Using Illustrations

Some suggestions for using the pictures in Tracks 2

Copyright: Getty Images
There are a number of ways in which illustrations can be used to improve learners’ productive and receptive language skills, not least through communicative activities involving either the whole class as a unit, or small groups working independently of each other.

Pictures make learners communicate – and very often disagree – with each other and perhaps negotiate common interpretations. In most activities, pupils can use their books, but illustrations can also be shown as overhead transparencies and used to elicit responses and discussion from the class as a whole.

It must be mentioned that illustrations have taken on added importance with the adoption of the new syllabuses, where it is specified that learners are to produce and evaluate oral and written texts of their own inspired by literature or art.


1. Using the collage on pages 8 and 9

Activity: Which one?

(a) To lead in to Exercise 1 on page 10.
(b) To use and recognize adjectives and nouns.
(c) To use dictionaries.

Procedure: The class divides into groups of 3. Each group finds two adjectives and two nouns which apply to each picture. For example, “beautiful”, “exotic”, “building” and “dome” might be used for the Taj Mahal. The groups take it in turns to read out their lists, and the other groups decide which picture is being referred to. The first group to identify the picture wins a point. This activity involves a competitive element, which is usually popular. It also – to some extent, at least – teaches learners to recognize word classes in their dictionaries (the teacher must, of course, ensure that the learners know which abbreviations apply). Letting each group read out lists for each picture can be too much of a good thing, but if the pupils are enjoying themselves and learning something, why not?

Activity: What do you know about . . . ?
(a) To build vocabulary.
(b) To encourage guided discussion.
(c) To use the Internet to find key facts.
(d) To convert notes into continuous prose.

Procedure: Choose two or three of the photographs (Old Trafford and the Statue of Liberty are probably the most familiar) and do a “What do you know about . . .?” brainstorming. The teacher can make lists of the learners’ ideas and then, after sorting out disagreements on dates, places and the like by using the Internet, get the class to organize information in paragraphs. The activity should be done after Exercise 1 on page 10.

2. Using the collage on pages 128 and 129
There is already an exercise based on these photographs, but other activities can be useful.

Activity: What sort of relationship?
(a) To introduce the theme of love.
(b) To build vocabulary.
(c) To encourage guided discussion.
(d) To lead in to the exercise on page 128.

Procedure: Working in small groups, pupils identify the people in the pictures and state what their relationships are. Some of the illustrations are ambiguous, and this is a good thing since they are bound to be interpreted in different ways by different learners. As for the picture on the left, where there are no people, pupils can guess who wrote the message, who it was for, what sort of relationship the couple have, and what stage it is at.

Activity: Write captions
Aim: To encourage creative writing.

Procedure: Again in small groups, the learners make a caption for each picture.


There are several ways in which the portraits on pages 13, 14, 17, 25, 26, 27, 46, 49, 53, 55, 72, 93, 121, 147, 178, 183, 188, 197, 201, 202, 203, 204, 205, 212, 214, 218, 219, 230, 234, 237 and 238 can be used for controlled and free language practice.

Activity: Talking about people
This is a very common activity, both in our own language and in a foreign language when we are actually using it in a real communicative context. Since Tracks 2 has so many portraits, vocabulary and structures can be reinforced regularly by describing, inferring, comparing and contrasting and commenting.

(a) Describing
  • Take the girl on page 46. Comment on her appearance and mood.
  • Look at the people on page 55. What do they look like? What are they doing?
  • Think about the young teacher on page 169. Where does she come from? What is she doing?
  • Look at the people on pages 53, 93 and 121. Describe their facial expressions and clothing.
  • Look at the man on page 72. Give a physical description of him. What do you know about him? 

(b) Inferring
In several cases learners could be asked “What is he / she thinking?” “Why do you think he / she is so thoughtful / happy / worried / self-assured / etc.?” Learners might be asked to make speech bubbles in some cases.

Examples: the girl on page 46, the people on page 55 (Why are they happy?) and the teacher on page 169 (Is she a good teacher, do you think? Why?)

(c) Comparing and contrasting
  • Find some similarities (physical, geographical, professional, social, etc.) between two of the people portrayed. Example: the people on pages 237 and 238.
  • Find some differences (physical, geographical, professional, social, etc.) between some of the people. Example: the men on pages 72 and 121.

(d) Commenting

  • What do you think of  him / her / them?
  • Would you like to be like him / her / them? Why (not)?
  • How is he / she different from you? The pictures of people from poor countries might, hopefully, lead to meaningful discussions.
Comments on works of art such as those on pages 133, 135, 137 and 139 could prove very interesting. Do you like it? When do you think it was painted? Who are the people in the picture? What can you tell about their social status? What about their relationships with others? Why don’t modern artists paint in the same way? Do you prefer modern art or pictures from centuries ago?

Action pictures

There are plenty of these in Tracks 2. On pages 97 and 98 we see three extreme sports, and the All Blacks feature on pages 102, 103 and 104. In the case of extreme sports, teachers could ask “How would you feel if it was you in the picture?” and work on groups of adjectives like scared, terrified, petrified  and excited, thrilled, overjoyed. This would involve dictionary work, which is always useful.

Most of our learners are interested in sport, and not many of them know anything about rugby. The picture of the All Blacks on page 102 could form the basis of a brainstorming around the question “How do you know this is not a soccer game?” The continuous form of the present tense has to be used, e.g. “The man in the middle is carrying the ball.”

Difficult pictures

The illustrations on pages 19, 60, 75, 106, 141, 143, 145, 151, 185 and 230 lend themselves to a variety of interpretations. Teachers might ask “What springs to mind when you look at the picture on . . ., and why?” and make lists of ideas. This is good for vocabulary building and discussion.

Pictures in general

Tracks 2 contains a number of pictures showing scenes from contemporary life.

(a) Many of these can be used for pre-reading and pre-listening activities such as predicting and vocabulary building. There are already a number of exercises of this type in the book.

(b) Learners can be encouraged to choose pictures themselves and explain why they have chosen them. Examples:
  • Find a picture which expresses a strong mood (happiness, worry, anger, determination, etc.).
  • Find a dramatic picture. Why have you chosen it? What is going on? What special    techniques has the artist or photographer used?
  • Which is your favourite picture? Explain to your classmates why you like it more than the other illustrations.
  • Find a picture which you think would make a good CD or DVD cover. What sort of music or movie could it be used for?
  • Choose a picture of a person and put yourself in his or her shoes. Think, talk or write about the following:
    - Who am I and why am I here?
    - What have I just done?
    - What am I doing now?
    - Why?
    - What will I be doing an hour from now / tomorrow / next week/ this time next year?