Images can be rich and compelling. Looking at them, language learners are encouraged to speak. For looking at photographs and talking about them, there are a few pointers for how to choose an image.
For discussing images, I employ Visual Thinking Strategy. I was trained in this method, but can give you an overview to get you started and then you can research it further. In a nutshell, ask your students the following questions:
– What is going on in this picture?
– What do you see that makes you say that?
– What more can you find?
Most importantly, validate student interpretations as they go. Every comment is an important addition. Point at what students mention as they say it. Repeat back to students their comments.
Where can you find rich and compelling photos? A resource that will be invaluable to you is the collection of photographs for educators to use for Visual Thinking Strategy from the New York Times. You can start with this slide show of 40 photographs.
For this discussion, I am going to use three photos from that collection to review some ideas for how to choose a photo that can be most useful for conversation. Here are three ideas to keep in mind:
Choose a photo that expresses multiple ideas. For example, don’t choose a photo that is a close up of one being. In this photo there is a parade, house, car and motorcycle. There is a girl in a dress and the color of that dress is compelling. There is emotion expressed in this photo.
Choose a photo that lends itself to discussion using vocabulary that your students already have. This photo takes place in a classroom. There are students, a teacher, tables, chairs and they are looking at something. There is vocabulary that students have even at the novice level.
Choose a photo that shows an aspect of culture or that lends itself to a social justice commentary. The last two photos showed two different themes for cultural commentary. The first was the celebration of a quinceanera and the second was a view into the setting of a school. Here is a photo of a human living in an exhibit in a zoo. This photo lends itself to a social justice commentary on habitats in zoos.
Here are slides with the images I found so that you can easily copy the slide and use them in your classroom. Let me know in the comments what you keep in mind when choosing a photo to discuss in class.