Thursday, 11 October 2012

Ideas for Teachers: Picture Dictation

This is a low preparation fun activity that works well with large classes, especially with young learners and teens. All your students need is a blank piece of paper. It’s a fun and effective way to revise prepositions (in, on, under etc) and vocabulary. It's also a great activity to use as a game at the end of a lesson if students are lacking motivation to do written exercises as is often the case. 

  • Explain to the students that they are going to do a picture dictation, that you are going to describe a picture to them and that all they have to do is simply listen and draw what you describe.
  • For elementary and pre-intermediate students, describe a simple and easy-to-draw picture to them and ask them to draw it.
  • When you are describing the picture it's best to describe one object at a time slowly and to repeat each description two or three times.
  •  Make sure you give students enough time to finish drawing one object before you move onto the next object and it is a good idea to walk around and look at the students' drawings as they are drawing them so that you can see how well they are understanding your descriptions and then you can give them advice or change your description to make it clearer for them.
  • You can increase the level of difficulty where needed.
  • Note: This activity isn't limited to children! This also works well with adults who enjoy games too. I teach several doctors and businessmen who always request this game if they've had a hard day and work and want to enjoy themselves during the English lesson. In these cases, I often choose more difficult pictures depending on their level. 
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  • This activity works very well in pairs. One student describes a picture to a partner and their partner draws what they hear. This means the student practices speaking as well as listening and comprehension. Describing unfamiliar objects or situations using phrases like ‘it’s a long object with four legs’ (table) helps students to be able to make themselves understood in real life situations when they can’t remember a word.
  • They then swap roles and can compare the pictures they drew with the original which is usually very entertaining.
  • You can also give a student a picture from a textbook or a picture of a painting and ask them to describe it to a partner. Surreal paintings by Salvador Dali or comical paintings by Fernando Botero often work well as they are entertaining to draw and the student has to remember vocabulary out of it’s usually context. For example: Dali’s painting of a ship with butterfly sails. See previous post: Tips for Motivating Young Learners

  • Another good variation is to give students a list of objects and ask them to draw their own pictures with those objects in them.

  • For younger students, you can ask them to draw simple objects or give them blank colouring sheets and then do Colour Dictation. For example, colour the roof of the house green, colour the door of the house red, or get students to label different objects by writing the name of the object underneath it, such as house, bird etc

  • You can also get students to write a description of the picture afterwards or for homework. 
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Here are some more links related to picture dictation which you may find useful

University of Virginia: Picture Dictation

If you have another other variations that you use with your students, I'd love to hear from you!

Which activities do you find particularly useful for revising prepositions? 

What are your fail safe activities for use when young learners are tired or lacking motivation? 


  1. Awesome post, dear!!!

    Happy Weekend,


    1. Thank you! I hope you have a lovely weekend too! x

  2. love your post and love so much your hejab i hope to follow each other if you want let me know



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