Profe, working diligently to maintain student interest.
Other than MovieTalk, PictureTalk is the single-best “add-on” to any C.I. program, and an amazing strategy for non-c.i. teachers. It reinforces already-taught vocabulary and grammar, and is also a superb way to introduce new vocab pre-story.
Picturetalk is simple, easy, low-prep and effective. Here are three ways to do Picturetalk.
THE FIRST WAY
a) Find a picture online which contains the “things”– people and actions– in your most recent story, textbook unit, etc. So, if your story is about a poor Guatemalan kid who wants something to eat, you find a picture of that, or (say) a picture of a homeless person.
b) If you have never taught the vocab you want to use, write on board (or project it) along with translation. Make sure the kids know what the words mean.
c) Project the picture, make statements while pointing and pausing (see pic above), and ask questions about the picture and about the things you’ve said about the picture. You ask questions. Students answer (as a class, or get your superstars to answer). You restate what students say in proper language.
Here is an example with questions:
Teacher: ¿Qué hay en la foto? What’s in the photo?
Class: a guy, a dog
Teacher: Hay un hombre, y hay un perro. No hay gato el la foto.
T: ¿Hay un hombre o una mujer? ¿Cómo se llama? Is there a man or a woman? What is their name?
C: a man, Dave
T: Hay un hombre. No hay una mujer. Se llama Dave.
T: ¿Qué tiene el hombre? What does the man have?
C: a dog,
T: Tiene un perro grande. No tiene gato.
Note here that some of these questions require factual answers, but some can be made up (e.g. the man’s name, what the dog wants to eat, etc).
d) As well as asking questions about the photo, you should personalise the discussion. So, we ask the kids do you have a dog? Are you hungry? What’s your dog’s name? etc. This is both interesting and you get first and second person reps.
Another recent trick: use yourself as an example, or use a hand/sock puppet. In my class, we have two sock puppets: Sock, who is obnoxious, and his slave sock Calci. I can wear one and talk to him/her (or have him/her talk to students). So…The man in the picture has a dog, but Sock has Calci, etc.
e) We also want to move into higher-level thinking, so we can ask questions like ¿Es bueno vivir en la calle, o no es bueno? ¿Por qué? (Is it good to live in the street, or not? Why?)
f) You can obviously target your most recently-taught structures and vocab, and– like with Movietalk– you can also mention anything that has been previously taught (recycling). But don`t beat older vocab to death. Also note that we can use different verb forms, etc, no problem.
You want to circle your new vocab. If you make a statement and you get a fast and correct answer, the item does not need more circling.
Now, another brilliant idea that got tweeted out from N.T.P.R.S. 2015 was “double picturetalk.” (Sorry, I have no idea who thought of this). Here, you put two (or more) photos side by side, so you can do comparison talk.
Photo A Photo B
Here, we have a few other strategies we can use.
- We can get kids to look, then make a statement about one picture, then ask them which photo we are describing. E.g. “There is a woman” and they say “photo B.”
- We can ask “what is different between Photo A and Photo B?” We are also able to get many repetitions: “the man has a dog. The woman does not have a dog,” etc.
- We can use plural verbs (they have, we have, etc).
- If you pull photos from two cultures (e.g. from you target language culture and from your own), you can do some great cultural comparisons, on everything from dress etc for beginners to justice etc questions for those with more vocab.
- If you must teach the alphabet, you can start labeling photos A,B,C,D etc and after 26 the kids will recognise the letters (same goes for numbers– why not randomly call one “Photo 237” and the other “301”?) By the way, if you want a few tips for teaching boring crap like numbers, weather, etc, see this.
The third neat thing you can do with Picturetalk (which is especially useful if, like me, you are teaching with fully unsheltered grammar even with true beginners) is to review pictures for past-tense practice. This idea comes from Eric Herman’s views on Movietalk. Ideally, you have say 2-3 pictures which broadly reflect the vocab of the story you are asking.
a) You project a picture and do Picturetalk as noted above (before or on Day 1 of asking the story).
b) The next day (Day 2), you tell the class “OK, yesterday we looked at a photo of _____. Let’s see what we can remember. Class, what was in the photo? That’s right, there was a duck. What was the duck’s name?” etc. After you have made a few past-tense statements, you show the same picture, you check and see what the kids remember, and you ask a few more of the same questions in the past tense.
c) Also on Day 2, you introduce another picture which possibly has the same subject matter and/or subject as the first. PictureTalk that, and review on Day 3.
Here is an example. Say your story uses chases/chased, wants/wanted to grab, doesn’t/didn’t succeed:
Day 1: “Class, what is in the photo? Right, a duck. Class, is it a duck or a dog? That’s right, it’s a duck. Class, what’s the duck’s name? [suggestions come] That’s right class, the duck is named Napoleon. Class, what colour is Napoleon’s head?…” etc
Day 2: Before you re-project the picture, you say, “OK, class, yesterday we saw a photo. Let’s review. Class, what was in the photo? A duck. That’s right, there was a duck. Class, do you remember, what was the duck’s name?…” etc. Then you put the photo up, talk about it, and introduce a second photo:
Now, talk about this photo. “Class, is there one duck or two here? That’s right, there are two ducks. Class, what is the second duck’s name? (…) That’s right, class, the second duck’s name is Megan Fox. Class, is Megan Fox chasing Napoleon? Yes, she is chasing Napoleon. [circle this] Class, why is she chasing Napoleon? What does Napoleon have? That’s right: Napoleon has Megan Fox’s duck wax…” etc.
Day 3: review details, then put the photo up, then review it a bit more. “Class, why was Megan Fox chasing Napoleon? That’s right: Napoleon had her duck wax.”
If you are careful not to introduce any new vocab, this is an amazing way to get kids used to two (or more) verb tenses (or whatever). They are going to hear the same question, a day apart, in different verb tenses. If you check for understanding– and one of the kids’ biggest errors in unsheltered grammar is tense mixing initially– you’ll be building a solid foundation of good input.
Here’s a fourth idea: I was recently in Minneapolis and saw a cool variation on this in Amy and Gisela’s elementary Spanish class. We could call it PictureStory. Here is how it works:
a) get 3-6 pics that illustrate your story. Amy had a book about Sr. Marrero who was always grumpy and didn’t like the weather. Your pics can have everything in them, or just be background. Get the actor(s) you need.
b) Project picture #1 and ask a few questions about it. Establish that your characters are in the picture. You could use just background (ie use the picture as a setting) or you can use the picture with characters in it.
c) Your actors can answer direct questions (“are you…, do you want…would you like…” etc) and/or “do” the dialogue.
d) You then switch to your next scene by changing picture and you keep going.
In Amy’s class, the little kids all wanted to act, so most got a turn at different pictures. (One of them was the man, another his dog…and at one point the man petted his dog! Very cute).
Remember always: language is acquired by processing comprehended communicative input. “Language practice” or “vocab review” or “working on the past tense” are not communicative. “Communicative” means two things:
1. having meaning for speaker/writer & listener/reader
2. having a non-linguistic purpose (eg entertaining, sorting, deciding, ranking)
Anyway. Picturetalk rocks. Just remember the usual brain-friendly rules:
- keep everything 100% comprehensible
- go s.l.o.w.l.y.
- don’t overload new vocab
- accept any output that signals correct understanding; do not force any kind of output
Any more suggestions? Put ’em in the comments or email.