Visual aids are essential tools in ESL teaching, enhancing comprehension and retention for learners. They include a variety of materials that can be visually referenced by students during lessons. Here is how they can be effectively used:
- Realia (Real Objects): Using real-life objects helps in bringing practical context into the classroom. For instance, using items like fruits, household objects, or clothing can make learning more tangible and relatable.
- Pictures and Photographs: Images are powerful in conveying meanings and concepts without relying on words. They can depict scenes, actions, or objects, aiding in vocabulary building and language comprehension.
- Menus and Timetables: Incorporating everyday items like menus or timetables introduces students to practical language use, helping them navigate real-world situations.
- Models and Diagrams: Models, such as diagrams or figurines, can be used to represent complex concepts or processes in a simplified visual form.
- Authentic Materials: These are items not specifically designed for teaching but are part of everyday life, like newspapers, brochures, or maps. They provide real-world context and make learning more engaging.
- Non-Authentic Materials: Specially designed educational materials like illustrated vocabulary cards or posters. They are tailored to the learning objectives and can be highly effective in reinforcing language concepts.
Using these visual aids in ESL teaching not only aids in understanding and memory but also makes lessons more interactive and engaging. They bridge language barriers and provide a visual context, facilitating better communication and comprehension for ESL learners.
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The use of visual aids can reduce teacher talk time (TTT) which is always desirable. It is much simpler to show a real object than it is to try and describe it. If we were trying to elicit words from our students, (for example the word pen) then we could show a pen and just ask the students, what is this? and they would say, that is a pen rather than trying to actually describe the pen. Again, if we were eliciting names of fruit and vegetables, rather than try and describe them, why not use the real thing (or a model). This is going to be much more visually stimulating than trying to describe them.
Studies have shown that additional visual information does actually aid memory. This study shows that the brain is able to hold on to more information when the words are accompanied by a visual representation. This is the whole reason for flashcards and why they are so popular. You should endeavor to use visual aids as often as possible to aid in the memorization process.
An example might be the use of a photograph, where you show the students a photograph of something and make sure that they can understand what it is. Then elicit language surrounding possible scenarios from that photograph. It is quite important however when using a photograph of this type that you make sure it is big enough for everyone to see. You don't want an example where we say okay what do you think of this? and there is so much information that the students can't actually see what it is you are referring to. So make sure that pictures, or diagrams and charts, can be seen by everyone and that they are uncluttered.
Another thing that visual aids can do is to stimulate discussion. By having some form of real object or photo etc, we can stimulate a discussion in some way, by relating to the object. When introducing a new topic, it is therefore very useful to have some visual aids to help with background information and to help the elicitation of language.
Finally, although we can buy certain objects and we can cut things out of magazines and newspapers and so on, lots of ideas that we can come up with for visual aids we can actually make ourselves. So if there is anything that you don't have; have a go at actually making it, or a model of it.
Also read: How do ESL students learn best?