Photos Provide Context in Modern Language Speaking

When native speakers have a conversation, they use context. They talk about what they see and experience or have seen or experienced.  Visuals supply our students with a context to improve their speaking. Visuals such as photographs provide a scaffolded structured technique to talk about common topics.

One way for teachers to obtain photos is to search Flickr ( in the target language with the topic and the country such as the  ”casa venezuela”.

When teachers do a house unit, teachers can have their students talk about the rooms in a  house that they see projected on the screen or that they have taken on their cell phones.  The vague “Talk about a kitchen” does not have any meaningful context to the students but “How does this (projected) kitchen compare to your kitchen?” has a very meaningful and concrete context.  Students can use all the visual clues to help them talk more. Students can see what is in the projected kitchen, go through the kitchen item by item, and say many comparisons.

Photos allow students to get engaged in a situation.  As students exam the people, their activities, the objects, and the location in a photo, they explain what is happening. The teachers ask their students to explain,  in detail, to their partners in the modern language,  “Will you stay at the party or leave?  Why?” as they look at a party photo from the target language area. Students can give many reasons in the modern language to support their opinion.

Projected images from sources like Flickr have the additional advantage of being culturally authentic. For example, as students do the house speaking, they are looking at an actual  house in the target language country.

How do you put your students into meaningful contexts for speaking through photos?

My ebook, 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities, is available at

I have developed 27 Spanish activities  and 4 Modern Language Visual activities for students to begin to express themselves in the modern language and to move toward spontaneous speaking Teacherspayteachers:

My three formative assessment books, Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students and Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, are available at

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