6 Lessons Using Smartphone Cameras

Almost everyone has a smartphone these days, so why not start using this technology to help you teach? The best ways to get started is to use the camera feature. Getting your students talking about and taking photographs is a great way to encourage real communication and do something different with your class.

Get started with these activity ideas:

1. Tell me about your photo

Get students to work in pairs. Ask them to take their phones out and choose three photographs that they like from their own gallery. They should spend a few minutes choosing and thinking about what they are going to say. Now, ask students to explain their photographs to each other, encourage students to ask questions and generate discussion.


2. Take photos of objects

Put students in pairs or teams. If you have mixed language speakers, make sure that the groups are made up of students who speak different languages… the target task here is speaking and communicating in English, not really taking photos. Give or dictate students a list of objects that they must go out into the world and take photos of.  Depending on the level of your class you can use easy things like ‘a chair’ or ‘a book’ or make it much harder by asking them to capture ‘sadness’ or ‘happiness’ to stretch their imagination.

Before students go outside the classroom to take their photos, remind them that they need permission before they photograph anyone! Give them a time limit; say fifteen minutes depending on the list. When students return to the classroom, have them show their pictures to other groups or the class. Encourage discussion; ask where they took the pictures and why they chose those particular things.


3. Tell a photo story

Give students a title for a photo story. You could use one of these suggestions:

A Crime in the Street

A Lucky Day!

A Bad Day

A Good Day

A bit of advice

The Accident

Helping Someone

A good person

An evil person


Put students in groups and tell them they are going to make a photo story for one of the titles. Allow students time to discuss the title and work out a story that they could tell. Give them some time to take the images, they could use each other as actors and use any part of your teaching institution as the set.

After students have taken their photos, have them share their photos with the rest of the class. You could ask them to do this in Word or as a PowerPoint presentation.  They could explain or write what is happening next to the images.


4. Be a tour guide or  create a brochure

Have your students choose a place that they know well near the classroom, this could be your own school, a park, a shopping centre, a gallery, a market… anywhere. Explain that in groups they are going to take a series of photos for a tour magazine. Allow students time to discuss the kind of photos they’d like to take before sending them off to get the images, remember to make sure groups are of mixed languages to maximise discussion time.

Students can share their images with the rest of the class or other groups when they have finished.


5. Make a ‘how to’ slide show

In group or pairs, ask students to think about and choose one of the following tasks that they could present as a slide show with photos and verbal explanation. Unless this is a homework task (which it’s great for) you’ll need to use situations that students can photograph straight away and don’t need any special equipment. Here are some suggestions:

How to do an exercise (like squats!)

origami (paper folding)

A dance move

how to draw something

A grammar point

A magic trick


When completed, groups can share and explain their tasks with other students or the rest of the class.


6. Give tasks for homework

A day in my life 

My weekend 

My family 

My house 

My Street 

My neighbourhood 

Choose one of the titles above and ask students to take some photographs that they can show and talk about in the next lesson. Learners could put their snaps into Word or PowerPoint and give a presentation to the class.

Sharing photographs with the class

Most of these activities require you to be able to display photographs for the class. If you have a projector or an interactive whiteboard, you could get students to email their photographs to you.

Another good way to manipulate and display these photographs is by using PowerPoint. After students have completed the main activity, you could ask them to create a PowerPoint show which they email to you.

Happy photographing!



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