In School in Germany: Picture Games


To start off this article, I would like to offer a word of advice to teachers whose passion also includes photography: Take as many pictures as you can and keep as many as you can. You may never know when and how you will need them- especially if you find the best ones for an activity (or several) for your class. 🙂  This principle I’ve followed for years which has led to not only successful activities but also successful articles.

This applies to vacation time, as two thirds of the population of German children are starting school now, with the remaining third still out until September. The same trend applies in the US, where half the schools start in mid-August; the rest after Labor Day. Children gather vast amounts of experiences through travel, summer camps, visits to long-distant relatives and friends, work and other events that add experience and enrich their knowledge of what’s around them. And at the beginning of the school year, they would like to share that experience with other classmates and especially their teacher.

After all, as we would like to look at their interests and get to know them, we can help them along so they can be what they want to be, right?  Be all that you can be, like in the US Army commercial. 😉


If you, as a teacher, have some problems coming up with activities to encourage the students to use their language skills and share their experiences with others, there are some activities that can help. Using a collection of photos, you can introduce the following exercises to them to motivate them to speak and be creative. These activities are not only meant to break the ice in terms of establishing communication between the teacher and the students, it is meant to unlock the knowledge that has been sitting in the freezer inside the students’ heads and it just needs to be thawed out. For the first exercise, photos from the teacher are required for use, whereas the second and third activities one can also use the photos from the students, if requested. In the fourth and final exercise, the students should present their photos and images, even if through Powerpoint or a slideshow.

Here’s a look at the photo activities you can use in the classroom (suitable for all ages and language levels):


Picture This:

Based on an exercise in Baron’s TOEIC Preparatory Book, the object of this game is to look at a picture provided by the presenter to the group, and identify what is seen in there. How students view it and express themselves depends on what the picture has. The picture can be a landscape, a certain scene with people doing activities, a phenomenon, or something totally different. What is seen is what is to be identified. Some people may feel restricted because they have to focus on the picture itself and therefore may have some difficulties finding the right vocabulary for the pictures. Yet by the same token, especially if the activity is done in groups, one can take advantage of learning new words from this game or even refreshing the vocabulary that had been sitting unused for some time.  There are two ways of doing this activity: one is in a large group where each student can find what is in the picture and make a statement on it. The other is in pairs or small groups, where each one receives a picture, analyses it and can present it to the rest of the class. With the second variant, five minutes of preparing and five to ten minutes of presentation total will suffice, pending on the number of students in class.

As a trial run, use the picture above and find out what you see in there. You’ll be amazed at what you will find happening at a place like the Westerhever Lighthouse at the moment of the pic. 😉


Finish the Story: 

This activity comes from the film, Out of Africa with Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. Originally in the film (produced and directed by the late Sidney Pollack), the character Karen Dinesen (played by Streep) is a story-teller and in a conversation with Denys Hatton (played by Redford) and others, she explains the concept, where one starts the story with a sentence, where the other finishes the story the way it is seen fit. Like in this example:

While one could adopt this concept in the classroom, if it was a one-to-one training session, in larger groups, it would not be as exciting as it is when each student adds a sentence to the first one given by the teacher, and going through a couple rounds until the entire class feels the story is complete. This concept helps students become creative while at the same time refresh their knowledge of sentence structure and a bit of grammar. While one can try this without pictures, more challenging but exciting would be with pictures, especially from summer break, like the ones presented below. Try these with the following sentences below and complete your own story……. 🙂


It was afternoon on the North Sea coast and a storm is approaching. It is windy and perfect weather for kite-flying………   



It is high tide, and the beach is underwater. Two people sitting in Strandkörbe are taken by surprise……..


