Using Visuals in Teaching English

Using visuals in the English classes can be one of the best methods to efficient and interesting lessons, to get the attention of students, to motivate them properly, to help students memorize words better.

Flashcards are good instruments for learners to intensify their vocabulary acquisition. There are cards of different dimensions with an item of information, either a picture or writing. There are many kinds of games which can be done: bingo game which has the goal of matching the picture with the corresponding writing, memory game, etc. We can make our own cards and create our own games and activities. Cards should have pictures or words on the fronts and if it is possible, covered with plastic film with a laminating machine.

A cardboard game can be printed or handmade. It should be as large as possible so that the writing and pictures should be visible for all players sitting around. It should be made by two sheets of cardboard glued together to make a thicker and heavier board. Game boards can be fold in two for easy storage. The first thing to do is to draw the track and its divisions, then pictures, numbers and instructions. Players also need tokens and a dice or a spinner.

Posters are very good for students’ projects and can be used in many ways. As an example, we should use for a description of a landscape or of a person. We also can make pictures with different stories, stages or a single picture with a different theme. For instance, a game for speaking can be easily made. Students have to describe what they see and finish the story after their imagination. The student who finishes the first is the winner. Another possibility is to arrange the pictures so that the story could be credible. We can use posters with stars or celebrities for teaching students how to describe someone or posters with places or objects for describing them. Students have to look at a poster for 2 minutes and try to describe it. Then they have to write down as many characteristics as they can. Those with the most points win.

The teacher places large flashcards on the blackboard and asks students to say and repeat the correspondent word for each of them. Then, they have to look at them for a few minutes and try to memorize them. The teacher takes them and the students have to write down as many words as they can. After a given time, the teacher gives them one point for each correct word. The winner is the student with the most points. For a higher level, the teacher can ask them to give a definition to each correct word and adds an extra point for it.

Memory story. This game can be used with cards representing activities. The aim of the game is to identify picture with the right English verb and remember all the other activities.

The teacher divides the class into groups of four or more. They have to tell a story using past tense form of the verbs. They can begin with: Yesterday I went shopping and bought…, the next one has to repeat all that has been said and add his activity suggested by the picture. The game continues until one student doesn’t know what to say. He is out of the game and so on. The last student who stays in the game is the winner.

Concentration. There are two sets of flashcards, either picture/ picture or picture/ word. Students attempt to turn over and match from both sets. If they do so, they may continue. The student with the most pairs, at the end, wins.

As a variation, the teacher divides the class in three groups, each of them standing in a row. Each team has some flashcards spread on a table. In turn, they have to match them with the corresponding words.  The fastest team wins.

Snap game. The cards are face up on the table. The teacher says a sentence and the first student to “snap” or slap the right card gets to keep it. The most cards at the end, wins. You can play this full class by putting large flashcards on the board and having students run up to the blackboard and slap the correct flashcard.

Go fish. This is a grammar game using some closed question / answer. Students in groups of 3 or 4 ask each other questions using the target language. If the student asked has that card, they must give it and that student collects a pair. They may continue until they don’t collect. If a student runs out of cards, they pick up some more cards to continue. Most pairs at the end wins. (

Picture stories. They can be in a book or handout and “traditionally they have been used as a starting point for writing exercises, but they are also very useful for focusing on specific language points or as material for speaking and listening activities. Most picture stories seem inevitably to involve practice of past simple and past progressive.” (Scrivener. 2005: 334)

Students can play different games with picture stories. Students work in groups of four and they receive six pictures with a story. They have to put them in order so that they have a logical sequence of a story and talk about it for at least one minute.

In conclusion, using visuals is a good method to improve short and long-term memory and it can be a tremendous tool for teachers to develop students’vocabulary and grammar. They can also be used for developing the skill of speaking, reading and writing.

Harmer, Jeremy. 2007. How to teach English. London: Longman.
Harmer, Jeremy. 2004. How to teach writing. London: Longman.
Seymour, David and Popova, Maria. 2005. 700 classroom activities, London: Macmillan.
Rixon, Shelagh. 1992. Games in Language Teaching, Modern English Publication.
Scrivener, Jim, 2005. Methodology, London: Macmillan.

prof. Simona-Adriana Butuc

Liceul Tehnologic Regele Mihai I, Curtea de Argeș (Argeş) , România
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