This image was the header on my blog for almost four months . But now it’s time to take it down and share a few ideas for how it could be used in class.
I particularly like this close up image because of the way the sun’s playing on the tiles. There are some interesting contrasts here, the black and the white, the light and the shade. It can make a nice starting point for exploring contrasts, or even exploring binomials and the fixed sequence of the two parts and that it’s not the same in all languages. For instance in Spanish it’s blanco y negro, in Italian it’s the same, bianco e nero (white and black) but in English it’s black and white. You’d never say it the other way round. This intrigues students.
This could lead into a brief exploration of the expression “black and white” and its uses, for example taking an online dictionary entry as a starting point. You could make up new examples, contrast it with uses in the students’ L1, and extend the metaphor to include “grey areas”, maybe think about a topic in the news at the time that’s being treated in a very black and white fashion.
But that’s not how I’ve used. I’ve used it as a starting point for visualisation and asked the students to build up the scene around it. This image was taken in their home town, so they know it well, they can identify it straightaway. They even know what season it is from the leaf on the ground. I ask them to take two steps back from the photo, open it out and describe what they see. Then we take a few more steps and I ask them what people they can see in the scene, what sounds they can hear, what smells they can smell. We open it out even further and we talk about what’s happening all around. Then we explore what the place means to each of us, when we go there, what we do there, what we like about it (don’t like about it).
Of course, you don’t have to know the place to use the same image and the same activity, each student can imagine their own scene. You can set up conversations and role plays within their imaginary scenes as well, get their imaginary characters interacting. Or you can use your own close up image of a place in the town where you’re teaching, where your students are studying (it doesn’t have to be their hometown), somewhere that’s immediately recognisable from a close-up detail, somewhere that you can open up and explore the bigger picture – and somewhere that everyone has got something to say about.