Picture-Based Activities for ELL Students

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

Using pictures in an ELL classroom can be a great way to teach and reinforce English vocabulary. This lesson outlines picture-based activities that can be used with ELL students of varying ages and abilities.

Picture the Vocabulary

Displaying pictures to your students is great way to help them remember and use vocabulary they already know. To prepare for this activity, you will need to find pictures of the following scenes to display to the students.

  • Beach
  • Mountain
  • Desert
  • City skyline
  • A large crowd of people
  1. Display the first picture to the class. If possible, use a projector so that all students can see the picture at the same time.
  2. Instruct the students to look at the picture and to write down as many related vocabulary words as they know. For example, if the beach picture is displayed, students could write words such as sand, water, swimming, hot, vacation, etc.
  3. After a minute or two, repeat the process with the second picture, then the third, and so on.
  4. Once all the pictures have been shown, each student should have five lists of vocabulary words that can be used to describe each picture.
  5. Ask students to choose one picture and, using the vocabulary words they already wrote down, to compose a few descriptive sentences (or more for advanced ELL learners) about the scene.

When the students have finished writing you can collect their papers for assessment or ask for volunteers to share their sentences with the class.

You can repeat this activity as many times as you'd like by simply changing the pictures.

Comics Come to Life

Even students without an artistic flair can benefit from visualizing English words, phrases, and grammar.

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