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How To
Make Drills More Exciting by Using Pictures



During the past few years, I have been working
with the teachers in the Baltic republics: (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia), demonstrating
multiple ways of using pictures for teaching language skills. A surprisingly large number
of teachers do not use visuals on a regular basis in their classrooms. Due to limited
access to literature on methodology, we have had to develop our own techniques for using
pictures. I myself, have developed about 20 different activities which need only one or
two sets of simple pictures but which can be used to teach different skills, but mainly
speaking and writing.



Often I draw the pictures myself, since
commerciallyproduced games do not always correspond to the demands of the curriculum. But
if you cannot draw, ask your pupils or their parents to help, or, cut pictures out of old
workbooks.



I have been using simple pictures of everyday
objects, animals, fruits etc. and, though it may seem quite boring to deal with the same
set of cards for a long period, children never tire of playing with them. Children use
their imagination and can see their own pets and toys behind the lines of the visuals.
Besides I always try to put an element of surprise in the lessonby playing a new game
with a wellknown set of cards, or replaying an old game with a new set of cards with
unfamiliar pictures. Another reason for using the same pictures again and again is to
refresh the students' memories and give them the opportunity to review vocabulary
previously learned.



A lot can be done with only one set of cards,
but teachers have more possibilities if they use two or more sets of the same picture: one
set is left as it is, or is colored by the teacher or students; a second one can have both
pictures and words, and a third set just words. If the teacher has photocopying
possibilities, s/he can provide the children with one set of cards so that they can play
some games at home with their family or friends. Children can also be asked to color their
own set, as well as the set they will use in classthat way the children feel more
motivated and involved in the whole process.



Following are some games and activities that I
have developed to encourage participation in learning English. While using these
activities, the teacher should not forget that even the most boring drill can be made
exciting with the help of drama techniques. And finally, after the students have practiced
the activities, they can take over the role of teacher in the activity, thus varying their
participation.



Activities with one set of cards



Played in groups of five to 10 students. All
cards are displayed on the table face down. Player one picks up one card and repeats the
word or gives a whole sentence, depending on his/her level or particular needs. If the
player is correct s/he can keep the card. If not, s/he places the card on the table (face
up) and the next player has a turn. Often the other pupils provide the necessary word
saying, for example, "Don't you know that it is a book?" The teacher can also
provide the word if no student is able to come up with the correct response.



Played in groups of five to 10 students. All the
cards are in a pile face down. Player one tries to guess the first card by naming it, then
takes the card and sees if s/he is correct. If correct, the student can keep the card and
make a second guess. If not, Player two has a turn.



Variant. If the player has guessed a word
that belongs to the same group; e.g., the player has said "an apple" and there
is a picture of an orange on the card, it is a correct answer because they are both fruit.
At a more advanced level it is possible to ask the students to prove the connection
between the guess and the picture on the card; e.g., a player has said "a
banana" but there is a picture of a monkey, so the player can say "monkeys love
bananas" and then s/he can keep the card.



Played in groups of 10 to 20 students. The
teacher chooses one card from the set. Students take turns trying to guess what it is by
asking yes/no questions; e.g., "Is it an animal? Is it big? Does it live in the
jungle?" The student who succeeds can keep the card or take the place of the teacher.



Variant. It can be made easier for the
beginners, if the teacher gives some clues as to the category; e.g., "Is it a thing
or an animal?"



Played in groups of 10 to 15 students. The cards
are distributed among the players. The teacher calls out the names of the objects on the
cards. When the students hear their cards mentioned, they give them to the teacher. Often
other students will help those who cannot remember the exact word.



Played in groups of five to 10 students. From
1012 cards are displayed face up on the table. Students have a minute to look at them,
then the teacher covers them, and one of the students is asked to recall them, or, each
student writes down as many as s/he can remember.



Played by the whole class. Some students play
the role of shopassistants, the others are customers. The goodssome five to 10 cards
(with no written identification) are displayed face up on the tables (it is even possible
to have different shops with different assortments of goods). Customers walk around the
classroom trying to buy as much as possible through identifying the objects on the cards.
After everything is sold, the roles can be changed.



Played in groups of two to seven students or
individually. The teacher gives out a set of five to seven cards to each group or
individual. The students have to decide which things do not belong to the set and why.
According to their level these explanations can be mentioned very briefly or described in
written form.



