Sunday, January 24, 2016

Why You Should Cut Up Magazines

 Of all the resource files I have in my file cabinet at school, possibly the most valuable one is the hanging file folder labelled "Powerful Pictures." It didn't take me very long to amass a wonderful collection of pictures--maybe 30 minutes spent sitting cross-legged on my living room floor surrounded by a stack of old magazines, scissors in my hand. As I flipped through the decorator and cooking magazines, news weeklies and my partner's trade journals, I stopped and cut out every intriguing picture that could be used to prompt language.

The advertisement in which a woman trying to give a bath to a large dog gets splattered with soapy water when the dog shakes off the foam would be perfect for a grammar lesson on tenses. What was she doing? What just happened? What do you think will happen next?

The possibilities with powerful photos are endless. Whenever I visit an art museum, I purchase three or four postcards to add to that file, as well. These make good poetry prompts and bases for descriptive essays.

Most recently, I went to the Powerful Pictures file during a module on English for common, everyday social situations. I was using The Grab Bag of Socializing Activities that week, and we were learning about interjections such as OUCH, YIKES, UH OH, OOPS, AWW, BOO, HOORAY, YUM and YUCK.

After the controlled and semi-controlled activities, I needed a way to see if the students could freely use the appropriate interjection for a variety of situations. Rifling through the file, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I already had one photo for almost every interjection and only had to print a couple from Google Images in order to have a sufficient supply for four groups of three to four students.

The picture of Tiger Woods with his finger to his lips would surely elicit, "Shh." The one of a bull charging a man might elicit "Yikes!" The photo of a pilot ejecting with parachute from a jet right before the jet crashed should bring out, "Whew!" A detergent advertisement showing a baby enjoying some chocolate ice cream with his clothes covered in the melting dessert could prompt both baby's "yum" and parents' "yuck," depending on one's perspective.

Pictures are especially valuable in a multilevel class since all students can simultaneously operate within their respective Zones of Proximal Development. The students really seem to enjoy any activity involving intriguing photos, and I get a lot of mileage out of them in both my literacy class and my class of seniors whose CLBs span two to seven.

In addition to this file of mine, I also keep a supply of old magazines in a box for students to use when we make posters for the classroom walls. The literacy learners cut up decor magazines and furniture store and appliance department flyers to make a poster of the house showing what is in each room. We are also working on a series of posters--one for each vowel sound that we study. We have our /ae/ poster with CAT, HAT, BAG, etc., another poster with BED, DRESS, EGGS, LEG, and a third with LIP, KICK, LID, FISH, SIT, and so on. This week we'll tackle CVC words with O and will be searching for pictures of a dog, a pot, and an ON/OFF switch.

How about you? Do you have a file full of pictures you've collected? How do you use them?


  1. I think those are great ideas! I do have a selection of photos I use for describing things to help higher level students practice for language exams. I try to laminate them and keep them organized in ziplock bags so that they stay in good condition and are reusable. It helps with prep time. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

  2. Wow, Maria, you even laminate and keep them in bags. You're light years ahead of me. :)


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