Exploiting Famous Photos

Posted on May 12, 2010


Exploiting Famous Photos

Most students love showing each other photos they’ve taken, but now and again it’s also a nice idea to base a lesson around photos which have entered our collective memory and become “classics”. You know the ones I mean! Photos that have become famous because they capture a particular historical moment or tell universal stories that we can all relate to, or photos which shock us and are hard to look at, or that are simply breathtakingly beautiful. In this post we will see two ways of giving these photos an extra dimension by adding recorded commentaries: the first using Sketchcast and the second using Fotobabble. As usual on this blog, the lesson ends with a sheet of conversation questions. The activities are probably suitable for intermediate to advanced level students.

Step One : Lead-in

  • Show your students the photo below and ask them if they recognise it.

Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville

  • Ask them some further questions e.g. what they think is happening in the photo, where and when it was taken, why they think it became famous etc (you can find more information about the photo here and here)

Step Two : Idea 1 – Describing a famous photo

  • Show this Sketchcast video to your students and ask them if they recognise the photo being described. Obviously, it’ll work better if you make your own Sketchcast of one of your favourite photos. (Note : I’m getting a bit fed up of WordPress not allowing me to embed certain applications. Sketchcast is a case in point. What you see below is screenshot which is linked to the video)

Drawing and describing a photo

  • Now click here to see the original photograph.
  • Ask your students to do the same, i.e. choose a famous photo (Google them or go to the main photo award sites e.g. World Press Photo Awards), record themselves drawing it on Sketchcast, embed it somewhere (or link to it) and then provide a link to the original photo. During the recording they should also explain why they chose their photos.
  • Students then watch each other’s Sketchcasts and try and guess the photos being described. As I have suggested in previous posts, if your students are not using blogs or social networks I recommend using Wallwisher to make all your students’ videos accessible on the same web page.
  • If you want to embed a bit of grammar into the lesson, this activity is great for work on look + adj / look like + noun / look as if + sentence. You could also elicit prepositional expressions such as in the bottom left corner, in the background, at the top etc.

Note : For a more detailed look at Sketchcast, check out this video tutorial on Russell Stannard’s Teacher Training Videos.

Step Two : Idea 2 – Roleplay a famous photo

An alternative idea is to use Fotobabble to roleplay one (or more) of the people that appear in the photo. Once again WordPress is not allowing me to embed the application so here’s the link to an example.

Record the story behind the photo


Step Three : Conversation

Finish off the lesson by asking your students to discuss these questions in pairs or small groups.

Hope you + your students enjoy these activities!

Posted in: App Lessons