Conference Collages

Posted on April 25, 2013



On Saturday 8th June 2013, I’ll be giving a talk titled “Photo Opportunities (Using Student-generated Images)” at The Image Conference in Barcelona. The conference is being organised jointly by the IATEFL Learning Technologies SIG and UAB Idiomes and will be the first ELT conference to deal exclusively with the use of film, video, image and gaming in language teaching. Speakers include Jamie Keddie, Ben Goldstein, Graham Stanley, Ceri Jones, Kyle Mawer, Lindsay Clandfield, Kieran Donaghy, Fiona Macauline, Paul Braddock, John HughesSteve Muir, Mark McKinnon, Gerard McLoughlin, George Chilton and Neil McMillan. You can find out more about The Image Conference here.

One of the things I’ll be touching on in the talk is the use of photo collages to provide springboards for language production, afford opportunities for personalisation and act as memory cues to aid the retention of lexis. As a taster for what you can expect – and as a way of doing my bit to promote the conference – here are a few pointers on how to create and exploit photo collages with your students.


Creating Collages

While there are a wide variety of collage apps available for mobile devices, my favourite tool for collage creation is a browser-based application called PicMonkey. This on-line photo-editing and collage creation tool is free, easy to use and does not require setting up an account. Watch the the quick tutorial below to show you how easy it is to create attractive photo collages in less time than it takes to make a cup of tea.

Collage Activities

Here are a few ideas on how you might like to exploit the collages that you and your students create. If you have any other ideas of your own, please feel free to leave a comment at the end of this post.


Photographic Identities
This is an activity I nicked from Ben Goldstein and Ceri Jones‘s intermediate course book “The Big Picture”. The idea is simple: ask your students to make collages featuring people and things which are important to them, or which they think play a part in defining who they are. You might like to suggest photo subjects such as “a place”, “a person”, “a food or drink”, “a treasured possession”, “a hobby”, “a book”, “a pet hate” etc. Students can be asked to denude themselves by giving short presentations in small groups or, more publicly, in front of the whole class.

picmonkey stories2

Picture Stories and Photo Soaps
Ask each of your students to contribute one interesting photo to a collaborative collage, then get them to invent narratives using the different images as prompts to illustrate the different events/scenes in their stories. You could leave the choice of photographic subject up to them or ask each student to provide a specific photo. Here are a few suggestions: “a place”, “a person”, “a form of transport”, “an activity”, “a view/landscape”, “a building”, “an object of value”, “a sign”, “an animal”, “a piece of furniture”, “a room” etc. A further idea for narrative-building could be to ask students to create collages featuring photos of people they know. Once the collages are created, ask them to imagine that the people in their photos are characters in a soap opera. Students should explain the imaginary relationships between the different characters and how they feel towards each other.


Whose is Whose?
This one probably needs no explanation. Students provide photographs on a particular theme and speculate as to which student each image belongs to. If you are a course book user, it might be a nice idea to get students to create collages to accompany the theme of a particular unit or lesson e.g. a whose-is-whose collage of students’ mums or dads to lead into a unit on the family. Other ideas might include: “hobbies”, “favourite group”, “bedrooms”, “treasured possessions”, “boyfriends/girlfriends”, “cars”, “favourite places” etc. By the way, my mum is the beautiful lady in the bottom left-hand corner.

dayA Day in the Life
Ask students to take a series of photos which they can use as a framework to describe what they did on a particular day. This activity could be done as a one-off class activity or as a running series by nominating a different day-in-the-life-student each week – “Today it’s … A Day in the Life of Cristina“. Students should give a summary of what they did and how they felt on a particular day, then invite questions from their classmates. Similar activities could be set up to get students talking about what they did during a holiday or on a special occasion.

chunksLexical Chunks
Photos can provide meaningful context for the presentation of lexis as well as provide memory cues to help students retrieve vocabulary and lexical chunks they have seen before.  The example collage on the left features images to illustrate the following expressions: “I’m always in a hurry,”, “I can’t stand it when people leave furniture in the street.”, “It’s well worth seeing Ron Sexsmith in concert.”, “I feel like going down the pub.” Students could be asked to share their favourite vocabulary/chunks by explaining their photographs to their classmates.

viewsFavourite somethings
Organise your students in groups and ask them to create a collage of favourite somethings e.g. a favourite place in their hometown. Students can be asked to give sort presentations “selling” their favourite place to the rest of the class. A vote could then be held to discover which of the places the class would most like to visit. Other suggestions for favourites might include: “a favourite meal”, “a favourite bar/restaurant”, “a favourite view”, “a favourite colthes shop”, “a favourite car or form of transport”, “a favourite weekend activity”, “a favourite building”, “a favourite tourist attraction” etc.

Hope you find these ideas useful!