Friday, May 13, 2016

Picture Word Inductive Model / Vocabulary

In a search designed originally designed to find some creative interpersonal speaking activities I came across Edutopia's article "Using Photos with English Language Learners."  It was here that I first learned of the Picture Word Inductive Model or PWMI. (I don't know if this makes me way behind the times but it does make me wonder why ELL and LA teachers don't share more resources...)

I've long enjoyed using photos as a speaking or writing prompt in my classes but I really liked the format of the PWMI and decided to give it a shot.

A colleague recently shared a folder of great photographs that he uses but I wanted to find something that could lend itself to the vocabulary we'd been learning. A quick Internet search for "pictures that tell a story" yielded a ton of resources. I decided on this one from

Image credit:

I asked students, in groups of three, to come up with twenty vocabulary words that described what they saw in the picture. Students were given three minutes to do this and many groups came up with more than twenty words. I asked groups to share out and, with the image projected on the board, I labeled the photo.

The next task was to classify the words into four different groups. I explained that groups were entirely up to them and could be groups according to words type, an overarching theme, even words that began with the same letter. When they finished they had to give each group a title.

Independently (this can be done in groups as well but I wanted to mix it up), they had to write four more words for each group. This time the words didn't have to correspond to the picture but they had to fit the group. Students worked alone on this for five minutes and then shared their words with their groups.

Now it was time to start asking some questions. I started with some basic questions like ¿Quiénes son? ¿Dónde están? ¿Qué hacen? ¿Están durmiendo? 

The students had a ton of vocabulary at their disposal so I started pressing for details, making sure to point out particular vocabulary words I was using. I let the group discussion go for about five minutes- enough so that students had a good outline for a story- and then had students write independently for the rest of class. The directions were to use the vocabulary to describe in 100 words what was happening in the photo and the responses were phenomenal!

While I like to focus more on input rather than output in my lower levels, it is true that everyone (parents, admin, even students themselves) want and expect to be able to actually use the language and I thought this was a great opportunity to get those creative juices flowing! I was so pleased with the outcome of this activity that I found some more interesting photos and made a couple of worksheets to use as sub plans. In the sub plans I asked students to exchange stories, read their partners' story and write down four questions about something in the story they'd like to know more about. The author of the story is then asked to go back and include the answers to these questions in their story.  It might be fun to do this as a speaking and listening activity in class.

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