Talking Pictures

Talking Pictures is an activity for your TEFL class which involves the students from the outset and is guaranteed to interest them as they provide the impetus for the class.

This is important. Often students can feel left out of the class; in this activity they are the ones who supply the essentials for the activity and the ones who make sure it works.


Since these days virtually everyone has a mobile phone with a camera, the first step is tell your students in a prior lesson that they will need to take a photograph of something which interests them to bring to the next lesson and show.

Stress that they should make the photo as simple as possible with one main subject.

(If students in the class don’t have mobile phones you can ask them to bring along instead a photo they have taken from a magazine. As teacher you should also bring along a few spare photos in case.)

The students can choose any subject they like and this is what makes this activity so varied, unpredictable and interesting. It also allows you, as a teacher, to get an idea of the kind of interests and characters your students have.

One caveat here: tell the students not to show their photo to anyone else before the activity begins. It has to be a “secret subject”.


In the next lesson, this is where you demonstrate the idea to your class. Take out your picture and, without showing it to the class, describe it in as much detail as possible.

As you do this the class draws what you are describing. Stress that their skill in drawing is not important, you are looking for accuracy here in terms of them drawing what you describe.

Suppose, for example, you have taken the picture on this page. You might say:

I’m in the middle of the picture looking straight at the camera. I’m wearing a black cap, sunglasses and a red tee-shirt. I’m sitting on a chair, driving a boat. Above me is the roof of the boat. Behind me you can see the deep blue sea and the wake left by the boat in the water; it’s all white and foamy. My left hand is on the steering wheel and my right hand is on the throttle.

(Of course the vocabulary in your description should match the class level.)

Afterwards get everyone together to see who has most accurately drawn your picture. Now you can lead the class on to describe what is going on in the picture and then take it further to discuss the concepts and ideas shown.

Pair work in the Lesson

Not put the students into pairs and have them take turns to describe their photograph to their partner. While they do this their partner simply draws what they hear and tries to recreate the photo on paper (or a mini whiteboard, etc…). At no time must the students look at each other’s work!

As this is happening you circulate around the class and help out with vocabulary and suchlike. This allows your students to learn and practice the vocabulary they will need later on.

Class Discussion

After everyone has finished, bring the students back together and bring each pair to the front. Show the class the drawing and see if they can work out what is shown there. Then show them the original picture and have the class compare them. The student who took the original picture can fill in any gaps.

This is designed to lead on (with your guidance if required) to a discussion about the subject of the photo and this can be almost anything! Because the subject has been chosen by the student they are certain to have an interest in it and activities like this can become very lively and interesting.


The first time you do this activity with a class you might find some of the photos a little too complex or awkward to describe. However, once the class are familiar with the idea you can try the activity again and this time allow your students more time to think about what kind of photo they are going to provide.

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Posted in Lesson Plans & Activities.

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