Using Images to Engage English Language Learners


We’ve all heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” So why not use pictures as a tool for learning words? In fact, many parents and teachers use picture books with early learners to help them understand that words convey meaning, even before they are aware of the text.

That’s just part of the reasoning and research behind why Waterford’s early learning curricula use images (like in the picture book below!) to help young children engage with lessons and develop reading and language skills.

But images can also cater to an individual student’s needs, backgrounds, and levels of proficiency of each child – making pictures also a wonderful resource for teaching English language learners.

Besides picture books, here are some other ways to use photos with English language learners:

Compare and contrast- Students can compare and contrast two different images. What are some similarities? Differences? Encourage them to use vocabulary words and to share their findings with another learner.

Thought bubbles- Create thought bubbles for characters in the picture. Ask the students, “what are they thinking?” to help them get started.

Image detective- Ask the students a question about the photo and have them identify clues. Then based on their “investigation” have them come up with a conclusion.

Speaking practice- Find a simple audio recording tool and have the ELL record their description of a photo. They can then listen to their recording and keep practicing – don’t forget to have them listen to old recordings to show their progress! Waterford Reading includes recording tools for this very purpose.

Inspire writing- Let your learner write down words that first come to mind when looking at the picture. Over time, as their writing improves, encourage them to write full sentences.

For more ideas and information on this, check out this blog on Edutopia. How do you use photos with English language learners?


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