This “show and tell” type task, which I did recently with a group of students on an oral presentations course, is based on the fact that people enjoy sharing personal experiences in photographs, and it makes use of what students have readily to hand – their devices. It encourages the students to think about people and places that have been important in their lives. It’s relatively easy to organise, and the focus of the task may be in the present, or in the past. It’s also a framework that is easily adaptable to fit different topics. (See Variations below)
- It’s a good idea to prepare for this task beforehand by asking students to find three photos on their devices that they would like to share.
- In order to focus the task, the photos should be in response to specific prompts which focus on aspects of the students’ lives. Think carefully about what your students would like to talk about, and how well they know each other; are they willing to talk about more personal topics, or should you keep to more general ones? Below are some example prompts (not an exclusive list!)
Choose an image which represents:
- Someone who has had a big influence on you
- Someone special to you at the moment
- A pet
- A place associated with happy memories
- An important “first”
- A big change in your life e.g. starting a new job, moving to a new city
- Something that you’ve learned
- Something you’re enthusiastic about
- a mistake that you made
- the past, the present and the future
Pre-task: Lucy’s three photos
Tell the students that they’re going to listen to Lucy model the task. She’s chosen photographs in response to three of the above prompts. To begin with, show the photographs to the group and they can guess which question prompts they are about.
Now they listen to the recordings above and see if they were right. (Select the one(s) most suitable for your students.)
As an additional listening task, they can think of other things they would like to ask Lucy that were not in the recording.
Note that this pre-task could be replaced with your own model, as the students are always likely to be interested in your own photographs, and you will be able to take questions afterwards.
- Instruct the task. Time limits will vary depending on the level. Taking turns, you should use screenshare in your room, and talk about one photograph at a time for between one and two minutes each. Listeners in each group – it’s your job after that to ask the speaker questions to find out more information and keep him or her talking.
- Note that, in an online environment, you need to be prepared for your time-limits to be really flexible, and some groups will inevitably finish early. Because timings are hard to monitor in the virtual classroom, you will probably have to prompt the whole group by a chat message to everyone “Move on to your second speaker” – “Remember to keep moving on.”
- For early finishers, tell them they will have to report back on one of somebody else’s photographs, and this may encourage them to ask further questions.
- Back in the main room, conduct feedback on the photographs that prompted a lot of questions, or the ones that struck people the most, though this time at without strict time restrictions.
Ideas for language focus:
This will depend on the topics chosen!
Someone who has had a big influence on me:
Patterning verbs (colligation)
X taught me about /showed me how to / made me see that / said that / told me that; X encouraged me to.
I wanted to look / dress / be like this person; used to
Personal characteristics e.g. determined, creative, independent, considerate….
I really admire X; I take after X; X is huge in my life; an example to me; X (has) had a big/huge/massive influence on me; influenced me a lot; I wanted to imitate the way they did this; I wanted to emulate their achievements / qualities.
Multi-word verbs and dependent prepositions e.g. prevented me from / warned me against; took good care of me; looked after me; looked out for me.
an important “first”:
All narrative tenses, including past perfect: That was the first time I’d ever ……Until that moment / up to then I’d never; I achieved what I’d set out to
Adjective suffixes – ed / – ing: excited / exciting
Adjectives for feelings: nervous, afraid, excited, worried, anxious, confident, apprehensive
Words and collocations associated with achievements and goals e.g. I reached my goal, achieved my aim, accomplished something; felt better about myself; won the competition; beat my rivals
Colligation after “feel”: It felt incredible, exhilarating / like a real achievement, an important moment / I felt as though (like) I’d want to do this again.
Variations and extension
- The content of the photographs can be varied to focus in on particular topic areas – for example, people, places, families, hobbies, jobs. You could ask the students to show photographs which represent their country or traditions. We find it’s best if you follow the students’ interests as much as possible.
- Though this task is centred on photographs as a stimulus, it is possible to use a range of different stimuli: objects of personal significance (see https://fluencyfirstelt.blog/2020/04/27/5-a-treasured-possession/) video clips, names of people and places, years of significance. The key is to supply a personal stimulus that learners are keen to communicate about.