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October 01, 2009


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Jayson Guevarra

I believe that visual aids must be part of the arsenal of every teacher, especially when teaching a subject matter as complex as a language. The discussions here have been helpful. Only, let me remind people that there are learners who cannot cope with changing modes of teaching. In one way or another, teaching is also like "finding a way" to impart knowledge and concepts. I have bookmarked this blog for future reference.

I find that using flashcards that come in color and 3 different sizes makes teaching easier. The Flashcards are divided into three steps: the Big set is great for vocabulary presentation, the Medium set is good for teaching small groups of students and playing language learning games. The Small sets of pictures are great for ESL games such as Down-Pass or Go Fish. Hope this helps!
Thanks for the great post!

Jenny CLancey

Great post! I agree that realia in the ESL classroom is definitely the easiest way for the student to relate to the lesson. When I taught English to Somali refugees, drawing pictures was the only way that we could communicate at first.


I agree that children respond more and are easier to excite with "role-playing" type activities. My son loves interacting with kids his age and i have no worries with his speech and actions


Approximately 20 to 30 percent of the school-aged population remembers what is heard; 40 percent recalls well visually the things that are seen or read; many must write or use their fingers in some manipulative way to help them remember basic facts; other people cannot internalize information or skills unless they use them in real-life activities such as actually writing a letter to learn the correct format." (Teaching Students to Read Through Their Individual Learning Styles, Marie Carbo, Rita Dunn, and Kenneth Dunn; Prentice-Hall, 1986, p.13

binatang peliharaan

English is not my first language. not even my 2nd one. I remembered when I learned english long ago, I used pictures. And it's been great help for me.


I am currently working in ESL and use some of these ideas, but it's great to find some new input. I've already tried some of the suggestions as to incorporating actual objects into a class, and had some good results. Thanks for a really interesting post!

Adam Tervort

I wouldn't consider myself a "fully trained" EFL professional, but it seems that much of the research I have read, particularly in the area of acquisition, demonstrates that learners learn best when given as many different types of input as possible. From a personal perspective, I have found that to be true in my language learning as well.
By the way, where in "rural Taiwan" where you teaching. I live in not-so-rural-Taiwan, in Taoyuan county. I really enjoy teaching here in Asia!

Paul Hayes

Fantastic, the use of visuals to improve your vocabulary is a great idea. Another great idea is to keep a diary or a journal! Practice everyday about something you are passionate about, yourself ;)


The use of objects in language education is a great enhancement to the other lessons that are taught. I have found, from my own experience in teaching Spanish to Middle School students, that it speeds up the learning, and especially the recognition, process.

busy teacher

Hello Jenny
I spent 5 years teaching ESL, but then somehow got tired of it.
From my experience, realia work best: bring in postcards, maps, movie tickets, whatever you can collect - it can all be used in all sorts of role-plays and pairwork activities.
Another thing I looooved doing with my Ss was treasure and scavenger hunts: even though they take a while to prepare, but you'll be amazed at how well they go!

Take care!

Ellie Teachman

This even works with the youngest of language learners. I teach English in Italy and have a preschool class for the first time this year. I've had a lot of success with "What's in the box?"- a fun activity we do at the beginning of every class. I'll put a stuffed animal or a model train or car in the box. Immediately upon entering, the students start asking (it's taken a while to get them to this point). "Is it big?", "Is it an animal?" and so forth. I change the size and color of the box or bag to keep them curious. It's been fun, and really effective.


I completely agree with the use of realia in the ESL classroom. When students learn vocabulary in context, they have a much easier time remembering the word and repeating it. Sometimes I choose a "mystery object" and the students have to guess what it might be. I'll only show a part of the object, or in a more advanced class, I'll keep it hidden until the class guesses accurately.

Randall League

Objects help put students into the "experience". I have a school in Japan and I use objects with adults and children. I find that children respond more and are easier to excite with "role-playing" type activities.

Be careful though, there's always one kid who will horde the objects to himself and not let anyone else use them .


I worked as an ESOL teacher myself (in Cambodia) and experienced the use of handouts, grammar worksheets & printables as very useful. The kids were incredibly diligent and some were improving incredibly fast. I think not only visuals are very useful in that regard, but also audio material!


Kevin Slaten

Many good points here. In my classes -- Kaohsiung, Taiwan, 4th and 5th grade -- objects , pictures, and sounds are critical to connecting language and concepts.

Although I use objects daily, there is sometimes at least one disadvantage in the second subtopic: no matter how awesome your object, some students will not be compelled to ask questions. Of course, this is hardly a fault of objects; rather, it is the reality of teaching and variant personalities -- even more so in an ESL classroom in a culture (China) in which students aren't usually asking questions in the classroom.


Your instincts are right on target! You are a natural teacher.

In fancy grad school terminology, it's called using visuals and "realia." :)


I got an e-mail about this article which reminded me of another related strategy: Using songs to teach culture and language! Another former teacher specifically recommended "Under the Boardwalk" as the best song for teaching prepositions. And I have fond memories of singing with my students, too. American Christmas carols was a great cultural and linguistic experience (though "partridge" isn't really a critical vocabulary word).


I am a certified ESOL teacher. You are exhibiting one of the most valuable strategies used when teaching ELL (English Language Learners.) Even the students who can already speak english need visual aides. By the way, I found your blog through my dad's blog. He is a Merchant Marine. I hope this is helpful, it sounds like you are doing great work.

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