Ruby Vurdien

Developing visual literacy in the EFL classroom

In this workshop we are going to look at how images can be exploited in the EFL classroom for communicative purposes. Different practical activities based on pictures not taken from textbooks will be discussed in terms of fostering the development of critical thinking through student engagement. Teachers can implement these ready-made tasks in their own classroom.


Most language teachers use images in their classroom. In our increasingly visual world it is difficult to imagine the language classroom without the use of textbook pictures, photographs, infographs, youtube videos, cartoons and so on (Donaghy & Xerri, 2017). Besides, as most students possess a smartphone and are adept at using it for different purposes, they can contribute to the authentic classroom materials with their own photographs. Consequently, teachers should take advantage of this opportunity in order to exploit the use of images and thus benefit students in their learning process. Students should learn how to interpret pictures and be encouraged to develop critical thinking skills through engagement with their peers.

With this in mind, the presentation will be as follows:

• Introduction – looking at definitions and benefits of developing visual literacy (an essential skill in the 21st century) in the classroom.

• Looking at the kind of visuals teachers use in their classroom.

• Focusing on the use of photographs in different contexts and how they can be exploited to help students develop critical thinking skills. Looking at different tasks and questions that can be used towards that end.

• Giving tips about how to make use of photographs as authentic materials in the classroom.

• Reflecting on the effective use of visuals for communicative purposes.

In this workshop teachers will be encouraged to participate fully with a view to understanding how photographs can play a significant part in fostering students’ communicative competence and creativity. Pictures can motivate students to engage with their peers in the classroom, thereby enhancing their speaking skills.


Donaghy, K. & Xerri, D. (2017). The Image in ELT: an Introduction. In K. Donaghy and D. Xerri (Eds), The Image in English Language Teaching (pp. 1-11). ELT Council: Malta.


Ruby Vurdien (MEd, EdD), Director of White Rose Language School, has been an EFL teacher for over thirty years. She is also a Teacher Trainer, a Cambridge English Speaking Examiner and Materials Reviews Editor for IATEFL Voices magazine. Her research interests involve telecollaboration, intercultural learning, and using internet tools in the classroom. She has published several articles and book chapters.

Visual Literacy - Online TESOL convention.pptx