Holiday snapshots in class

Snapshots in class
Use holiday photos to spark speaking and writing in class
Special thanks to Sophia Nikoletou for her contribution!

With the extensive use of smart phones, tablets and digital cameras, more and more of your students are likely to have taken a sizeable number of photos during their holidays. In this post, I will suggest ways in which teachers and students can use these photos in order to practise speaking and writing skills.

Activity 1: The inanimate object
Choose a photo with an inanimate object and ask your students to imagine what the object would say if it had a voice: “What can the object tell us about what had happened before the photo was taken?”
Below you can find an example. Students can use their own photos to illustrate their own stories. They can present their story in class by showing their photo(s) on a ®Powerpoint slide and record their voice narrating their story on the slide with the photo.  

Here's a sample of the kind of writing it may inspire:
 "Standing at the small cafe' on top of the cliff, Henry was enjoying the breathtaking view of the island which seemed to be the perfect holiday destination. Suddenly, a distant voice pulled his eye from the coast to his wife, who was swimming under the cliff and waving at him. Henry grabbed his camera to capture the scene. He narrowed his eyes to take a close-up shot, but what he saw turned his excitement into panic. Christine was not waving but drowning!!!"  

Alternatively, use an unusual photo as a lead-in to story writing.

Activity 2: Give it a title
Choose a funny or unusual photo and ask students to write a title or brief comment.

Flying saucers invade Greek beach: Swimmer blames Mojitos

Activity 3: Tweet it
Ask students to write a message accompanying the photo as if they were going to share it on Twitter.  The message should not be more than 140 characters.

Pristine waters, Mediterranean food and idyllic view on Europe’s southernmost tip.  Heaven on Earth #serendipity #Crete

Activity 4: Present with sway
Create a ® Sway presentation with 5 of your favourite holiday photos and explain why they are special to you. Present in class. Click on the link below to see a sample:

Activity 5: Use mobile phone apps
Most students download apps on their smart phone that create various effects on photos. ®Prisma is free and turns photos into art work. You can use these effects to compare and contrast the real photo and the one  with the effects or you can have sets of photos to start a story. The students can work in pairs or groups and they can narrate it or write it down or even create an e-book with the content they have put together.
Last night I had a strange dream. It was dark and rainy and my balcony door overlooked a cliff..

Then, suddenly it got lighter and I could see outside my balcony. There  were two rocks in the sea...

Then the sun came out and the sea started sparkling under the sun...

It felt as if it was true... I could smell the sea and feel the warmth of the sun on my skin. 

For those of you who may not have a smart phone or do not feel comfortable using your personal photos, Eltpics,  http://www.eltpics.com/ is a website with photos from teachers for teachers.

Final thoughts
Personalizing learning and inviting learners to be actively involved with their own material can both act as a very strong stimulus to motivate learners and urge them to develop their creative thinking skills along with writing and speaking skills in L2.

Have fun and enjoy your learners' creativity and imagination!
Dimitris Primalis


  1. Thank you for sharing these amazing ideas, Dimitris! I really like the idea of the inanimate object photo (I'm a fan of talking objects:) and the use of Prisma - it could be great for different story backgrounds, too (same picture, different setting, different story). I also feel that we should find ways to "celebrate" what summer represents (calm, peace, relaxation etc) all year round in the class. In case you're interested, here's a post with some more summer/holiday activities I wrote a month or so ago: https://mariatheologidou.wordpress.com/2016/06/26/summer-activities-all-year-round/

    1. Thank you for your kind words! I love your post! It can certainly help students adapt smoothly to classrooms!