Here’s another speaking activity you may want to try with your students to pep up your lessons. The aim of the activity is to increase student talking time and to supply them with ideas for how to describe a picture exhaustively.
One of the tasks in the final speaking exam here in the Czech Republic is picture description. To complete the task successfully, students must describe a photograph and then compare it with a different picture. They don’t usually struggle with the language, but they do sometimes find it challenging to come up with enough points within the given time limit. That’s why I thought it would be a good idea to give them more opportunities to practice this.
As a teacher, all you need to do during the preparation stage is find a sufficient number of picture sets. Each set consists of two images which are different but have lots of similarities too. I simply cut them out of magazines which were lying around, which didn’t take me more than ten minutes. Since you will be able to recycle this teaching material, it’s definitely worth the prep time.
Students work in pairs. Each pair gets one set of pictures (it’s good to have a set of three images in case you happen to have an odd number of students). The partners must not see each other’s pictures. They also need a piece of paper and a pen.
It’s best to demonstrate the activity with one student like this:
- Student A: In my picture, there are some people.
- Student B: Yes. In my picture, the people are outdoors.
- Student A: Yes. In my picture, the people are doing a sport.
- Student B: No. (Student B draws one part of the Hangman image. It’s his/her turn again). In my picture, the people are all boys.
- Student A: No. (Student A draws one part of the Hangman image. It’s his/her turn again). In my picture, …..
As the title implies, the aim of the game is to ‘hang’ the other person.
I made several observations while monitoring:
It seemed that in order to succeed, the partners tried hard to concentrate and listen to each other carefully.
Most students started very tentatively, using some vague, general ideas. However, as the game proceeded, they came up with a lot more specific descriptions.
They gave each other all sorts of hints throughout the game which each of them tried to use to their advantage. For example, I heard one boy say: In my picture, one man is holding a bottle. > The other boy replied: No. (because the people in his picture were holding glasses of beer). In order to play it safe and make his partner reply positively, he said something about a vessel with some liquid. I thought it was a very clever move and I really appreciated the fact that they were encouraged to play with hypernyms and hyponyms.
As they actually had to provide very precise information (for example, it’s important to distinguish men from a man or a bottle from a glass), they had to pay attention to grammar, vocabulary as well as pronunciation when producing the language.
I noticed that the less similar the images were, the less smoothly the game went so I recommend that you find pictures which are almost identical (especially with lower-level classes).
In the end, the students looked at both pictures and had a few aha moments. We didn’t have time but as a follow-up activity, I could have asked them to actually compare the images.