Played in groups of two to six students or
individually. Each group or student has 10 to 20 cards to arrange in alphabetical order
according to the initial letters of words. The students may be asked to make an
alphabetical list of the words in written form.



Played individually or in groups of two to five
students. The players' task is to arrange the pictures; e.g., five to eight pictures of
animals, from the one they like best to the one they like least. The teacher can ask them
to explain their preferences orally or in written form.



Played with the whole class. One or more sets of
cards are distributed among the students, three to five cards per student. The teacher
tells a story mentioning the objects that are on the students' cards. Whenever the
students hear their cards mentioned, they hold up the appropriate cards.



Played with the whole class. The teacher walks
around playing the role of the man from Mars who has never seen the objects, animals, etc.
before asking, "What's this?" The students answer the teacher naming the cards
or even explaining them in greater detail.



Played in groups of five to 12 students. All
cards are in a pile face down. Player one takes a card and starts a story, using the word
on the card; e.g., a card with a picture of a tree on it and s/he begins, "Once upon
a time there was a big tree." Player two takes the next card (with a picture of a
book) and tries to continue: "Little Mary liked to sit under the tree and read a book
on a warm summer day."



Activities with two or more sets of cards



Played in groups of four to seven students. Two
sets of cards are spread out face down. Player one turns up one card, identifying it, then
turns up another one trying to find the matching pair. If the player succeeds, s/he keeps
the pair and has another turn. If not, Player one puts the cards back face down and it is
the next student's turn. The student who collects the most pairs is the winner.



Played with the whole class. Since an even
number of players is necessary for this game the teacher may have to join the class to
make an even number. Two sets of cards are distributed among the students so that
everybody has one card and there is a matching pair for each card among the players. The
students walk around and try to find their pairs by asking questions. They can show the
cards to each other only after they have found the matching pair.



Variant. Find your group; e.g., animals,
clothes, vegetables, etc.



Played in a groups of five to 25 students. One
set of cards is distributed among the students (the number in the set dependent on the
number of students playing the game), and the other set is used by the teacher. The
teacher calls out a word and when the student hears it, s/he turns the card face down. The
first player who has turned over all his/her cards calls out "Bingo" and is the
winner.



Played in pairs. Each student in the pair
receives the same set of five to seven cards which form a story. Player one arranges the
cards in order, so that the other student cannot see them. Then the player describes the
arrangement either orally or in writing. His partner arranges his cards accordingly.
Player one shows his cards to the partner and they compare the arrangement.



Played in pairs. Each pair of students get the
same cards. They describe them trying to find the differences. After they have finished,
they show each other their cards and compare the differences and similarities.



Played in groups of five to eight students. Two
sets of cards are distributed among the students of the group, six to eight cards each. If
any player has a matching pair, s/he calls it out and puts the cards on the table. Then
Player one asks another player for a card s/he needs. If this student has it, it is given
to Player one and s/he puts down that pair and asks another student for a match. If there
is no match, it is that student's turn to ask somebody. The student who gets rid of all
his/her cards first is the winner.



Played with two or four sets of cards in groups
of even numbers of students (8, 10, 12, etc.) or with three sets of cards in groups of odd
numbers of students (9, 15, etc.). All players have one card and sit in a circle. The
teacher stands in the middle and calls out one of the pairs (or 3, or 4). The students who
have these cards must get up and quickly exchange their places. While they are doing so,
the teacher tries to sit down on one of the chairs and one of the students remains in the
middle, gives his/her card to the teacher and calls out the next pair (or 3, or 4).



Inara
Dimpere teaches English to beginners at Riga English Grammar School. Her interest
lies in developing methods of teaching young learners. 


Return



 Bowen, B. M. 1991. Look here! Visual aids in language teaching. Modern English
Publications.
 Gairns, R. and S. Redman. 1991. Working with words: A guide to teaching and learning
vocabulary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
 Gerngross, G. and H. Puchta. 1992. Pictures in action. Englewood Cliffs: PrenticeHall.
 Rixon. S. 1992. How to use games in language teaching. Modern English Publications.
 Ur, P. l992. Grammar practice activities: A practical guide for teachers. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
 Wright, A. 1990. Pictures for language learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



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