Talking about pictures

A language school, somewhere…

Teacher: Look at the man on page 26. What do you think he does for a living?
Student: Actually, teacher, I think he is probably a model hired by a  big book company for the purpose being in this book.
Teacher: OK, fair, umm, yeah. Hah. Good point. Well what mood do you think he is in?
Student: You mean, “What mood is he supposed to be in for the purpose of this question?”
Teacher: Yes, I guess so.
Student: I’d say he is supposed to be pensive. Yes, pensive.
Teacher: Pensive, wow, good word. Why do you think he is pensive?
Student:  Because we are an advanced class and we covered all the normal words in previous books. So we need new words.
Teacher:  Well, what do think is making this fictional person pensive?
Student: Probably some sort of middle class problem or something related to the aspirational lifestyle. Maybe he is thinking about ipads or something like that.
Teacher: Interesting. Thanks for sharing. What….?
Student: What…What does he look like? Is that what you are going to ask? This is not my first time using a textbook, you know?
He is pretty good looking and has very nice skin and teeth. I should also mention that I think his race was specifically chosen to be appropriate for this page in the book. We can’t have too many white people you know. We need a nice mix of races and the occasional handicapped person. It doesn’t matter if coursebooks reflect real life because that is not their job and it would be impossible for them to reflect real life for all students in any case and not all students want coursebooks to reflect real life, anyway, or something. So, that is why we are looking at this nicely dressed good looking guy with nice teeth and skin and you are asking us a series of farcical questions.

End scene. 

My original intention when I started typing this post was not (really) to trash coursebooks. It was actually to praise #ELTpics and to spread the word about this incredible resource. I guess the book  trashing was just a bonus. One thing (of the many) I love about #ELTpics is that there are pictures of real people doing real things. The pictures tend to have a lot of character as well as characters. So, if you don’t know #ELTpics I strongly recommend you check it out. Here is the Flickr photostream. Check it out and tell your teaching friends. 

As for the rant, well, I figure sometimes it is better to let out a rant instead of keeping it bottled up for a long time.  🙂


“Keeping Things Bottled Up 1”
Photo taken from by @fionamau, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license,

Recommended Reading:
(Slightly related to the dialog above)

R is for Representation by Scott Thornbury

Universality and Mediocrity Part 1: The Great Coursebook Swindle by Steve Brown

The views expressed above are solely and not actually entirely those of the author.
The author fully realizes there are a variety of ways to teach.
The author realizes there a variety of factors, pushes, pulls, and decisions that go into writing and publishing a coursebook.
There is no suggestion that all coursebooks are bad nor that coursebooks hurt people.
No coursebooks were hurt in the creation of this post.
This post is the fifth of 5 posts in five days so the author wishes to excuse himself if this post doesn’t make sense.
He’d also like to apologize for using the third person so much.
Some of my best internet friends are coursebook writers.


  1. Pingback: Talking about pictures | Teacher Training &...
  2. Pingback: Talking about pictures | Englada
  3. Laura Adele

    This is hilarious! You sure do have some sharp students in S. Korea, don’t you? hehe. Thanks for the #ELTpics link -I could definitely use this when creating materials for class. I had read Catherine Walter’s blog earlier and although I enjoyed your post, I have to say I’m disappointed that you do not address the real issue, that is, the feeding of deep-fried Mars Bars that apparently goes on in some ELT circles.

    Actually, on a more serious note… I don’t get this argument: “Further, if materials are too firmly anchored in the here and now of the learner, how will that prepare them for the future?” – are we preemptively teaching language to be used after students are done with their formal education?

    • mikecorea

      Thanks very much for reading and commenting. I am glad you enjoyed it. I had a bit of fun writing it! I am thrilled that I was able to introduce ELTpics to a few people, what a nice bonus from writing that post.

      To be very honest I didn’t find much of What Walter’s wrote very compelling or on point…BUT the quote that you pulled out makes a bit of sense. I think that often our role as teachers is to help students navigate the yet unclear and unknown future and that perhaps overemphasis on the here and now but not be the best way to do so. You ask if we are pre-emptively teaching language to be used after students are done with their formal education and I guess I’d say maybe. I think the idea is that there is a lot of things that can be done pre-emptively. I don’t happen to believe that coursebooks and their typically linear progressions are any more likely to do so than the alternative but that might be just me. In terms of the formal education part I guess I would say that she might not have been thinking in terms of formal education (but rather language schools and the like).

      Thanks again for stopping by!

      Ps-I have just stated a task force to look into this Mandatory Mars Bar forcefeeding that is going on in our industry.

  4. Pingback: Weekly ELT round up 26/04/2013 -
  5. Pingback: A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words: An ELTPics Introduction | ELT Experiences
  6. Tom the teacher

    Hi, Mike! I agree with you. Coursebooks can have the tendency to be artificial and can be a source of stereotyping. We should have more of the pics like in ELTpics. Nice image by the way. We really need realistic pictures those that reflect the real world.

  7. Pingback: A look back at 2013 on this blog | ELT Rants, Reviews, and Reflections

    It’s appropriate time to make some plans for the future
    and it is time to be happy. I have read this post and if I could I
    want to suggest you few interesting things or tips.
    Maybe you could write next articles referring to this article.
    I desire to read even more things about it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s