January 08, 2014

Using Young Learners' Pictures while Learning English

“If you put out acceptance and warmth, 
you tend to attract the same.” 
Deborah Day

Do you have pictures of your students in the bulletin boards at school? You should!

Having their lovely faces present in the classroom creates a climate of acceptance, builds group identity, and allows us to teach affectively in many ways. Ready or not, here we go!

We make their picture cards by taking their pictures and plastifying these with their names written under. Make sure you use only capital letters to help even the young ones read all names. one hint is to take the pictures against a solid color background, so that all pictures look the same and their faces stand out. 

At first our pictures cards here at school were too big to fit in our bulletin boards. Now we have them sized as a regular playing card. If it is hard for you to have all of their pictures displayed on the bulletin board, you can have all their pictures inside an envelope with their group's name. 

Here I share some ways we have discovered to use picture cards with young learners: 

1. Welcoming in the beginning of the semester: when students arrive we usually have all the pictures of students in the front lobby showing all the students who have classes at school. It is interesting for them to see themselves as a part of a larger community and also to find their friends from previous groups, as well as peers from their regular school. Children find their pictures, get them and take them to their classroom.

2. Giving themselves a group identity: after a few classes you can ask students to think about a name for their group. You can see in the picture the different group names they have chosen and how they express their similarities and likes.

Students then make together a small banner that is placed above their pictures on the boards. They have a great time seeing what other groups are named.

Here at school in your coordination meetings we use the group names when talking about them!

3. Circle time attendance:  The picture cards are perfect for you to have the ritual of the remembering circle that I have described in a previous post. When checking who is in class, we can use the pictures for students to remember others. Then students can say something they like about the children who are absent making these child present in their absence. This ritual celebrates being part of the group.

4. Quick cheat: we might not remember the names of all students in the beginning of a semester. Instead of asking them to wear labels or plate cards, we can always glance quickly at the bulletin board. Not only us, but students as well. We will probably have just remembered their names during circle time attendance. 

5. Seating students: when you notice that some students always sit next to each other, picture cards can be used to display where they are sitting before they arrive. I usually do this once in a while, as I think it is also important to value their seating preferences.

6. Matching students: picture cards are a great way to match students in pairs or groups. They save time and it is very easy for students to understand who is working with who. Hint: you can divide students in two piles (weak/strong or shy/agitated) and match pairs. In this way you know you will not have a pair weak/weak or agitated/agitated. I'm not saying that these pairs are not productive, but you might prefer to have pairs matched with some kind of opposite charateristic.

7. Task cards: picture cards can be used to choose students who are going to do certain tasks. You can ask a question and pull a card, pull two cards and get one student to ask another a question, or even have an order in which students will do something. The interesting thing is the surprise factor that fosters readiness, even students knowing that it will take some time for them to be called again after their picture was pulled. The good thing of this system is that we can make sure all students get their fair share of teacher attention.

8. Expressing themselves with picture cards: young learners can place their picture according to their opinion in surveys with multiple answers. Instead of writing their names they just display their picture under the heading. You can have boys/girls, like/don't like, prefer cats/prefer dogs, etc. Be careful not to have the pictures replacing their actual speaking! The good thing is that we can see the results in a very concrete way.

9. Making lists: student can put their pictures in order according to certain topics. Let's say height, age, how long they have studied at school, how much they like a cartoon, etc

10. Interacting with other groups: giving a face to a person helps when carrying out projects together with other groups at school. 

11. Identifying student projects: picture cards can also be displayed next to student projects in learning fairs, making it easy for children and parents to find their projects and to recognize projects from their friends.

12. Remembering everybody during teachers' meetings: I have experienced that in meetings with teachers we tend to talk more about the challenging students than the ones who are performing well. Using their picture cards allows us to "see" your young learners better and make sure we don't  forget anybody.

A word of caution: it is better if the idea of having students' pictures is done throughout the school, otherwise if you are the only one doing it, other teachers and groups might become jealous!

I like this idea of having people's pictures around the school so much that we even created a special star wall at school in which we have the faces of everybody who works at school. Each person is a star in our constellation!

We also have the spiral to symbolize that we are always growing and evolving, both personally and professionally. 

What about you? 
How did you like these ideas? 
Do you think you can use them in your setting? 

Make my day by dropping me a line. I'd really like to hear from you!

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  1. wowowow... lovely, as usual! Although I use pics with my students, I never used their own pics! I've found your post very interesting since it will be much easier to remember all my 360 students each day!!!! Memory goes with age!! ;)
    Tons of smiles, Maria :)

    1. Thank you, Maria!
      Try these activities out and tell me how they work with larger groups. My experience is limited to the small groups we have at school.

      Smiles back!


  2. I like your spiral to symbolise personal and professional growth. I wonder if that was what our ancestors at Newgrange were celebrating with their triple spiral.

    1. Thank you for writing me, Patrick!
      Wow, maybe I am attracted to something really old and big that I am not even aware of! I will study it better in order to understand the meaning of the spiral.

      Wishing you a 2014 full of learning, love, and life,


  3. Dear Juan,

    I love these ideas, I think they work perfectly well with young learners. I am actually thinking of using some of them while teaching my own kids. I will let you know how it works with them. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Nana!
      Do try them with your children. Really curious how these would work at home.


  4. You are quite an inspiration even to us retired collegues and more so because I'm sure that your students love coming to class because you are so thoughtful and make it fun for them.
    Keep up the great work...teaching effectively is a very sacred mission.

    Wishing you abundant Blessings with light, love and creativity!

    1. Dear Magda,
      Thank you so much for your kind words.
      Being present and open to the encounter allows the magic of learning to happen.
      I agree that promoting affective learning is sacred.

      Wishing you light, love, learning, and life,



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