Visuals in Life

National Geographic Photography

We live in a world where images are used more than ever to reinforce, and at times replace, the spoken and written word. We use our visual literacy – the ability to look at and understand images – every day of our lives. In particular, photographs tend to prompt emotive memories and help us to recall information. For this reason, the use of photographs and pictures in the classroom is a highly effective learning tool. Not surprisingly then, the Life series makes maximum use of the great photographs which are at the core of National Geographic content. The photographs in Life Second Edition add impact and serve as an engaging starting point to each unit. Then, in each lesson, photographs form an integral part of the written and recorded content and generate meaningful language practice in thoughtful and stimulating ways. There are photographs which:

  • tell a story by themselves
  • draw the viewer in and engage them emotionally
  • support understanding of a text and make it memorable
  • provoke debate
  • stimulate critical thinking by asking you to examine detail or think about what is NOT shown or by questioning the photographer’s motives
  • are accompanied by a memorable quotation or caption
  • help learners to remember a lexical set
  • help to teach functional language
  • lend themselves to the practice of a specific grammar point

As a first exercise when handing out the new book to your students, you could ask them to flick through the book, select their favourite photograph, and then explain to the class what it is they like about it. You will find specific suggestions in the teacher’s notes for using the photographs featured within each unit, but two important things to note are:

  • pictures of people or animals can capture a moment, so ask students to speculate on the events that led up to this moment and those that followed it
  • pictures of places aim to capture their essence, so feed students the vocabulary they need to describe the details that together convey this (the light, the colours, the landscape, the buildings)


National Geographic Video

Students’ visual literacy and fascination with moving images mean that, in addition to the use of photographs and pictures, video is also an extremely effective tool in the classroom. Each unit of Life Second Edition ends with a National Geographic video. These videos, which can be found on the DVD at the back of the Teacher’s Book, the Student’s Web App and on the Life website, are connected to the topic of the unit and are designed to be used in conjunction with the video lesson pages. Typically, a video lesson is divided into three parts:

Before you watch

This section leads students into the topic of the video and engages them in a pre-watching task. It also pre-teaches key vocabulary so that students can immediately engage with the video without being distracted by unfamiliar words and the need to reference a lengthy glossary.

While you watch

These tasks assist with comprehension of the video itself, both in terms of what students see and what they hear. The exercises also exploit the language used in the video.

After you watch

There are two parts to this section. The first is an on-screen exercise called Vocabulary in context, which focuses on useful words and expressions from the video. The second allows students to respond to the video as a whole and take part in a discussion or task that leads on from the context and theme of the video.

The videos are designed to form part of your lessons. However, if there is insufficient time in class to watch them all, you can ask students to watch the videos and complete many of the exercises on the page in the Student’s Book at home. This can form a useful part of their self-study. Students can also watch the videos again after seeing them in class. This is useful for review and enables students to focus on parts of the video that particularly interest them. For further variation with the videos, here are some more ideas you can use and develop:

  • Play the video with the sound down. Students predict what the narrator or people are saying. Then play with the sound up and compare.
  • Play the sound only with no video. Students predict where the video takes place and what is happening on the screen. Then play the video as normal and compare.
  • Show the first part of the video, pause it, and then ask students what they think happens next.
  • Give students a copy of the video script and ask them to imagine they are the director. What will they need to film and show on the screen? Afterwards, they present their ‘screenplay’ ideas to the class, then finally watch the original.
  • Write a short text on the same topic as the one in the video. However, don’t include the same amount of information and leave some facts out. Students read the text and then watch the video. They make notes on any new information and rewrite the text so it includes the new details.
  • With monolingual groups, choose part of the video in which someone is talking. Ask students to listen and write down what they say. Then, in groups, ask them to create subtitles in their own language for that part of the video. Each group presents their subtitles and the class compares how similar they are.