Make a Story:

 Going further into talking about vacations and things to do in the summer is creating your own story, using a pic provided by the teacher. In groups of two or three, students have five minutes (for those on the beginner or pre-intermediate levels, 7-10 minutes should suffice) to create a story to present to the class. The advantage of this exercise, is that students are able to exchange ideas and knowledge to create a fantastic, rather interesting story to share with the rest of the class. In small groups of six or less, the exercise can also be done individually.  Even when you have pics like these below, which are rather simple, one can create great stories out of it. The whitest and plainest of canvases make for world-class pictures with this game.  Word to the wise  from my former uncle, who was a world-class painter. 😉



With time constraints being the thorn in the side of teachers, one has to go by the principle of “Less Means More,” and optimize your class, in order to make learning as effective as possible. Mini-presentations are the best way for students to talk about their vacation in the shortest time possible. With a couple pics as support, each student has 2-3 minutes to talk about their trip.  The downside to this activity is that the student does not have much to talk about. It is possible though to choose one aspect of the vacation that you love the most and would like to talk about. The best aspect always receives the best attention. How it is presented depends on the student’s creative talents. One can focus on a sport the student tried, a wonderful place the student visited, a local food the student tried and loved, or a local event that took place during vacation. It can also include a summer job, summer camp, talent show or even a local festival, such as a parade, county fair or city market. Whatever event was the highlight, the student should have a chance to present it- as long as it does not overlap with another presenter.  🙂


There are several more activities which require the use of photos, while an increasing number of them require the use of 2.0 technologies, such as blogs and other interactive platforms, yet these four exercises do not require the use of technology (minus the Powerpoint aspect), but more with your language skills and your creative talents.  While these four activities can be used at any time, with even different themes, such as Christmas or school-related events for example, for the purpose of reactivating their language knowledge and getting (re-)acquainted with the students and teacher, are they perfect for the occasion. By implementing one or more successfully, the class will become so involved, it will appear that the first day in school never happened, and that the class will pick up where it left off before break, without missing a beat.

Even more so, when using photos for classroom use, a teacher can do a lot with them, while the students can benefit from them through their own stories. Therefore, take a lot of pictures and be prepared to use them for your future classes. Your students will thank you for it. 🙂


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Being Blessed with Weather is a Blessing

The Comparison between the Adjective with -ed and the Adjective with -ing


Sometimes spring-like weather can be a blessing for it enables the teacher and author to be creative. Therefore, let us start with the comparison of two different sentences:

Clara was astonished by the view of the hills.

The views of the hills were astonishing.


Do you know the difference?  If not, look at the next picture below:


We were blessed with beautiful weather.

The beautiful weather was a blessing.


The difference is with the adjective. In the first one, we have astonished and astonishing, whereas here, we have blessed and blessing. Both are adjectives, but they have different functions. The difference will be focused in this article as many people, especially non-native speakers of English know the difference between the adjective and the adverb, but have problems telling the difference among the types of adjectives that exist, namely our focus on those with -ed and those with -ing.

So to start:

The Adjective is a word or group of words that support the noun in a sentence. A pair of examples to illustrate:

The professor was appalled at the fact that the student cheated on his test.

Appalled is the adjective describing the professor.


Jessica is having a stressful evening because her computer is not functioning.

Stressful is the adjective describing the evening Jessica is having.


Larissa’s day at work was rather interesting because she interviewed a popular sports figure.

Interesting and popular are both adjectives describing Larissa’s day at work and sports figure, respectively. 


The concert was absolutely, posivitely, unconditionally and totally fabulous! It was rather noisy and really crowded, but it was exciting!

Here, we have a couple rules to keep in mind: when more than one word is used to describe a noun, the rule is the word closest to the noun is an adjective, the rest are all adverbs. In this case, fabulous is the adjective in the first sentence, describing the concert. 

In the second rule, if there are two words separated by either a comma or conjunction, but describing the same noun, they are both adjectives. In this case, we have crowded and noisy as adjectives describing the concert (it) because it was separated by and. 


Keeping these rules in mind, let’s take a look at two example sentences:

Dorothea found the artist’s night photos fascinating.

Dorothea was fascinated with the night photos.

Here, we can find the difference in terms of the usage of adjectives. In the first one, the adjective with the -ing describes the appearance of the night photos taken by a talented photographer. Like in the endings if -ful, -ive, less, etc., the adjective with -ing is used to describe an object, event or incident that the person (either as narrator or as second or third person) comments about, based on observations, reactions and impressions that do not affect the person directly.

In the first example, we can see Dorothea’s observations and she makes a comment about it (either mentally or with another person) without any emotional reaction, as can be seen in the second example.

