Picturing Through Reading – A Thousand Words And A Million Pictures

It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. In other pictures, I mean, in other words, a picture might provide us with a thousand words which might eventually give free reign to your imagination. I am not saying that is all bad, however, for some this may be too little and, say, too comforting.

I have come up with a theory that since a picture may lend itself to a thousand words, then it is fair to say that a thousand words may lend themselves to a million pictures.

It goes without saying that we are technically considered a nation who does not read. You may choose to disagree with that, especially if one bears in the mind the best case scenario of a fast-moving evolution of information technology and the spinoffs it brings. There is no doubt in my mind that reading (a receptive skill) is one of the most important ways of acquiring information and transforming it into knowledge, though. Plus, it is mostly via reading that we gain a better understanding of what is going on in our global village and improve our critical thinking. And yes, writing (a productive skill) is bound to develop substantially.

I have been a Public School Teacher (EE Dr Garcia de Lima) for 1 year now and I thought it would be sort of hard to have students reading in Portuguese, let alone in English. Much to my surprise, I find my students reading more often than not. One may wonder how I did it and I can honestly say I do not have a magic formula for that. On the other hand, I can outline a few steps I have been using with which seem to be developing their liking for reading in English.

  1. First and foremost, I have learnt that pushing in education is not the done thing, instead pulling students in has proved to be it. How do I know? Take a guess. Yes, you got it – too much pushing made me a ‘funny’ teacher. And being funny in this sense is not funny at all.
  2. Never oblige, but invite them. Rather than doing an ‘I-tell-you’ activity, invite students to contribute to the topic to be discussed first and then present them with a few learning alternatives. For instance, in a particular group there was this discussion on ethnic diversity and segregation. I had previously thought of a film (Mississippi Burning) to be watched and offered excerpts of the book to be read as an extensive activity. At this point the outcome was a mystery to me, however, the group who chose to read parts of the book had a better background knowledge for a later discussion, which sort of got many of the film group to read the book. As heavy-going as it may seem, the invested interest in reading was there.
  3. Allow for a full variety of genres. Our school library provides learners with reading materials for many tastes – from comics to literature, to fiction, magazines and historical books. It is important to make clear to students that a classic by Rui Barbosa may be as enlightening as a C.S. Lewis The Chronicles of Narnia. In other words, let them ride their own wild horses.
  4. Engage students in projects. My project under development this year concerning teaching English deals with music, literature, politics, segregation and the prison system. All of which, chosen to cater for different students and learning styles. I have introduced a song made famous by The Rolling Stones “Sweet Black Angel’’ ( which supposedly mentions Angela Davis, an American activist. My main goal is to use my subject matter as a springboard to develop students’ critical thinking. From apparently a simple song we can observe vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation has led to ‘The Voice Garcia’, in which students will have the opportunity to present their readings of the song and show their talents.

I am fully aware that implementing this reading skill or habit is something that needs to come from each and every student and such action-plan will bring out minuses and pluses. However, I am expecting that the pluses will outnumber the minuses, especially if one considers that any sort gain requires some risk-taking. I have decided to walk the plank and see how many million pictures I get from a thousand words.

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Adriano Zanetti

Adriano Zanetti – BA in Letras, Post-graduate in Language Teaching Methodologies, RSA Dip. DELTA. An educator for 30 years, an ELT consultant/teacher trainer at A2Z English Consultancy, a teacher/trainer/coordinator at FISK São João del Rei and Cambridge Assessment English Speaking Examiner. A Pronunciation SIG member responsible for Pronunciation courses for teachers/students. Presented several times in LABCI/ABCI conferences, Braz-Tesol Regional/National Chapters and different institutions in MG. /

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