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Using the illustrations in graded readers – practical ideas and activities

July 24, 2018 by cymaster


Why use illustrations in language lessons

  • For exam preparation: PET and FCE; TOEFL and IELTS Speaking and Writing parts
  • To improve critical thinking and comprehension skills
  • To improve storytelling techniques (written and oral)
  • For vocabulary development
  • To trigger cross-curricular projects (Art, History, Literature, Geography)
  • To  tap into young people’s increasingly sophisticated visual literacy
Princess on the Run illustration
Illustration from the reader Princess on the Run by Paul Davenport. Illustration by Giulia Sagramola. © Helbling Languages

How to develop illustration-based projects

  • Build unique vocabulary lists with each illustration
  • Do specific grammar practice for each illustration
  • Here are a set of fun activities for all illustrations.

Four activities

  • Find the mistake! - while you're describing the picture with 10 mistakes, your students can shout when they find the difference between your description and the illustration;
  • Inside the Picture - students have to describe what each character might be thinking or saying in the scene;
  • Summary activity - use the illustrations to retell the story
  • Describe the scene– picture description, open discussion
The Coconut Seller illustration
Illustration from The Coconut Seller by Jack Scholes. Illustration by Cristiano Lissoni. © Helbling Languages

How to use illustrations to improve storytelling techniques

  • As a basis for plot summary
  • Pre-teach/revise action verbs and the narrative tenses
  • Provide a set of connectives as well as a list of verbs and adjectives to help with speaking
  • The pictures can be used for present-time descriptions, summaries, predictions, talking about probabilities, past tenses, future tenses and modal verbs, it's up to you to set the context.
  • Looking back and looking forward during reading
  • Talk about the setting
  • Help students with visualisation (a lot of students find it difficult to create mental images while reading)
  • Activate background knowledge
  • Describe the setting, the characters
  • What are the characters thinking about?

How to use the illustrations to teach/practice language and vocabulary skills

  • Talk about colours, forms and shapes
  • Name the objects and the people
  • Collect adjectives that describe the objects and the people (feelings, physical description)
  • Find action verbs
  • Use prepositions and pronouns in context
  • Use questions forms to ask about the picture

How to use the illustrations to trigger cross-curricular projects?

  • Some objects are loaded with extra information – find out about objects, setting, clothes, styles, places, periods in history, etc.

Where can you find more ideas on using art-related projects?

  • English Through ART -This resource book brings together 100 highly varied, original, ready-to-use activities to foster real communication in English through imaginative responses to both artistic images and easy-to-do creative work.
  • Imagine That! - This book explores new ways to enliven your classroom by opening "the mind's eye, ear and heart" with motivating activities that help your students learn more effectively. Using more of their inner resources, students will find greater personal meaning in the classroom experience.