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Using pictures for listening and creative storytelling (TEFL version)

I've blogged before about the value of a picture in generating lots of interesting language in a communicative way. In the example below a picture of a car crash can be used to create a story involving the background to the event, what happened and the people involved. Possibilities are numerous and allow students to come up with their own angles. There are no right or wrong factual answers. Different time frames can be used, including future.

My approach would be to display the picture, possibly describe it, then do a teacher-led lesson where the main goal is listening to comprehensible input, but with additional focus on speaking, reading and writing. You would ask questions, elicit answers and write them up in full or partial form on the board. In this way students get to see the language they are hearing and use it to help generate further answers. Once there is a full set of notes on the board these can then be hidden or gapped (e.g. using the "disppearing text" technique, removing more and more words or chunks until the class can more or less recount the story from memory). So this allows students to recall the story again, generating more repetitions of useful language. The story can be written up at home or in class. A really good class could use similar language to produce their own versions of the story based on the picture.

One key thing to make a success of this type of task is to allow students to use their imaginations and let them take the story where they want it to go. Just help them along where necessary. With some groups, probably more proficient ones, you might prefer to do this as a pair or group task, then elicit the different stories they generate.

You'll note, finally, that this is a really low prep task for you which you can stretch to fit the time you have available.

Here's an example:

Image: pixabay.com

The following questions are for guidance and would be adapted to whatever the class suggests. I've included a possible role play scenario below the questions.


1.         What can you see here exactly?

2.         What country are we in possibly? How do you know?

3.         How long has this car been here?

4.         What happened to the car?

5.         Who was driving it? Tell me about him or her.

6.         How did the accident happen?
7.         Were there any passengers?Tell me about them.

8.         Were there injuries or deaths?

9.         What was the driver doing when the accident occurred?

10        Who reported the accident? Who dealt with it?

11.       How could the driver have avoided the accident?

12.       What happened to any other vehicles or drivers involved?


Imagine you are a police officer who has arrived at the scene. Phone your police station to tell them what you have discovered and what you have done.





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