Picture This: Social media to improve Interpersonal Communication in the World Language Classroom


I have been using Instagram as a fun social app for a while now. And of course as soon as I could figure it out, I started brainstorming how I could use it in my world language classroom. Instagram is a social app for photos, where you post post pictures of which you and your friends can leave comments, tag friends, and hashtag as a certain subject.
Here’s a picture I posted from the recent ACTFL conference in Denver. There’s a few things you’ll see:

At the top lists my username, lelises, and the location I marked us in.

People who “like the picture” are next to the heart.

I have tagged one friend with the @ sign.

My comment, next to username lelises shows what I wrote about my own photo, “No taxi necessary.”

And I have classified the subject of the photo with a hashtag, #actfl.

My friend tagged in the photo commented.

Here’s a quick tutorial on the basics:

How can your students use this?

1. Taboo/10,000 Pyramid
After teaching vocabulary, have students post pictures up of certain items that you studied. The pictures can be difficult to guess, so you have them write a description in the target language underneath describing the object. If nobody guesses you can leave another clue. This can be done by the teacher or by the students. Here’s an example: (Please note, I used English here simply as an example.)

Post a pic of a keyboard, and have them say describe it as something next to a screen, you use it to type, etc. They can hashtag it with your class name #schellerfrancais. For homework, the students can search your class hashtag (#schellerfrancais) and try to guess the objects based on the descriptions. The winner can be mentioned via a tag. They are using the target language to communicate interpersonally, and also learning the valuable skill of circumlocution. Because all class pics use the # for your class, they will be able to be viewable by classmates and the teacher in one place.  There is no need to follow students profiles, etc.

This activity, in particular, can really help build that valuable skill of circumlocution.

2. 20 Questions
Another variation, you can post a pic and have your classmates ask questions, similar to the game 20 questions and the owner of the picture can respond with yes or no.

3. Journals or reflections
Inspired by things they see, they can take a pic and post their thoughts. Classmates can comment

4. Poetry Practice
In a poetry unit, as students learn about figurative language, you or they can post an image, and students can comment with a phrase or two using figurative language.

5. Scavenger Hunt:
When you are learning about a new country, city region, etc., post pictures and have the students guess the monument, city, type of food, celebration, etc.,

6. Authentic Audience:  
Once you have a handle on using this tool to increase collaboration and and interpersonal communication between your students, you can then find native speakers of the target language who use Instagram and collaborate beyond your class.

Instagram can be a powerful tool for many reasons. You are using social media in a responsible way, and students are collaborating, communicating interpersonally and using circumlocution. Not to mention it’s engaging, and can be modified for all proficiency levels.

Please share your thoughts! This is the first of what I hope to be many #techtuesday installments.


7 responses »

  1. Another innovative learning activity to engage students. I love that despite the fact that my friend moved to the other side of the country, I’m still learning from her everyday.

  2. Great ideas, here Lauren! I love the tips and am looking forward to trying these out with my French 1 kids soon! Thanks for sharing your inovative ideas, and for all your contributions to #langchat. See you there again soon.


  3. I absolutely get excited about number 4. What a terrific way to enhance dialogue and fuel thought. Scavenger Hunt is also a fun avenue for this tool. I can think of three off the top of my head. I enjoyed reading this very much. It was informative, interesting, and a great way to use social media as an educational tool.

  4. I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good.
    I do not know who you are but certainly you’re going to a famous blogger if you are not already 😉 Cheers!

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