Tuesday, July 14, 2015

We've Got Pandas in Our Classroom (Part 2: The Photographer)

In my previous post, I shared a classroom activity using a sound clip and a video. The lesson that I'm going to share in this post uses an image as the main teaching aid and an activity called 'mental picture dictation.' Lesson 1 was inspired by Jamie Keddie's talk at the British Council's ELTDP Symposium 2015. The activity in this post is adapted from a lesson plan in Mr Keddie's book 'Images' (published by Oxford University Press).

Lesson 2: 'The Photographer'


I told my students that I had a very interesting image in my tablet. I looked at the tablet, pretending to be very amused by what I was seeing on the screen. 

'Teacher, let us see it!"

I will let you see it, I told my students. But first, I'm going to describe this picture to you. You would have to use your power of imagination. Listen to my description and imagine how it looks like.



I read a short description of the picture out loud, while my students listened. I didn't allow them to take any notes, I needed the students to practise their listening skills and fully utilise their power of imagination. The description went something like this:

This picture is taken at the zoo. There is a young photographer and a little boy at the zoo. The boy who is wearing shorts and a long-sleeved T-shirt is sitting on a chair. The photographer is taking a picture of the little boy. The camera is on a tripod. The photographer is standing on a chair to reach the camera because he is not tall.


We discussed less familiar words and phrases, such as 'young', 'tripod' and 'long-sleeved.' To check the students' understanding, I asked a few questions:

Where is this picture taken? (At the zoo)
How many characters are there in the picture? (Two)
Who are they? (A photographer and a little boy)
What is the boy doing? (Sitting on a chair)
What is the photographer doing? (Standing on a chair to reach the camera)
Why is the photographer standing on a chair? (Because he is not tall)
What is the boy wearing? (Shorts and long-sleeved T-shirt)
What else is in the picture (A camera on a tripod)


Next, I asked the students to work in small groups and write at least five sentences about the picture. I encouraged them to use all the information that they could remember (and imagine) from the description.

Feedback and Peer-Correction

Next, we put everyone's work up on the board. The students looked at the works of other groups, tried to spot the error (if any) and then gave feedback to one another. I use peer-correction strategy a lot, because I notice that my students seem to be paying more attention when it's their peers who are attempting to correct their mistakes. They can, of course, 'defend' their work if they think it's necessary. I notice that the students have become less careless, and peer-corrections have also sharpen their abilities to spot (and avoid) errors. One very important rule: no negativity is allowed. No one is allowed to condemn other people. All comments must be positive and constructive. (I'll write more about feedback and peer-correction in my next post).

After the peer-corrections are done, I did the recap by summarising all the common mistakes. In this particular activity for instance, a few groups were confused by the words 'photograph' and 'photographer.' I explained that the first one is a thing, while the other one is a person. There were also some confusions over the use of the words 'the' and 'there.' Confusions like these were dealt with during the recap session. 

The students made the necessary corrections and copied the sentences in their exercise books.

Closure - Show them the picture!

Of course, after all things were done it was time to reveal the mysterious picture. I printed a few copies of the image and gave one to each group. The students' reactions when they saw it? Priceless. :)

And yes, I managed to capture the reactions on video, too:

The students enjoyed it so much, even more than I expected. The bell rang, the English period was over, but none of them seemed to notice. I left the classroom quietly while the children were laughing their hearts out, tears in their eyes, the pictures still in their hands.

Photo credit: 'The Pandographer' by Bert Hardy (http://thephotographersgallery.org.uk/berthardy

Jamie Keddie

If you enjoy classroom activities like this, I would strongly recommend Jamie Keddie's delightful book 'Images', published by Oxford University Press. You can also check his website - it has a lot of free teaching resources, videos that you can use in your classroom and a lot of interesting lesson ideas. 

'Images' by Jamie Keddie (Oxford University Press)

Till the next post! -ccj

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