Uses for Flickr in the Language Classroom

I’ve been familiar with Flickr since soon after its inception, but I for some reason never liked it.  Maybe I was turned off by the interface, or maybe by its social aspect.  But I am beginning to realize what sort of possibilities exist for it as an educational tool.  I thought I would keep an ongoing list here.

  • A photo scavenger hunt, either taking pictures of a list of things, or finding an ideal list of those things on Flickr (or interpreting a list of more abstract words through pictures that express those ideas).
  • Using images as a starting point for a story-telling activity.
  • Translate a poem using images and language.
  • “Pre-activities,” e.g. pre-writing (brainstorming) or pre-reading (prediction, activating vocabulary) and so on.
  • Take photos around my town of familiar locations and let the students write the caption and description (say 50 words) for the photos.
  • Create photo books with text explaining what the image is.
  • Keep a journal with photos.
  • Create a story out of their images.

As a teacher of EFL to young learners, it’s very hard to give a 10 year old with a 250-word vocabulary (mostly fruit names and animals) the means to express themselves.  But as my colleague Anthony states, Flickr “can be beneficial particularly in the early stages of second language acquisition because of its universality and capacity to connect cross-culturally…”

I could see elementary learners easily being able to create simple stories out of photos.  Just today in 5th grade we had a Skype class with a classroom in Alaska, and our students gave short presentations on what their school schedule is like, using days of the week, time, names of subjects, and simple greetings and connecting words like “first” and “next”.  Prior to the lesson, I took some photos around the school and put them up on my Smugmug account (in a password protected gallery) for the teacher in Alaska to show his students. Students here had designed their own “ideal” class schedules in groups, using some flashcards, construction paper and glue.


Now, I think if I had been savvy enough, those two activities could have been combined or expanded.  Students could have made their schedule, then taken photos of those classes, and then posted them (or had me post them) to a Flickr account that told the story.