32. Fotobabble



I recently learned from Paul, our tutor on the materials module, of a site called Fotobabble, which allows you to record soundbites to accompany photos you’ve uploaded.  I started messing around with it, and wondering how it might be used in class, when I remembered a lesson I created a couple of years ago, entitled ‘Who is this Man?’

You can read about the lesson here, but essentially it’s a set of two linked lessons, the first is a speaking lesson on question formation in which learners brainstorm to create background details about a character – inspired by a photo – before learning that in fact I know the person in the photo.  Learners then decide on a set of questions, which I then take away and use to create a short recorded interview with the person in the photo.  The next day – in the second lesson – learners then listen to the recording to match the answers with their original questions.

It’s a great lesson because the learners invest a great deal when they know that they’ll get genuine answers to their questions, but it’s not one I use frequently as it requires me to know I can meet with a friend to record their answers on the evening between the first and second lesson.  I’ve done it once with a flatmate, and once with a friend in Germany, who I then interviewed via Skype.


fotobabbleHow does this relate to Fotobabble?  Well one idea is to use the site to pre-record a short text telling the background to a photo – where I was when I took it, etc, before learners do the same with their own photographs.  Another idea though – which is an adaptation of the ‘Who is this Man?‘ lesson – is rather than interviewing a friend, get learners to speculate from the photograph and then listen to my description of my friend.  Learners could then make their own recordings of themselves talking about their friends or family, to be used as listening tasks following speculation from their classmates.

Here’s a link to a little example I put together about my friend Adrian:


What I really like about it is that it’s so quick to create, which has advantages both for the teacher, and for learners, who can re-record with suggested improvements (on language and pronunciation/delivery) from the teacher or peers.  The possibilities are also endless – it’s a straightforward way to create a listening text for learners with a visual stimulus, on any topic and containing any (spoken) language point.  Looking forward to trying it out.

4 thoughts on “32. Fotobabble

  1. This is a great activity that I will try in class myself! Students are generally quite curious about their teacher’s personal life and for this reason they will certainly be involved.
    In my classes, I sometimes use a similar task as an ice breaker when I have the first lesson with students that don’t know each other. Every students states her/his name, then the students are put in pairs and just by looking at each other have to speculate on things related the person in front of them without asking any questions (hobbies, job, favourite music, nationality etc.). After the students have written down their guesses, they ask each other questions to check them. This activity always works really well, and generates a lot of engagement, and rich language output.

    • That sounds like a great idea! Do they ever get shy or worried about offending each other?
      I sometimes set up an ‘ask me anything’ activity with new groups to practice question formation, and you’re right, there is something students generally enjoy about learning about their teacher. I think it’s to do with the fact that we are people, we are human, and it’s nice for them to see that side of us. At the end of the day, more than being teacher and students, we are a group of people in a room, and I think with the amount of work we do it’s easy to forget that: they are not just students, they’re people. So if they get to know us a bit, they (hopefully) feel more comfortable and thus enjoy the learning experience more. It’s certainly the case for me that I tend to enjoy teaching more when I get to know the group and the people in the room better. And, if we’re asking them to share information about themselves, we should always be prepared to do the same!

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