by Naomi Ganin-Epstein
Why use pictures?
Using pictures in the classroom is usually associated with instruction in the lower grades, not with high-school students preparing for the 3 and 4 point "Bagrut" examination. However, I have found them to be an extremely useful tool which enables students to focus on becoming familiar with the types of questions and the format of answers that appear often in these exams.
Generally speaking, we find two types of student errors on reading comprehension tasks:
A Sample Picture
Requiring weak students to pay attention to question types while they are also battling with understanding a text which is difficult for them is not effective. Students who tend to guess what the question is after reading the first word or two or who have difficulty in grasping what type of answer is called for, need isolated practice on questions. Pictures provide us with something that has content but does not require a reading passage. In addition, it is a pleasant variation on the standard "unseen" practice.
- errors that derive from not comprehending the text correctly.
- errors in which the student's answer is totally irrelevant to the question asked.
A wide variety of question types can be asked about a picture. The answers should be very easy and even obvious. The point is to grasp what is being asked! Some students find what is obvious for us to be totally the opposite. On a module B exam, for instance, a common question type is "Where could you find such an ad?" We expect the pupils to supply the obvious answer (for our example, lets say "in a magazine"). However, some pupils respond "But I can't find such an ad" or " I don't find ads, if they are there so they are there…"! Difficulties with understanding the questions are an issue for more sophisticated students too. When preparing for the module E exam, a student can be asked about the tone of an article. This is very tricky for weak students as not only is the answer not clearly stated in the text but some aren't really sure what is meant by "tone" and what the differences are between common possible answers. Pictures are extremely helpful for practicing such questions as pictures can most certainly convey different tones. In fact, the whole concept of inferring information is easy to practice with pictures. Some students find it difficult to accept the fact that they are being asked to answer a question that is not clearly stated in the text. Using a picture that has no sentence that can be "stubbornly" copied forces the student to think about the obvious!
Which pictures to use?
I use the following criteria for choosing pictures to use in class:
- The picture will interest a high-school student and won't seem "babyish". Many ads from foreign magazines, such as ads for credit cards, have pictures of people doing unusual things (such as a picture of a woman who turned her kitchen into a walk-in closet!). On the Internet there are numerous unusual or wacky photos that teenagers enjoy. Greeting cards often have delightfully comic pictures too.
- The picture isn't offensive or inappropriate for use in the classroom.
- If a picture is taken from an ad, any product information can be removed without compromising the picture. It is not my intention to encourage students to purchase things!
- What would be a suitable title for this poster?
- People studying animals.
- The yawn.
- Fashion in different countries.
- Everybody in this poster looks tired.
- What does the word "look" mean in this context? Copy the suitable definition from the dictionary.
- Give one fact that supports this statement.
- What is the tone expressed in this poster? a) negative b) humorous c) supportive
- We can infer that the photos in this poster were taken on different continents, probably _______________ and ________________.
- Where could you find such a poster?
- In a police report.
- In a personal diary.
- In a travel magazine.