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Pictures are essential in the language classroom. They’re interesting, they spark discussion, they provide a purpose for tasks, and they relate to people. They can be used in so many different ways. Having a bank of pictures on hand is as essential to a language teacher as a painter having a paintbrush.

I recently compiled a set of portraits to add to the resource bank in my ESL department. I had them printed in color and laminated, so they’ll last. These portraits are great because they can be used over and over for an endless number of activities. Below are some ways I’ve thought to use them, but it’s certainly not all of the ways.

Describe Appearance: For lower-level classes that are learning vocabulary to describe a person, you can use these portraits. Give each student or pair a portrait and ask them to write or talk about the person’s appearance.

Compare Appearances: For higher level students who are learning how to use comparatives, give a student or group several portraits and ask them to write or talk about the differences between the people.

Describe Personality: If you’re working on personality vocabulary in your class, give each student or group several portraits and ask them to talk or write about what they imagine each person’s personality would be.  

Describe a Life Story: If you’ve been working on the past tense, give each student or group a picture and ask them to write the person’s life story. You could then have each person or group share the story they wrote with the rest of the class.

Profile Pictures: You could give each group a portrait and tell them that this is someone’s profile picture. Based on that picture, they have to write a complete Facebook account including latest posts, about section, likes, work, favorite music, etc. You could create a basic profile handout for them to complete about the person. Then, each group could present the profile to the class. Alternatively, you could have a poster session where the profiles were set up, and students walked around and looked at them.

Partner Search: print two sets of portraits. Give a portrait to each student. Tell them not to show their portrait to anyone else. Have them walk around and describe the person (or have others ask questions about the person). Once they find the person who has the same portrait, they have found their partner. Partners could then work to write a description of their portrait or do any other group activity you have planned.

Below are two sets of portraits. You can download both of them for a set of 45 unique portraits.

Click for 15 8.5×11 portraits

Click for 30 8.5×11 portraits 

How else would you use this resource? Let us know in the comments section below.


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