Teaching with Instagram

Instagram is part of my daily life, and I know it is also very popular among our teen students and some adults. Though the focus is social, the imagery and, depending on the user you follow,  Instagram can be a very powerful teaching/learning tool. You can explore with students from grammar aspects of the language to an in-depth take on cultural issues. The news is also there.

Here, I’ve selected some of my favorite Insta IDs with some activities you might want to try in your next class:


Besides being a pleasure to the eyes with stunning images by professional photographers, the National Geographic Instagram always has a text about it, so it is a great chance to see language use in context. A simple and effective way to use it is to ask students to guess where the place is, or which animal it is, where it lives, etc, and then give them time to explore the facts about the image and report back to the classroom.

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United Nations

A cultural trip around the world with global issues. In the United Nations Instagram, images are revealing, provoking and, again, for every picture they post, they add the context. So, it is a nice way to discuss with students social issues and compare and contrast with our own reality.  In the case of this specific image, you could even invite students to have a graffiti project in which they’d take photos of graffitis around town. You can make it even more enriching by asking them to analyze if it has the same political connotation as in the photo.

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UN Women is the UN entity for gender equality & women’s empowerment. It works to accelerate progress on meeting the needs of women & girls worldwide. They have interesting infographics that could be of  use to your English classroom to discuss numbers, to compare and to encourage students to make their own infographic about social issues in their countries and around the world.

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With Unesco Insta, I’d ask my students to come to the board and decide what they’d like to explore more and why, where they’d like to go. Then, we’d decide as a group for two or three places to visit or objects to explore, we’d click on it and learn about it. You could even ask them to find more cultural facts on the same subject by searching on the Net, using their cellphones.

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Lucas had an amazing idea, using coffee cups to create art. That’s the story behind copocotidiano. Can you imagine encouraging the connection between art and English using cups? Students could make their own art, write a story or sentence in English, and publish them on instagram. For this project, make sure you ask your students to use a specific hashtag (#talkincup or your class number and school) so that you can aggregate all your group’s post in one hyperlink.

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Hyemi Jeong has the same approach to Lucas’s copocotidiano. In this case, though, the artist uses any object she can find to create. Another amazing idea for the classroom!

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I guess that these are just starting point ideas for the use of Instagram in the classroom to make your lessons even more exciting, engaging and closer to students’ everyday life. This month,  i’ll try to post more cool Instgram users to follow to inspire you to use in the classroom. Just follow the hashtag #insta4theclassroom . And if you have any other ideas share them with us!

Carla Arena

Carla Arena is a social entrepreneur, educator by choice. She left a promising career in the public service to become an English teacher and got the chance to take roles she could have never imagined, such as site content manager at the Binational Center she worked for, Casa Thomas Jefferson. There, she was also the Supervisor of Educational Technology, and more recently Coordinator of Innovation and Technologies. Carla is a Google Innovator and educational technology consultant. Currently she innovates in her own business, AMPLIFICA (https://amplifica.org).

1 Comment
  • Michele Schwertner
    Michele Schwertner
    Posted at 17:33h, 02 abril Responder

    Dear Carla,
    there are two/three users I follow that usually post very nice quotes. I’m sure we can use their pictures/posts/quotes in many different ways in class.
    One of them is https://instagram.com/thewriting/. I just love the pictures/posts and I share lots of them. Here you have some info about the girl behind it… “Tania Debono is the multimedia artist behind The Writing and is based in Sydney, Australia. With an eye for a simplistic aesthetic, her ambition was to create art through words, penning down inspired truths, cliches and catchphrases overheard in conversations on the streets or created in her mind. Her typography work follows a monochromatic colour palette, with a recognisable bold signature font.” (https://www.thewritinginc.com/)
    The other two are https://instagram.com/jennymaiedae/ & https://instagram.com/savannahmaiedae/. I just adore their posters and the things they write.
    I’ve just come up with an activity… you can either print different posts with different quotes (I mean, lots of them) or show them their Instagram posts online. Students chose one or two that represents them and they have to talk to a partner about it, saying why this specific quote represents him/her.
    Hope you all like it!

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