Picture descriptions

A great way to improve a student's listening skills

I was lucky to have a very good grade 6 student in my school that I have taught since he was in grade 1. So when our school was invited to join a multi-skill competition (A contest where students would be tested in reading, writing, speaking and listening) I didn't have a second thought of fielding him to represent our school.

He was already good in reading and speaking so I just had to polish his writing and listening. Writing practice was done when he and I had free time but listening had to be tackled in class.

Since I couldn't do two things effectively in a hyperactive class, I decided to shift gear. Instead of learning the topic scheduled for the week, I trained my contestant by doing the lesson on picture description for the whole class for I was informed that the judge would tell the contestants to draw on their paper using several prepositions, then their drawing would be compared with the original picture to get corresponding points.

To begin with, I reviewed prepositions to my students. I listed the names of my 15 students on the board and assigned a scorer. I gave each student paper for their drawing. For the first drawing I asked them to draw a house in the middle of their paper. On top of the house was a bird. Above the bird was a smiling sun. On the right side of the house was a tree. In the tree was a nest. On the left side of the house was another tree. Under the tree was a little boy standing. Next to him was a little dog.

When I finished, I collected the papers with their names, showed the original drawing, and they were saying their ohs and ahs. I checked every paper, called out the students' points, and they looked at their scores.

It was amusing because a number of students who were not that good in oral communication yielded good scores compared to the students who did well. That meant that these students were good at listening.

I did the second and the third and the fourth picture description using other prepositions in front of, between, near, behind, and under, etc. using different objects, animals, and people. As usual I checked their work, gave them scores, and determined the winner. Of course, my best student won. This was his practice and I had another picture description in their next English class.

Overwhelmed by the success of this activity, I did it with my other classes in Grade 4 and Grade 5. As expected, I got similar responses from the students. As a reward for their good behavior, active participation and studying English well, we played it again. Next time, the good students will be ones to act as a teacher so that they can practice their English. I will only provide the pictures to dictate.

The nice thing about the activity was that I didn't mind the students' drawings. No matter how the drawing looked, as long as they were suggestive of the idea and placed on the right location, it would be considered correct.

Picture description is a good listening assessment. Students enjoy it because it involves drawing. Sometimes they get excited because they can get high points for easy exercises. But when you have good students, empower them to act as teachers so that we can develop them more.

With barely two weeks of preparation, my student ranked 2nd out of 22 schools in the district with 1 point difference against the champion. It wasn't bad. I had the feeling that he did well because of his picture description training which was one part of multi-skill competition was.


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