I was chewing over the idea to introduce the ‘What’s Going On This Picture’ or not with my 6thers as the previous graders 6 were not really enthusiastic about picture prompts and discussions. I always wondered why teaching English language had to be limited to reading passages, comprehension with an excessive emphasis on grammar.
I always wanted my students to observe, analyse, question, infer and then support their claim with evidence observation. So I decided to go ahead and introduce my students to The New York Times Learning Network resources on What’s Going On In This Picture.
I chose to show them a simple picture and gave the three guiding questions - what do they think was happening in the picture, what did they see that made them say so and what more could they find. They were given 15 minutes to observe and then present their observations and inferences.
Ashfaque told me he had finished observing and so he set the conversation rolling. He stated that he thought they were chefs with white aprons with disposable chef caps on their heads. Maybe they were taking photographs of a special dish they made. I wanted him to observe more carefully as there were no aprons seen and rather it looked like white coats over their dresses.
Next Hajira suggested she thought they were doctors or surgeons with their caps on and they were probably celebrating the recovery of a patient who had come into the hospital in a critical condition. She had come to the conclusion of a hospital setting because she observed a name print on their coats which might be the name of the institution although it was not easily readable in the picture. She also observed some kind of a light or device on the wall in the background from which she inferred it to be a hospital.
Then Muiz spoke up that they were either waiters or nurses as they all seem to wear similar white coats over their dress and he observed some of them had similar long, black sleeves. Since they were all holding cameras, he inferred that they were taking pictures. He said that it was either outside the hospital or the hotel and that there were at least 20 men and women. Looking at their faces he inferred that it was an English(speaking? or Western?) country and they all seemed happy. So probably there was a celebrity who was visiting them and they were all taking his/her pictures. He could see the hospital or hotel name embossed on their coats.
Then Zoya told that she thought they must be factory workers probably capturing pictures of a visiting VIP. She observed that she noticed the name of the company or factory along with a name tag pinned atop the name print on their coats. She also inferred that this photo must be old because she saw them all holding cameras vertically and horizontally. If it was taken recently they would all probably be holding their mobile phones.
Hamdan told me that he believed that it was a hotel kitchen with the cooks taking pictures of their dishes. He had observed what looked like pipes in the background on the wall although a little blurred. He thought that it was a pan on the wall and that it was a huge kitchen where the countertop or stove was not visible in the picture. He also noticed that while the people in the front were taking pictures, a few of them at the back seemed to be having a discussion or conversation.
Mansoor told me that they were probably chefs in a hotel or a school cafeteria as his previous school in the US had a cafeteria. They were taking pictures of a special and tall cake they had made as they all seemed to be looking in the same direction and taking pictures holding the camera horizontally as well as vertically to cover the tall cake.
Just then Ashfaque wanted to add something he noticed. He said this picture was taken before the corona pandemic as none of them seemed to be practising social distancing or were wearing masks.
Hammad just mentioned that he thought they were all taking pictures in different angles. Luqman added that he thought they were all wearing rain coats and shower caps because they were expecting to go out in the rain. I felt he had not really paid attention to the picture or the discussion.
I drew his attention to the idea that they could not be rain coats as there was no hood to cover their heads from the rain water and also the necks of the coats exposed the clothes worn by the people which could then easily get wet which was not what a raincoat was meant to be. The others started discussing that there are rain coats without hoods and that could be the reason they were wearing the shower caps.
I was really impressed with their keen and sharp observations based on which they inferred most of the information from the picture. I would dedicate my entire 50-minute class to sharpen their observation, inference and analysis skills if I needed to. Not only me but the children also enjoyed the activity thoroughly and it had set their minds thinking. The conversation flowed with such ease that I did not expect it to end. I appreciated their observations and told them how impressed I was with them. Finally, I revealed to them that this picture was taken in a jam factory when Queen Elizabeth visited them on a tour and the jam factory workers had taken her pictures.