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ESL forum > Techniques and methods in Language Teaching > A Debatable Question    

A Debatable Question

United Kingdom

A Debatable Question

Recently, My teaching company (school for young kids) has decided to make a lot of new flashcards. One of the managers (never taught a lesson before in her life) wants to use photographs to illustrate each item of vocabulary and is insistent on this point.

I continually argue to use cartoons as I think kids will obviously be able to identify with them more and it brings an element of humour into the lesson. However, no one is listening to me and in the mean time our ESL resources are being ruined by these boring photos.

What do people here think? is it better to teach young kids using photos or cartoons?

Also do you know of any academic paper that i can use to back up my argument? Nothing seems to be working on their warped logic.

23 Jun 2009      


Just popping in... so busy!

Just wanted to say that - kids definitely like cartoons better! Just look at any kid �s show - they have/are either cartoons or they have/are puppets or somebody dressed up in a purple dinosaur suit or as a huge banana!


23 Jun 2009     

Korea, South

Intuitively I would say it does not matter if it is a photo or a cartoon. It needs to create a link for the student to the language. I think a person would have to look at the actual example to judge what is better. A good photo is better than a poor cartoon and vise versa.


Why not use some of both to lead the students that visual image is just a symbol for a real world item?

23 Jun 2009     


Just a point that might appeal to the financial side of the school.
Photos go out of date very quickly. Fashions change. I have a number of great activities I made "last century" which are of little value now because of the changes.
 Also technology is constantly evolving so a picture of a DVD player (for example) could soon look as obsolete as a tape recorder.
Somehow cartoons appear to be ageless, meaning that all the work put into worksheets, flashcards, etc will last much longer. (They are therefore more economical).
Hope this helps with your discussion.
Cheers, Joy

23 Jun 2009     

class centre

Cartoons, sure! Ask her why all  young children �s books have pictures, not photos.
I can recognise such a boss - no experience, much ambition...
Good luck!

23 Jun 2009     


I heard Dick Bruna, a well known writer of children �s books, explain how he made his pictures as simple as possible because children liked them.
I thought bill2joy �s comment on photos going out of date was a good one.

23 Jun 2009     

Russian Federation

And another important reason is that a cartoon has less details so it is easier to recognise and remember and so associate with the word.

(Two teachers in our school even used objects(small toys from kinder-surprise eggs) instead of cards and it worked even better. Students not only remembered easy words with their help but also emotions and qualities of subjects. The teachers put a great effort into finding the toys but the result was awesome - children remembered the words even after summer holidays!!!)
So the funnier, brighter and easier is the card - the better a kid will remember the word!
By the way not only a kid, most adults too....
I use cards with cartoons till the age of 14 easily and I believe they are of great use!

23 Jun 2009     


I teach business English to adults and as part of each session I use cartoons depicting political, business, environmental and other "debatable" topics.  I find them to be an invaluable teaching resource. Often "less is more".  KISS.........  I say "go" the cartoons.

23 Jun 2009     

United States

I once made some flashcards - conversation cards by posing my students in the schoolyard doing different things and holding different things. (nouns and verbs)
They loved seeing themselves as the focus of these flashcards.

If possible - use lots of kids from your school so they can be used year after year.
It is more expensive in printing ink to use photos than small images.

hope this helps

23 Jun 2009     


Hi there,
You might want to have a look at the article at http://iteslj.org/Techniques/Chiasson-Humour.html . It is not particularly about whether to use cartoons over real photos in teaching young children, but it stresses out the importance of using humour in ESL classes.
"The job of the teacher is to get students laughing, and when their mouths are open, to give them something on which to chew. "
Hope you find it useful.

23 Jun 2009     


Cartoons definitely - also because they are much more "copy resistent" (among all the other points mentioned previously.)

23 Jun 2009     

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