Daily Archives: April 27, 2013

Exploring Visuals

For this session, we looked at some tools like Flickr, Bubblr and Bookr to create our own materials. I used Bookr to improve the worksheet I had prepared before. Bookr is a tool to share your own photobook by using Flickr images. Before looking at the material I created in Bookr, I want to give more information about Flickr. Flickr is a popular online photo-sharing service and is totally free. The best way to search for a photo is to insert a tag or a key word. You can easily create a group of photos for your class by placing them into different sets, tagging each one with the student who took the photo etc. and the best thing of Flickr is most of the images are in the public domain. The reason why I explained Flickr in detail is most coursebooks are lack of authentic, recent and relevant supplementary visuals to texts.  It is because ” they rely heavily on stock or archive photography banks known as visual content industry which is responsible for nearly 75 percent of the images we find in advertising, marketing and design. It is this that gives ELT materials that artificial, airbrushed feel” ( Ben Goldstein). So, why don’t you produce your own materials and make them visually appealing  by using Flickr or your  mobile phone, camera. The visuals you add will probably have more impact on learners than the ones in coursebooks as they are original, recent and relevant to texts.

Here is my Bookr and the worksheet my friend  and I created in Microsoft Word Worksheet – Yuksel & Sag

bookr     bookr2

bookr 3Bookr 4

The positive impact of visuals is  obvious when we compare them. Although the content in my Bookr and worksheet are same, they look completely different. The one in Bookr is like a unit in a coursebook, and looks professional.

As the graphic designer Alan Fletcher said:

Although words and pictures can signify the same thing, the effect they produce can be quite different. Writing ‘stars and stripes’ on a piece of cloth is not as effective as illustrating them. The words don’t provoke the same emotional charge.

All of my classmates and my tutor agreed that this improved version of the worksheet is better because there are visuals that will probably attract and engage learners. They also liked the number of visuals and how they are placed in my Bookr. While designing it, I tried to avoid using visuals in both pages which may be distractive. The only negative feedback I got was about the length of the text in each page. We all agreed that long texts may distract learners. Taking these comments into consideration, I edited  the worksheet and this is the latest version of my Bookr. However, there isn’t an activity section in the latest version. It is because I lost my work two times while trying to create my new Bookr and the last time I didn’t want to take any risks and published the material.  I think Bookr is good for adding visuals and writing 2 or 3 sentences about them not for  long texts as you don’t have any save option. For example; you can teach nationalities, countries, flags, jobs etc. through Bookr and Microsoft Office Publisher would be more appropriate while creating worksheets with long texts and visuals.

One of the principles for developing materials set by Tomlinson is engaging learners both affectively and cognitively in the language learning experience. Teachers can provide this affective engagement through Bookr as visuals are fun and appealing. Learners will probably enjoy visuals that get their attention and engage in the text more. Bookr may also provide the cognitive engagement as visuals aid comprehension. It  may also increase learners’ retention because image rich texts help students remember the story which might build their memory skills.

As most of the  today’s youth population is visually literate, the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” has never been truer than before. Therefore, try to use visuals as much as possible to develop visual literacy, engage learners, illustrate language,increase retention  of new language items and so on.

This post  is 711 words. Perhaps I should have drawn half a picture instead? 🙂


Goldstein, B. (2008) Working with Images: A Resource Book for the Language Classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.




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Images in Language Teaching

Images – as visual aids- have long played an important role in language teaching. “It would be hard to imagine a language-teaching context without the presence of flashcards, wallcharts, coursebook images, downloaded photos, time lines, board drawings, learner-produced art-work, and so on” (Goldstein 2008:1). The reason why images have become an indispensable part of language teaching could be the benefits that they offer both learners and teachers. Some of them are as follows.

 Images can

  •  be used at all levels.
  •  introduce ‘outside world’ artefacts into class.
  • provide prompts for language production (e.g describe and draw).
  • make linguistic concepts easier to grasp.
  • act as speech cues in exams.
  • play a part in many classroom activities, e.g information gap tasks, etc.

ELT teachers should use images actively in class to

  • stimulate language use
  • illustrate language
  • engage students on an imaginative-level
  • reflect our world’s ever-increasing dependence on the visual image
  • develop visual literacy.

According to Goldstein, we can also look from the frame and

  • explore the cultural significance of images and related social issues.
  • consider images as communicating open-ended messages (rather than taking them at face value).
  • analyse the formal composition of images and their relationship to text (multimodality).
  • develop learner’s skills in interpreting images and creating their own.

The role of images in ELT  & some classroom activities

A image can be used as a decoration, visual aid,  complement to text, subject  for analysis, signs,symbols or icons and a form of subversion. We can use images with different activities like describing images, interpreting images etc… The images below (illustrations and signs) are  taken from the book “Working with Images” by Ben Goldstein.


Different activities can be done through images. I want to share some practical ideas that can be applied in a language classroom. With this image, Goldstein suggested an activity that aims to practise various lexical fields: materials,function etc. Adverbs: sometimes,often,usually, etc. and their position in the sentence. In this activity, students create a mental image of an object, describing it in the first person to others who have to guess what it is. The activity is called I am… and this personification of objects is something students enjoy because it allows them to conjure up a number of different and unexpected images. Teachers can prepare their own flashcards based on lexical sets they want to revise, e.g. furniture, animals, buildings, food, everyday objects etc. To make the activity more clear, the teacher may read the text below as an example and ask students listen and guess the object.

I’m sometimes made of plastic. I’m usually round. I have many different shapes. But I’m often quite small. I have numbers. I often sit next to bed. You usually use me during the week. You need me but you don’t like me.  Answer: Alarm clock


The picture above includes different signs which can be used as an ELT material, as well. Goldstein suggests another activity by using these different signs. The main focus of the activity is to teach  functional language in sign language and different registers (formal/informal). The activity is simple but seems engaging. First, distribute different signs to the students in pairs or small groups and make sure that they know the following different sign types: ‘warning’, ‘security’, ‘advertising’, ‘request’, ‘road safety’, and their concepts and present the class with the following questions:

– What kind of sign is each and where would you find it?

– How could you communicate the message of each in one simple sentence? e.g. Sign 1: Don’t even think of parking here –  It is illegal to park here.

As a second activity, students choose adjectives from the list (polite, threatening, humorous, insistent, friendly, official) and identify the style of each sign. Activities can be expanded. These questions can also be addressed to students.

In what ways are these signs unconventional or original?

What would a conventional equivalent look like, in each case?

Why could signs C and E be considered the odd ones out?

As it is clear from the examples, images can be used at all levels. The first exercise can be  done in elementary or pre-intermediate classes whereas in the second one the target level could be intermediate, upper-intermediate or advanced. I think the best thing about images is you don’t need any other materials, just an  appropriate image. If you still haven’t tried teaching only with  images , why don’t you leave all the materials aside for a day and listen to them in the class as the expression says  ‘Images Speak Louder than Words’.


Goldstein, B. (2008) Working with Images: A Resource Book for the Language Classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



Filed under Materials