Picture Talk

EAster Hungarian sprinkling

I watched a great online lesson over the Easter weekend with my mate and colleague Bu Cathy. It was presented by Amy Vander Deen. I took soooo many notes of this great presentation and I learned a lot, so I decided to share. Here goes:

How to Co-create Stories in Primary

Start with a character. Let’s call him George. George wants a cat.

Ask questions: Does George have a cat? Does George want a big cat or a small cat? What colour cat does George want? Is it a special cat, or a normal cat? Introduce the character. George’s problem is that he wants a cat. Follow the ABC formula. He goes to A. (Cats-R-Us) The problem is not solved. He goes to B (Cat-Mart). The problem is not solved. He goes to C. There are blue cats! George is happy.

Students act out the story while it is being created. This way you can question characters as well as telling the story in 3rd person. eg “Do you have blue cats?” “No, I don’t have blue cats. I have yellow cats, red cats, green cats etc”. To involve more students, some can hold up signs for the shops and others can act out the cats in the shops. Acting out the stories whilst creating helps in these ways:

  • helps to reinforce meaning
  • helps to make it memorable
  • T (Teacher) can speak directly to character
  • T can turn to class and use 3rd person to tell class what character just said (use ‘dia’ and ‘nya’)
  • T asks circling questions
  • T asks personalizing questions

Adapting TPRS for Primary

  • use short, simple stories
  • T is more of a narrator
  • characters can be re-cast to give more students a turn (actors can be changed mid-story)
  • meaningful repetition (can sing or chant)
  • use what turns kids on eg Star Wars


Show a picture of Darth Vader. Ask ‘Who is this? Is DV big, medium or small? Big. Turn to actor and ask “DV – are you big, medium or small?” Character answers “I am big”. T says “DV is big. Very big.” Darth Vader has a plate. Is the plate big, medium or small. Small. The plate is small. Ask actor “Does DV want to have a small plate?” No. Class, does DV have a medium/big/small plate? Does he want to have a medium/big/small plate? DV is angry. DV says, “I do not like the small plate!”


  • Make sure your stories are FUR.   F = funny  U = unexpected  R = relevant
  • Read picture books aloud! Whilst reading, TPR some of the actions and ask questions about the book.
  • Read 2 or 3 stories per lesson.
  • Older students can read during FVR. (Free Voluntary Reading)
  • Talk about a picture, then build a story!


  • reinforce meaning
  • add layers
  • hold attention

Picture: a family with pets

Questions: Is there a dad? Is there a mum? Is there a brother? Is there a sister? Is there a baby? Is the baby big or small? Who is small, dad or the baby? Ask baby actor, “Are you big or small?” Ask the dad, “Are you big or small?” What colour is the cat?

Where to find suitable images? You need images you can use without copyright problems. Go to Google Images. Click on Tools, and check the ‘Usage Rights – Reuse with modification’. You can find fantastic background pictures to make a cool setting for your story.

Creating a Story.

eg Red Riding Hood. (images from TpT – Teachers Pay Teachers) Start with a photo of a forest with Little Red Riding Hood and GRandma in the foreground. Tell class “This is LRRH”. Is this LRRH? Is this LRRH or Grandma? etc   Use two actors up the front of the room.  Ask them, “Who are you?” Continue with “Grandma lived in a house”. Freeze your Smartboard and do an image search. Show the class. Ask a student to come out and pick Grandma’s house.  Ask questions about the photo. “Does Grandma’s house have a blue door? etc


  1. Statement
  2. Yes answer
  3. Either/Or
  4. No answer

Have a picture of Grandma in front of her house. Tell class, 1.”This is Grandma’s house”. 2. Is this Grandmas’s house?  Yes, this is Grandma’s house. 3. Is this Grandma’s house or LRRH’s house? (Use a 3-fer) Yes, this is Grandma’s house. This is not LRRH’s house. This is Grandma’s house.

Only circle NEW vocabulary or grammar.

Ask the actors, “Is this your house?’ LRRH now chooses 3 foods (in the target language). Students choose the images for the food.


LRRH makes tea for her Grandma. Ask class “Do you like to drink tea when you are sick? eg Will says no. Class, Will does not like to drink tea when he is sick. Will does not like tea. Who drinks tea when they are sick? Ask S actor, “Does Grandma drink tea when she is sick?’


