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ESL Icebreaker Games “Picture Storytelling”

“Picture Storytelling” is an imaginative and visually stimulating activity designed for language learners, offering a creative way to enhance language skills.

This exercise involves using images as prompts for storytelling or description, making it an excellent tool for developing narrative skills and expanding vocabulary.

It’s adaptable to various language levels and can range from describing simple everyday scenes to creating elaborate stories based on more abstract images.

esl ice breaker picture story telling

ESL Icebreaker – Picture Story Telling

We have loads of icebreaker games here on the site for all ages, you can check out the full list for kindergarten on the link directly below but we also have icebreakers for adults, primary and high school here which you can check out as well.

How to Play

Students are given a picture and are asked either to describe what they see or to create a story around it.

The images can be as straightforward or as abstract as the teacher deems appropriate for the class’s language level.

For instance, a picture might show a busy city scene or an unusual surreal painting. Students then use the image as a springboard for their verbal or written descriptions or narratives.

Educational Benefits

  1. Enhances Vocabulary: The activity is particularly effective in expanding students’ vocabulary, especially adjectives and verbs, as they describe or narrate what’s in the picture.
  2. Develops Narrative Skills: Students learn to construct narratives, improving their ability to organize thoughts and convey stories in a coherent manner.
  3. Encourages Creative Language Use: The open-ended nature of pictures encourages students to use language creatively, going beyond the confines of structured exercises.
  4. Aids in Practicing Verb Tenses: Describing actions or creating stories based on pictures allows students to practice different verb tenses contextually.

Resources Needed

To conduct a “Picture Storytelling” session, you’ll need:

  • A diverse collection of pictures, which can range from photographs of real-life scenes to paintings or drawings. These can be physical prints or digital images displayed through a projector or on a screen.
  • Writing materials for students to jot down their ideas or stories, especially if the activity is being conducted as a written exercise.

Differentiation for Varied Learner Levels

“Picture Storytelling” can be tailored to suit various levels of language proficiency:

  • Beginner Level: Use simple pictures and ask students to describe basic elements in the image using simple sentences or lists of words.
  • Intermediate Level: Choose more complex images and prompt students to create short stories or detailed descriptions, using a wider range of vocabulary and sentence structures.
  • Advanced Level: Use abstract or thematically rich images that challenge students to construct elaborate and nuanced stories, using advanced vocabulary and varied linguistic structures.


“Picture Storytelling” is an enriching and versatile activity that brings a creative flair to language learning.

It effectively combines the visual appeal of images with the cognitive challenge of language use, making it a valuable tool for any language educator.

By integrating this activity, teachers can provide students with a stimulating and effective way to enhance their language skills while unleashing their creativity.

I have been a teacher of English for over 15 years, in that time i made hundreds and thousands of resources and learnt so much i think its worth sharing. Hopefully to help teachers and parents around the world.

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