchline (@fionamau) have joined the #eltpics team and, along with Carol Goodey (@cgoodey) and Vicky Loras (@vickyloras), are constantly updating images from teachers all over the world. Every Sunday, a new theme is tweeted, but people are welcome to add images to any of the previous sets as well.  And the beauty of #eltpics is that it’s a creative commons collection – by teachers for teachers – so you can use the images in class, on your blogs, in presentations.

What I’d like to do now is look at a couple of images and think through how they could be used in class.

Here’s an image I added to the rooms and furniture set.

What I like about this image is the light coming in through the windows throwing the rest of the room into shadows.  I like using images that are potentially ambiguous, that can grow and change in the students’ minds.  I think this one is fairly straightforward, but the shadows help the students “enter” the picture and explore it more carefully.  It doesn’t offer up its contents immediately and the students need to peer into the picture to see exactly what’s in the room.

The first thing I’d ask students to do would be to identify the kind of room it is and then to try and identify as much of the furniture as possible that they can see, or half-see, in the darkness.  Then I’d ask them to take an imaginary step or two back in the room and imagine the shape of the room and what other furniture there might be in the room. This could lead to comparing this room with their own living rooms, finding similarities and differences, maybe even working with floor plans.  Or maybe we could come back to this later or in the next lesson.  

I think I’d like to stay with the image for the moment and the next step for me would be to try and work out who might live in this flat and what they use this room for. The kids’ toys on the balcony and in the right hand corner are clues, of course,  also the CD collection and the remote control on the arm of the sofa.  

Students could then think about what time of day it might be (this photo was taken in the afternoon when the sun floods in and keeps the room warm in winter, sweltering in summer if the blinds aren’t down) and any sounds they think they might be able to hear. I’d ask them to imagine that they can walk to the window and look out. I’d like them to think about what they can see through the window.  All this could be shared with the whole class, in small groups or recorded in writing. I guess it’d give a great opportunity for collecting, and working with, emergent language.

Next I’d ask them to imagine that someone has just walked into the room. I’d ask them to visualise the person and what they’re doing.  I’d give a little time for the image to grow in their minds before they share it with a partner.  This could lead to collaborative writing, with students simply describing the person’s actions, and then giving the texts to another group who have to act them out.  Or the students could write the character’s thoughts and by doing that write the character’s story in miniature. Or maybe we could introduce a second character and act out a dialogue between them.

But I think that last activity would probably work much better with this next image.  Beautifully simple, but very suggestive.  I think the conversation that might take place in this room would be much more interesting. What do you think? It could even open out into a plot for a film – or a short story – or a novel.

There are so many other things to do with all these images of course. And so many people making use of them already in their classes and on their blogs.  If you’ve ever used any of them with your students, maybe you’d like to share your ideas here, if you don’t mind, that is, Ken!

When Ceri met Ceci - Cecilia Lemos, another of my guest bloggers - IATEFL Brighton, April 2011

Comments on: "Guest blog 11-13 – Ceri Jones celebrates the #eltpics image bank" (16)

  1. Dear Ceri,

    I had the pleasure to attend your presentation in Brighton and to listen to you talking about this activity, which is simple, effective and fantastic for a classroom. I’ve already started sharing them with my colleagues in Brazil, and blogging about them, as I’m a huge fan of the use of images in the classroom. For two years, we’ve offered a free online session about the topic for educators around the globe, and the resources/ideas are all Creative commons licensed http://images4education.pbworks.com

    Cheers from sunny Brasilia.

  2. Hi Ceri,

    I’m open-mouthed in admiration of #eltpics. Along with #ELTchat it’s shown me some of the extraordinary potential of web 2.0 collaboration, and I often refer to it in other contexts in my work.

    Your ideas on how to use the photos are also inspiring, I think Victoria, Carole, Fiona, Sandy and you deserve some kind of medal for creating such a rich resource and making it possible us both to contribute to it and to share it.

    Thank you.

    Simon Greenall

  3. Diolch for this Ceri…. IWhat I love about ELTpics is that it is just such a simple idea – but that it is something that can easily help teachers all over the place – I’d be tempted to say that it would be better named as “EduPics” – but that’s a minor quibble. I think it is an area where a tiny effort on the part of a lot of people can lead to something that saves a lot of effort for a large number of people…. I looked at ELTpics and crowdsourcing in general on this post:

    http://classroom201x.wordpress.com/2011/04/06/eltpics-crowdsourcing-resources/

    What else can we crowdsource for lessons?

    • Hi Phil – croeso!
      I’ve just been over to your post. Great – a fantastically useful and comprehensive post on the what, why and how of eltpics. And some interesting questions raised as well. As you say, it’s the simplicity of eltpics that makes it so great. I’m going to mull over your question of what else can be crowdsourced in that way. Materials-free lesson plans on a weekly theme maybe? To be added to a wiki? Would that/could that work?
      Opening the question to the floor🙂

  4. Dear Ceri,

    Funny that we never know how we reach others with our tweets and presentations, but your session has just been inspiring me to go way beyond of what I’ve already been doing in my classes and with the teachers at the school I work for. So, I just wanted to say that with your simple, delightful ideas we can go far with the ones around us – educators and learners. Thanks! Because of your post today, I added my contribution to the eltpics topic of the week!

    • Hello again!
      I’m going to go and see if I can spot them. You’ve made me feel guilty though – I haven’t contributed many at all recently. Gonna take my camera for a walk this afternoon🙂

  5. Hey Ceri!

    Great article that reminded me of your wonderful presentation at IATEFL.

    I think I’ll have to jump on board and start adding some of my dusty photos to #eltpics. Got some goodies hiding among the rest. Cheers, b

  6. These are great ideas! I’ve used some of the pictures for just teaching vocabulary words, but this goes so much farther and produces so much more vocabulary. Thanks!!

  7. Hi Kylie,
    Yes, there are so many images in the bank that can spark off so many different directions. Especially last week’s topic (every picture tells a story). There’s definitely potential there for a whole lesson from one image.

  8. Hi Mike,
    Sorry, couldn’t reply to the thread above (after Phil’s comment). There are so many great lesson ideas out there – your travel one included – I’m sure there’s definitely space for some kind of index maybe – where people can add links to posts/lesson plans they’ve already written and tag them under themes, or topics or focuses so they can be searched for under a variety of categories (materials lite being one, but there could be lots of others too). Though I think it might become too big and unwieldy quite quickly?
    mmm … definitely one to mull over …

  9. Pic #3 is my favourite.

  10. tefljobslondon said:

    What a great resource! Just having a quick look through I had numerous lesson plans come to mind.

    Jon.

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