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Using pictures to generate discussion

With A-level students I have enjoyed some good lessons over the years using a simple, suggestive picture as a basis for discussion. You begin by getting students to simply describe what is in the picture. You then get them to use their imaginations to make up a back story to the picture.

Questions run along the lines:

C'est qui?
Comment s'appellent-ils?
Quel âge ont-ils?
Qu'est-ce qu'elle porte?
Que fait-il comme travail?
Quel sont ses passe-temps?
D'où vient-il? D'où vient-elle?
Pourquoi est-il ici?
Qu'est-ce qui s'est passé?
De quoi parlent-ils?
Que se passera-t-il après?
Quelle est leur relation?
Pourquoi ils se disputent?

You cannot tell in advance where the questioning will lead. You depend on what the students come up with and hope they are imaginative. They may need some prompting if they are short of ideas. Encourage them to think like scriptwriters for a soap. The more inventive they are, the better. Grammatically there are good opportunities to practise various tenses, including imperfect (what was just happening befor the scene?) and conditional: what would happen if...?

Once you have done a group discussion, you could then present another picture and ask the students in pairs to write a scenario for the picture. You could give them a 15 minute time limit, then get them to report back to the class.

This can easily lead into a piece of writing in play or narrative form. Maybe with some groups a scene could be acted out.

You can easily find suggestive pictures from the web. Here are some I've just googled:


  1. I used to do this too and it worked really well. Another similar idea was to post up on the board 1 screen's worth of random vocabulary, random phrases, nouns, verbs, adverbs + verb tenses, + anything else that might have been recently studying, eg relative pronouns, subjunctive etc. The pupils had to work in groups to write a story that used all of the vocab and structures on the board and present the story to the rest of the class. The resulting stories were often hilarious!

  2. It's a great idea. I keep meaning to try this and now you have made me want to do it even more. I've a feeling it's something I could even try with Key Stage 3 students, too.

  3. What a lovely idea. My mind is already ticking over which groups I can use it with in the next academic year. It would be an excellent way to recap grammar and vocab at the end of a unit. This is going to be a priority in my to- do list of activities. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for commenting. I'm glad it's useful.


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