Learning how to use pictures to nurture Spanish fluency is something simple that anyone can do at any time to enrich their students’ learning. A parent or a teacher can use pictures in many ways to give their students the opportunity to use all they have learned in a spontaneous and open-ended way. You can use pictures to practice specific things in a more focused way too.
To begin, let’s look at how you can use pictures to provide spontaneous and open-ended practice to nurture Spanish fluency. When this is your objective, you are setting the student loose to use anything they know in Spanish to communicate about a given picture or pictures. This allows them to practice communicating in a more natural way as opposed to practice exercises they may do at other times. Practice exercises are good and necessary, but providing opportunities for language practice in natural ways is important and needed too.
To go about this you first need to give the student some simple instructions.
Here is an example of instructions I give my students when I want them to write about pictures:
- Find 3 pictures from a magazine, online, personal photos, etc. and glue them to a piece of paper.
- Write 3 sentences about each picture. You can only use words you know.
- You cannot look anything up in an online dictionary, translator, regular dictionary, etc.
- Pretend you are telling a Spanish speaker about the picture, but you have no access to technology or a dictionary. Just say what you can the best you can.
Below is an example of this exact assignment done by one of my 7th graders. This assignment came from my Spanish for You! Mi vida curriculum package. Click the picture to see it larger.
Here are some other ways you can use pictures to nurture Spanish fluency:
- Have each student bring 3 pictures to class. Then have them talk about the pictures to each other in pairs. Encourage them to ask questions to each other about the pictures too. If needed model for them a question and answer scenario with a sample picture.
- Bring in pictures and post them in front of the class. Number each picture. Let student volunteers speak in Spanish about one of the pictures while the other students try to guess which one it is.
- Post a picture in front of the class. Set a timer for one minute. Have students raise their hands to say sentences about the picture. See how many sentences the class can come up with in that time.
- Variation on the previous activity – have pairs of students write sentences about the picture. See how many each pair wrote in one minute. Have them share some of their sentences aloud.
- Using a picture book have your students “tell the story” going from page to page looking at the pictures. Of course they won’t be able to tell the story like they would in English, but have them at least say something about each page. It is ok if it doesn’t make sense as a story. You just want them spontaneously communicating in an open-ended way.
- Variation on previous activity – have pairs of students “write the story” using a picture book. Then share with the class. Again, they can’t use any help, just whatever they can come up with using what they know. It’s ok if it sounds awkward.
If you want to use pictures in a focused way to practice specific concepts, here are some ways to do that:
- Find a picture or pictures that you know will prompt your students to use verbs, vocabulary, or grammar concepts they have been learning. Examples:
- They are learning vocabulary about the park. Find a picture where a park is the setting.
- They are learning verbs like “correr = to run”, “saltar = to jump”, etc. Find pictures where people are doing those things.
- They are learning a grammar concept, like how to say where things are with respect to each other, i.e. on top of, inside, between, etc. Find pictures where they can talk about the location of things.
- If needed, provide them with a word bank on your classroom board or paper. You can have the word bank already prepared or create it together with your students.
- If needed, provide them with a “concept bank”. This is where you would tell them certain grammar concepts you want them to use, like “location phrases” to say where things are with respect to each other.
- Then, have them write or speak about the pictures to a partner or with the class as a whole.
- Or they can do this as a writing assignment at home where they find their own pictures or you provide them with one or a few.
- You can ask questions about a given picture or pictures. Ask the questions aloud in class and have your students write the answers or raise hands to say them.
- You can send the questions home with your students too so that they write the answers as an assignment.
The possibilities using pictures to nurture Spanish fluency are endless. You can use them at any time to enrich your students’ learning and give them opportunities to speak and write. Do you have creative ways you like to use pictures with your students? If so, please feel free to share them in the comments below. The more ideas the merrier!