I’ve written a lot about different ways to use photos in class with English Language Learners and with native English speakers (see The Best Ways To Use Photos In Lessons). By far, my favorite way is through the Picture Word Inductive Model. A key element of the PWIM process is a series of cloze (fill-in-the-gap) sentences about a photo. Students have to choose the correct word that completes the sentence from a “word bank.”

The Week has an intriguing weekly game called the Weird news photo quiz which is a variation of this process. They show a series of…weird news photos and the beginning of a caption, and then players have to choose among several possibilities to correctly complete it.

Though The Week’s game is probably not accessible to ELL’s, the photos they use definitely grab your attention (you can see their archive of past photos here). I’m going to experiment with using some of their photos (along with others I come upon), create my own captions, and then provide multiple choice phrase options to complete them. I think it can work as a fun game with students in groups or pairs with whiteboards. Students eventually can create their own “picture quizzes,” too.

It has elements of another games I’ve written about in The Best Learning Games For Advanced ELL’s & Non-ELL’s:

Headline Clues from Michigan State University is a great activity. In the game, you’re shown the lead paragraph, but letters from two words in the headline are missing. Players have to use clues in the first paragraph to identify what the missing words should be. As you play the online version, you can ask for clues. One of the great things about using this game is that students can create their own with pen and paper and have classmates try to figure out the answers, as well as giving them clues if needed.

Obviously, having students create photo captions is not a new lesson idea. I just hadn’t heard of using it as sort of a cloze activity.

What about you — have you done anything like this with your students?