  • compare/contrast 2 students in the class who do/do not like tea plus Grandma
  • create a chart with all the answers about tea. How many people drink tea? How many people don’t?
  • use info as a brain break. Stand by the door if you like tea. Stand by the window if you don’t like tea
  • compare class stories (1A and 1B)

eg Gingerbread Cookie Family on TpT

Are they big, medium or small? Turn students into characters. After the holidays, take photos of students, crop them, and insert them into slideshow. Where did you go? How did you go to ___? eg Sam went to his Grandma’s house. He went by car.

Good Places to find images

  • TpT (check terms of use)
  • etsy
  • flickr
  • openclipart

Ask your students what it is like to learn through stories. Great for student quotes to use for presentations and job applications!

Classroom Management

  • At commencement of year, ensure students enter the room and sit down quietly. Model this, ask students what they noticed (calm body, silent voice). Three or four students model, then WC.
  • Use different coloured circles for students to sit on.
  • Older students – have an assortment of seating options and they choose one. Call one at a time to choose a chair. Do it calmly and safely. Line up calmly and silently. Practise this!
  • Use a bell or Tibetan bowl or something authentic for “freezing”. Model this. Ask “Was my voice on or off?” Practise freezing at the bell. Do some TPR stuff, then freeze. T models, S models, small group models, then whole class. Incorporate with TPR. Also teach then to freeze when you say ‘STOP!’
  • Tell your students that participating in class is a privilege. If they are silly whilst acting, tell them “You have lost the privilege of being a lion”.
  • Make the consequences logical. eg If can’t sit properly on the rug, love the privilege of being on the rug. Have a ‘take a break’ spot. Leave them there no longer than 2-3 minutes. You break it, you fix it.
  • Can use stories about a child who is angry etc Matias esta Enojado. Teach some strategies in the story eg count to 10, take deep breaths, think calm thoughts
  • Or ask child to practise with teacher (while class does something else). Practise with me. Let’s try again. Do it twice. Give a reminder. Put on a story or video and ask child to practise with you one-on-one. After the consequence, reconnect with the child.


  • activities should correspond (in minutes) to students’ age
  • be attentive
  • use lots of brain breaks (then right back to the story)
  • use stories with actions eg going on a bear hunt


Find an engaging picture

Circle – The mouse is eating. Is the mouse eating? Yes, the mouse is eating. Is the cat eating or is the mouse eating? The mouse is eating. The cat is not eating. The mouse is eating. Is the cat eating? etc


eg Picture of hungry dog in front of a bowl with knife and fork.

Structures to teach: is hungry, wants to eat

Point to the dog. This is a dog. He is hungry. Who is hungry? The dog wants to eat. Scott, do you want to eat? Class, Scott is hungry. He wants to eat. Cathy is not hungry. She does not want to eat. Look at the clock. What time is it? How many minutes until lunch?

Pets. How many students have a dog? Does your dog ____? Matthew’s dog ____. Does Cathy’s dog ____?


Pause the story and ask for more details. Who? What? When? Why? How? How many? Who feeds the dog? What does he get fed? When does he get fed?

Don’t do this if class is wiggly! Keep this short for primary kids.


  • choose one that fits in with stories you are already doing. Use movietalk database. eg Google spreadsheet or profepeplinski
  • play video with sound off
  • after 10-20 seonds, pause video
  • ask Qs about what just happened. Circling Q, personalizing Q, parking Q
  • repeat
  • at end, show entire clip with sound

Tips and Tricks

  • shorter is better < 2 mins
  • clearly explain how Movietalk works – tell them it is an activity for big kids and that they have to see it without sound first
  • combine picture talk and movie talk by taking screen shots of movie
  • if movie has English, replay it with no sound but play some background music
  • don’t use movies with complex language

Special Person (KLB – Kursi Luar Biasa)

Class can ask the questions:

  • What is your name?
  • What is your favourite ____?

Have a proforma ready and type in answers from each person in L2. Take a photo and add it to the KLB poster. Add favourite animal. Hang in classroom or hallway. Include ‘When is your birthday?’ in KLB powerpoint.

Authentic Resources

  • songs – traditional and modern
  • rhymes/poems
  • children’s books
  • cultural games eg congklak, kasti
  • school appropriate comics, jokes and memes
  • picture talk authentic cultural images
  • movie talk cultural clips

Comprehensible Culture Lessons

(La Maestra Loca gives each of her classes a Spanish-speaking country for their class name – this could be done in Indonesian – Bali, Java, Sumatra, Flores etc. Then they are encouraged to find out info about these places at home)

Each year level in Amy’s classes studies a country/region. For Indonesian, could be Prep – Bali, Year 1 – Java, Year 2 – Sumatra etc

Images and Learning

Using images with new vocabulary means we are gathering new knowledge using dual coding. Picture + non-verbal processing = knowledge and spoken words + verbal processing = knowledge. Spoken word + image is dual coding – entering the brain through 2 systems rather than just one.

