Picture description is a very useful method for teaching English as a second language. Teaching English, specially, English as a Second Language (ESL) has always posed a challenge for the teachers and often demands approaches different than that of traditional approaches to provide learners with comprehensible input. Picture description is one such approach for reinforcing vocabulary, speaking ability and other language skills when combined with speaking and writing activities.
Pictures are handy and useful substitute to traditional teaching methods. Most students regardless of cultural and language barriers can comprehend pictures. But first let us understand what is picture description-
A picture description is a careful observation of a given picture and describing it in the form of a composition having meaningful sentences.
This method is great for helping students to acquire new vocabulary and practice pronunciation. What we need is just any picture - it may be a picture from the textbook or an image of some advertisement or picture from a magazines or newspapers or for a resourceful teacher any picture downloaded/printed from internet. It is advisable to use pictures which describes something familiar to the students like- the picture of a classroom or market or a park, etc.
How to use picture description method in classroom?
At the very first step, show students the picture and ask them to verbally identify what they see in the picture. Students with higher language proficiency might be more responsive during this part of the activity. This will in turn help in peer learning as students with lower language proficiency will be able to learn and identify objects from the picture. The teacher can ask any student to write down the identified words on the black board or may ask the class to write down in their copies.
The next step is sorting, i.e. classify the identified words in to categories like -
This step can be done as a class to support peer learning.
In the third step, ask students to compose written sentences about the picture with the help of the words. Some students may need support at this stage and this activity can be done in groups having at least one higher proficiency student in each group.
Initially the teacher can provide sentence frames and ask the student to supply one of the vocabulary words in the blanks. Look at the given example –
The teacher may provide sentence frames, such as –
Later students may ask to form full sentences or paragraph to describe a picture.
Some tips that a teacher can provide students for picture description –
While observing a picture we can ask the following questions –