Monday, March 23, 2015

What's Going On In This Picture?

Happy Monday, Frontier ESL fans! Mondays have special significance in our classroom--not only because it's the kickoff to another exciting week in English language learning, but also because we get to participate in a world wide academic conversation! How cool is that? Here's how it goes. Every Monday, the New York Times Learning Network publishes a weekly column called WGOITP, which--you guessed it--stands for What's Going On In This Picture? A photograph taken from recent current events is posted every Monday morning. Students are instructed to look closely at the picture for a few minutes and then think about the following three questions:
  •      What's going on in this picture?
  •      What do you see that makes you say that?
  •      What more can you find?
As a class, we first discuss what we see, using words in English we know or, if we don't yet know the vocabulary, using words in L1 (our primary language) to describe the details we observe. Then, we take these details and write our observations, using sentence frames and starters when we need to. When we have finished writing our descriptions and interpretations of the picture, we submit our writing to the NY Times Learning Network in the form of a comment. Other students, anywhere in the world, post their comments as well, to which we can respond. It's a neat little routine we've got going on here, one that develops not only academic vocabulary but also how to establish ideas and back them up using evidence. Students also get practice in listening to the views of others and discussing many possible interpretations of an image.

Feel free to add to the conversation! You can see what we're looking at (and read our writing, too) by going to We identify ourselves only as "Frontier ESL" in the comments section. On Tuesdays, the Times reveals more information about the WGOITP images so that students can check their inferences and predictions by reading the original caption and learning the image's true back story.

Can you guess what we're doing at the beginning of class tomorrow? Feel free to join us online!

Mrs. Blair

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