Despite the sophistication of the tools available to teachers today, sometimes the greatest lessons can materialise out of meagre means such as an image from a newspaper.
Images can be used for oral production, for grammar or vocabulary development and, on occasion, for creative writing.
I will provide an example of an image I used in my class with intermediate-level students.
By Sanak Roy Choudhury
The image is entitled Flying dreams and it is too imaginative a caption to give away. It is preferable to try and elicit captions from the students though I chose to leave this for the end.
To begin with, the students can be invited to describe the picture. You could provide some words that would help the students along such as trail of smoke, formation, air acrobatics, white foam, crashing of waves.
The image has two levels: the sea with the children watching and the sky with the air acrobatics.
I see this as an opportunity to explain one of the principles of writing: do not mix the two in the description but after you have described both levels, search for a way to connect them. For example, the children are dreaming of being pilots and this is why they are there or the children just happened to be enjoying a day out and the air acrobatics inspired them to take to the air when they grow up.
One can focus on grammar points which are rarely raised in course books. In this particular case, one could practise noun/adjective + past participle compounds.
The formation is Y-shaped. In fact one of my students did point this out.
Similarly if you use your left hand, you are left-handed.
If you leave a story open, it is open-ended.
If you make something with your hands, it is hand-made.
If you have dinner lit by candles, it is a candlelit dinner.
I never miss the chance to throw in some vocabulary extension, and trail is my favourite here.
a trail of blood
a trail of robberies
a trail of destruction
a trail to follow
Finally you might want to ask the students to speculate about the future of the two kids:
20 years on: What happened to the two kids? Did they become pilots? Why (not)?
The actual information accompanying the image may be worth revealing as, in many cases, it confirms guesses or surprises students whose guesses were wide of the mark. It could even lead to extension work:
Where is this place?
Why do they have events like this?
How popular are events like this?
Do you have similar happenings in your country?
I cite the description of the event in the image I discussed here:
This event was photographed in Muscat, capital city of Oman during the celebration of the 46th national day. Red Arrows from UK made us witness some spectacular air acrobatics filling up the sky like a canvas flooded with vibrant colours. Kids were enjoying the moments as the aeroplanes were flying very low and close to the beach area.