For young children, this is much more effective than trying to read and look at pictures as well. Children recognise and remember vocab better when they learn it through images.

Images combined with spoken text is most effective for learning new vocabulary with ALL ages, but younger students benefit the most.  Use spoken words with images, not written text. (or limit text)

Don’t use too many images! Space them out. Far more effective to talk about one image. Plan a lesson around a single, meaningful image. KISS!! (Keep it simple stupid!)

Always establish meaning – write on board with English meaning.

Ways to use a Picture Talk

  • as a launchpad for a story
  • to expand a story – plot twist, humour (good for beginning students)
  • as a ‘hook’ into a lesson
  • as a culture pop-up if kids ask about something. Freeze Smartboard and GTS (Google that Stuff)
  • as a basis for a culture discussion (1 pic, or series of pics)
  • as a memory jog

robot and pet

Story  – Ask who, what, where, when, why, how, how many? What is the robot’s name? (Always use letters and numbers to name robots, to practice letters and numbers). Have students name the pet, too. What is he made of? What is the problem? The robot is sad. Why? Use the ABC method. (3 solutions – last one is effective).



dog waiting

Dog waiting outside doors. Where does he live? What is his name? Who is he waiting for? Where is he? Who does he live with? What is the problem? How is it solved? (Hint: have a story in  your mind already)

Dinosaur in Mirror

  • Who is in the car?
  • Where are they going?
  • Where is the dinosaur from?

dinosaur in mirror


Use gifs also, and images from  Picture book illustrations

and also Children’s Illustrators (contact illustrators for usage rights)

Images in Stories

  1. Set the tone of a story (change the mood, use like a backdrop)
  2. Expand the world of a story. Find picture of an Indonesian market or google street view
  3. Add humour to a story (good for beginners)
  4. Move the plot forward (good for beginners)

Plot Twist

  • Good for beginners with little vocab
  • Use Instagram, Bored Panda, flickr pixabay and TpT etc for images

Hook into your lesson

  • project an image on the board or place it somewhere a week before you will use it. Build some excitement! Preview at end of class
  • optical illusions are good for hooks – discuss for 3-5 minutes at start of class
  • can be static image or animated gif
  • gifs – use animals or sports (for older kids)

Culture Pop-Up

  • image of soda in a plastic bag or some cultural aspect (shoes outside door, squat toilet)
  • Show photo of a place – ask, where is it? Gets rid of stereotypes
  • use when students ask about something

Culture Discussion

  • culture discussions are planned
  • major focus of lesson
  • culture discussion is longer than pop-up
  • Put pictures side-by-side to show there is no one stereotype (eg type of houses)
  • Ask “What can you see? Where is this photo?”
  • Compare village and city – use as parallel stories
  • use Windows and Mirrors – Windows are for comparing my life with someone else’s (different) Mirrors are for looking into and seeing similarities eg a boy that has a pet dog like me.
  • virtual field trip
  • show an image – are we on coast, jungle or mountains
  • What island of Indonesia are we on?

Memory Jog

Bring students back to a previously written story. Review stories. Write a new chapter for an old story! Or pop an old character into a new story!

Keep stories simple. eg Grandma walked in the jungle. It was very hot. Grandma saw a tiger. Grandma said “Aduh!” Grandma ran!

Co-creating Images (a la Tina and Ben)


  • taps into student creativity
  • builds community
  • gives ownership of story
  • kids have an emotional connection with story

How to do

  • use 2 students, one draws and one colours
  • class does not see picture until the end

Picture Stories

Colour print and laminate the story to read to the class.  Add details. Act out the first time, then use as a read-aloud book. Stop and ask questions, get kids to point to something, TPR some actions in the story. Can also fit L2 stories with what Preps are doing in homeroom. eg Gingerbread Man.

If you are still reading, you have made it to the end!!!! I intend to try out some of these great ideas – I hope you do too!

One thought on “Picture Talk”

  1. Thank you for sharing these ideas specifically for younger learners. Your blog is an incredible resource; I truly appreciate all your help!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s