When using the adjective with -ed, it implies that the person reacts to an event, observation or object with emotion. Similar to the passive voice (meaning the ending must coincide with the past participal (perfect) verb form), the adjective with -ed functions in a way that the person receives the event and reacts to it.

In the second example, we can see Dorothea receiving the impression of the night photos through her own observations, and her reactions were that felt the photos were fascinating. Yet as  reaction, we would say that she was fascinated because the reactions to the photos come from her directly.


The exception to this rule is when we have sense adjectives, sometimes combined with the verbs feel, find, consider, think, get and other verbs dealing with feelings and reactions, where no -ed ending is needed because they stand out alone.  Some examples using the word Sick include:

Theodore is sick with the flu.- Theodore got the flu from someone else and is therefore feeling bad with fever, etc.

Theodore got sick when he heard of the news of his friend’s suicide.- Here, Theodore received the news of the tragedy and feels numb and sad, wondering why it happened and regretting his non-interference.

Theodore is sick and tired of his job.- This example represents his disdain of his job and his quest to find a better one.


Interestingly enough, if these adjectives were used as an observation, many times, -ing is added- but not always. A couple examples:

Theodore’s obsession with Annette is sickening.  BUT

Theodore’s obsession with Annette is sick.


But our main focus is the use of adjectives based on observation (-ing) and reaction (-ed), for they can be mixed up, based on the context and how it is presented. If one observes an object and reacts to it, then the adjective with -ed is needed. If one commentates on an object and describes it, then it is with -ing. You can see it more in details in the diagram above, the writing was courtesy of the author. 🙂


 Keeping this in mind, let’s look at the following exercise, where you use the verb in parenthesis and convert it into adjective, using either -ing or -ed

Part A.

  1. Terry was __________ by the lecture that was ______________. (bore)
  2. I was ____________ by breath by the view of the city from the cathedral, which was breath-___________. (take)
  3. Sharon was ____________ by the Indian’s _____________ story of the great warrior named Tree Woman. (amuse)
  4. Frank and Walter’s _____________ seat pad got them ___________ in the car for hours. (stick)
  5. Eva felt ___________ into an immoral deal by two ______________ salesmen. (pressure)


Part B.

Prof. Smith was _____________ (tire) and wanted to escape to a quiet apartment when suddenly, a _____________ (sob) student appeared into his office. He knew this girl because she was in one of his classes that is ____________(excite) because many students are ______________(impress) with the ______________ (interest) and thought- _______________(provoke) discussions about current events in a foreign language. _____________ (surprise), Mr. Smith asks the girl named Elisabeth what the problem was. She handed him a letter that was handwritten but also messy. “No worries, Liz,” Mr. Smith replied. “This letter cannot be that ____________ (shock), right?” Liz, _________ (anger) by his response, shot back at him by saying “It’s worse.” With a __________ (perplex) look on his face, he read the letter. Two minutes later, his face ___________ (drain) in white with sweat, he asked her how long she has known about this. Her response was a ____________ (resound) one: “For four ___________ months and now, I’m totally ___________ because of him!” (fuck)

“OK,” said a calm but now very ___________ (annoy) Mr. Smith. “I will talk to him about this and see what we can do about this problem. It is definitely a very serious one that cannot be ____________ (ignore), period.”

Next day, as he was heading to one of the university halls for class, he encounters Liz’s main problem, who wrote her the letter. Despite his stirn but professional stance, his reaction was ___________ (surprise), even to himself. He…..

C. In your opinion, what do you think happened between Elisabeth and her student colleague?

 1.  He dated her but then decided to love someone else instead

2.   He dated her but has an extra affair on the side

3.   He hasn’t been dating her but harassed her to a point where she needs help to settle the matter.

4.   He has been thrown out of the university because of his failing an exam three times and has kept it secret

5.   He has been dating her and are suddenly expecting a child after a few months of dating

6.   He is keeping something a secret from her and has repelled her attempts to find out what has been going on.

7. Other thoughts?


Pick what you think happens then click here to see the result with some exercises.


Note: The Three-Strikes and You’re Out Rule applies to studies in general at a German university. For more, please click here.


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