Picture Introduction

This can be used in the very first lesson or at any point in time, really.

  1. Choose a few photos that represent something about yourself. Mine are: a chicken, the Golden Arches, a group of school kids in Japan, a mountain in Arizona, a diving mask.
  2. Put the pictures on the board (or if you have a projector, project them all) so everyone can see them all at once. Alternatively, if they are smaller, give each pair a photo which they will pass around.
  3. Tell the learners: These photos represent a part of my life in the past or present. Brainstorm with your partner what you think the connection is.
  4. Give the learners enough time, usually 10 minutes to brainstorm what they think the connection is.
  5. As a whole class ask for ideas. What is the connection to the chicken? Groups might say: Do you love to eat chicken? Do you have a pet chicken? etc. If they guess it you could give them a point. If not, give little tips like: There is a connection to one of my past jobs, until they discover the story (I worked on a chicken farm for 2 years. It was my first job. I didn’t like it and on a side note, I am now a vegetarian.).
  6. Continue playing until all the stories have been discovered.
  7. Depending on the size of the class you can ask them to show a picture (just google image search) that represents something about themselves the others don’t know. If the group is large, have them do it in small groups or pairs. If the group is small, do it as a whole class. Alternative: as homework they should bring in 3 pictures (these do not have to be pictures of themselves! They can use “stock” photos to represent the concept).

For 1-1 training this can also be used. Just ask directly: What do you think the connection is? Follow up by bouncing it back to the learner. What about you? Have you ever worked with animals? Tell me about it.


A-Z with Photos

This is great for all levels.

  1. Put the learners in pairs. Ask them to label a piece of paper with A, B, C…Z.
  2. Explain that you will show them all a photo (you might make copies for each pair or send/give them the url). They need to find a word in the photo for each letter of the alphabet (so choose a photo with a lot happening). They can use verbs, nouns or even prepositions usually.
  3. Show them the photo. Circle and help where necessary. I allow dictionaries/online dictionaries.
  4. The winner is the first group finished or when you call time, the group with the most words. You could also give points for unique words that other groups didn’t have in their list? Be creative. 🙂

1-1: This can be used in 1-1 lessons, but the trainer should allow the learner to take the lead.

Phone Pic Show and Tell

This is good for all levels and they learn not only new vocabulary when they need it but new things about their classmates.

1. Choose a photo from your phone.

2. Encourage the learners to find out as much as possible about the photo (where was it, who is in it, what are those things in the background etc.).  Feed them new vocabulary immediately as they need it (board it).  Let them “get the story”.  Clearly, selfies are not as fun as an abstract or unusual shot.

3. Have the learners show a photo from their phone and repeat.

If you have too many in the group you could either do this in pairs or have one or two people present a photo every week.

1-1: This works well in 1-1 lessons as described above.

Pictures for Describing People

Pictures for Describing People

This one is not by any means revolutionary, but is a tried and tested activity and pretty darn effective at practicing vocabulary about how people look.

  1. After you have introduced vocabulary to describe people, spread out many photos of different people on the table (or put many on an A4 page and print for each participant).
  2. Next, I choose one of the photos (but don’t disclose this to the participants) and describe the person. They all listen and look at the photos. The first one to guess is the next person to describe.
  3. Continue until everyone has had a chance.

1-1: This works perfectly for 1-1 lessons.

Baby Picture Mix

Baby Picture Mix

  1. Ask everyone to bring in a photograph from when they were a baby. They can print it out (but don’t use their phones/FB pages) bring in your own as well!
  2. Depending on the level you can do various things with the photographs:
    1. Beginner: Spread the photographs on the table/board/wall and the participants ask “Is this Marcus?” or “I think this is Marcus”.
    2. Elementary and Pre-intermediate: Have them write a short text about themselves from when they were babies/small children. Then have the groups match the descriptions to the photographs and then guess who the babies are.
    3. Intermediate and up: Similar to Elementary and Pre-intermediate but encourage uses of “used to do” and “would do” in addition to the other past tenses. Instead of writing, have them orally tell their story and the others listen, ask questions and then find the matching photograph.




Just like the old favorite, brought alive in the language classroom!


  1. Have the participants write down some words on slips of paper. They should refer to their notes or course materials for the vocabulary words.
  2. Collect the cards and put the learners into teams of 2-5.
  3. One person from the first team comes up to the board, takes a card and when you start your timer, they must draw the word for their team. Their team may guess outloud and if they guess correctly before the timer is up (you decide how much time, 30-60 seconds), they win the point. If they do not guess correctly, all other teams have the opportunity to give ONE guess. If they guess correctly, they win the point.
  4. The team with the most points at the end wins.

Picture Pass

Picture Pass

This one is good for elementary-intermediate levels.

  1. Print three (or more depending on the size of the class) pictures in which something is happening (such as a scene in a restaurant or a classroom etc.). Alternatively, you can choose three pictures online and using three smart phones in the room, access one photo per phone (so you have three different photos on three different phones).
  2. Put the learners in pairs or small groups of 3-4. Each group needs a photo. Give them three minutes to simply look at the photo and discuss it with their group. They should say whatever they want with the trainer circling and helping where necessary. Set a timer on your smart phone for three minutes.
  3. When the timer goes off, have the groups pass the photos or phones to the group on their left. Every group will now need to have a piece of paper and WRITE 5-10 questions about the photo. Questions could be for example:
    1. How many people are in the photo?
    2. Why is the woman laughing?
    3. Who is wearing yellow socks?
    4. What color is the dog in the background?
    5. Etc.
  1. Give them enough time (no timer) to write at least five questions about the picture. Circle and help where necessary.
  2. Next, call “STOP” and have the groups pass their photo/smart phone to the group on their left. Now, explain that they are going to be quizzed on the first photo they saw. So, group C has the photo Group A discussed and Group B wrote questions about. Group B asks Group A their questions (count the points if you want of the correct answers) while Group C looks at the photo and checks that the answers are correct. Continue until all the groups have asked, answered and checked.

This game is great fun. It includes speaking, writing, listening as well as practice of vocabulary and grammar in a motivating way. The whole exercise takes about 15-25 minutes depending on the size of your class.