Look and Do: Dream Homes

Look and do! One photo, lots of classroom ideas

In her blog series, Katherine offers five practical and engaging classroom activities which all use the same photo as a starting point. The ideas can be adapted to work with all ages and levels and are designed to recycle language in an engaging way while developing a range of key skills for this age group. We encourage teachers to try out the ideas below and to write and tell us of any other ideas you have for using each month’s image.

All photos are from the pages of National Geographic Learning’s new primary series, Look!

Photo from Look Level 1


This photo shows a tree house in the middle of a forest. If you have a good idea of how to use it in a classroom, write a comment sharing your ideas in the comment box below.

Activity 1: Look and say: Imagining and telling

Children have great imaginations and an image like this, with a clear object (in this case a tree house) but with hidden features (the inside of the house) is a great resource for encouraging children to really stretch their imaginations in creative and fun ways.

By changing the instructions you give and grading the language you use you can adapt the activity for different levels and to practice different language. Learners listen to a description and are asked to imagine and say.

Display the photo and engage learners by asking a couple of questions about it: What can you see? Where is it?  Then ask questions that require learners to guess. Use your voice to generate interest by speaking quietly as if this is a great mystery or a secret. After each question respond positively by saying things like “That’s a good idea”, “You may be right”, “Good thinking!” Ask several learners to answer each question, making sure that everyone has the opportunity to share their ideas and nobody is left out.

Here are a few suggested questions:

Who lives here? What’s inside the tree house? What food do they have? How many rooms are in the tree house? How many people are inside? What are they doing? What sounds can they hear outside? What can they see from the windows? What animals are near the house?

When you finish, give learners an opportunity to add any details.

Activity 2: Look, listen and write: House vocabulary

Images can be used as prompts for recycling language. In this activity, learners look at the picture, listen to some gapped sentences and write the missing words.

Display the photo and explain that you are going to say some sentences about this place. Explain that each sentence has a missing word. You can whistle or say ‘beep’ at the gap. Have learners write the words in their notebook. Elicit a few of their answers after the first gap to make sure they have all written appropriate words.

Suggested text: This is a tree house. Two sisters live here. Inside there are three rooms, a living room, a kitchen and a [beep]. with two [beep]. It’s eight o’clock now. One sister is in the living room. She is sitting on a [beep]. On the wall there is a [beep]. On the floor there is a [beep]. The other sister is in the kitchen. She is looking in the [beep]. Under the table there is a white [beep]. Near the window there are two [beep].

When you finish the activity write the gapped text on the board and ask learners to compare the words they wrote for each gap.

Activity 3: Look, think, draw and present: The house of my dreams

Photos of homes and other buildings are a great prompt for recycling vocabulary. In this activity learners have to look, think, draw a design and present it to the rest of the class using a simple model.

Display the photo and invite learners to look and think about it for a minute. Then explain that you are going to describe the design of the tree house. Read aloud the description below, pausing to point at specific parts of the picture as you mention them:

This is the house of my dreams!

This house is special because it is a tree house.

The house is in a forest.

It is a small, brown house.

It has lots of windows.

It has a big, glass door.

Inside the house it is comfortable and light.

The walls are brown.

There are three rooms.

Outside the house there are trees and plants.

There are lots of animals too.

I think this house is very interesting.

Write the description on the board, underlining the words in bold. Check that learners understand the text.

Explain to learners that now they are going to draw the house of their dreams. Give learners a limited time (no more than 5 minutes) to think about the house of their dreams. This thinking stage is important and shouldn’t be skipped. You could encourage learners to share their ideas in pairs or small groups. This could be done in L1 if necessary.

Learners draw their dream home designs on paper. Then they use the model text on the board to give a short presentation of their designs. Show learners how they can use the same skeleton text, just replacing the underlined words with their own. Allow time for learners to prepare and to think of the words they need to give their presentation. Encourage them to make notes.

Optional follow up: Learners can write a description of their dream homes using the model provided. Drawings and texts of this kind make beautiful classroom displays.

Activity 4: Look and compare: The same but different

Photos are ideal for encouraging learners to think about similarities and differences between their own context and other realities. By focusing on what is the same as well as what is different, they are encouraged to be curious and to celebrate diversity and different customs and traditions.  

Display the photo and invite learners to look and think about it for a minute. Then ask them if their home is like this one. In all probability most learners will answer ‘no’.

Point to the picture and say Look! This house is small. My house is small too. Say Put your hands up if your house is small too. Point to the picture again and say Look! This house is brown. My house isn’t brown. My house is white. Say Put your hands up if your house isn’t brown like this house.

Divide the board into two halves by drawing a vertical line down the middle. Write two headings: The same and Different.

Under the first heading write:

This house and my house are small.

Under the second heading write:

This house is brown but my house is white.

Point out one or two more examples of things that are the same and different and write more sentences on the board. Then give the class prompts for them to make their own sentences and add them to the board too.

Suggested prompts:

This house has lots of windows.

This house has straight lines.

This house is high.

This house is in a forest.

This house has roof like a triangle.

This house has a big door.

This house has two rooms.

This house is comfortable.

This house is pretty.

Three people live in this house.

Further task: Use other images in the same way.

Activity 5: Look, think and write: An email

Photos are ideal prompts for writing. By focusing on the context of the photo, you can easily come up with an idea for a meaningful, ‘real’ writing task.

This photo of a tree house is perfect as a lead-in to an email activity. First display the photo and tell your class to imagine they stayed in this tree house last weekend on a short holiday. They should imagine the place and the context, think about what the experience was like, who they were with, how they felt and any other details. Then write a skeleton email on the board for learners to copy and complete or some simple prompts for more confident learners. This activity practices past simple verbs.

Suggested email skeleton:


This is a photo of the tree house I stayed in last weekend. I had a … time.

I went with …. We stayed for … days. The tree house was ….. and …. Inside there was a … and there were some … Outside, in the forest I saw a …. !

The holiday was …. In the day we ….. and we …. In the evening we …. and we … The weather was ….

…. took this photo. I hope you like it!

From …

As always, let us know how these activities worked for you in the comments section below!

Author: Katherine Bilsborough

Katherine has been creating ELT materials for 30 years, for her own students and for some of the top ELT Publishers. She has written more than 30 course books and many online courses. . Katherine also writes monthly lesson plans for the British Council/BBC website teachingenglish.org.uk and blog posts for National Geographic Learning’s In Focus blog. She is the author of ‘How to write Primary materials’, a training course for ELT writers and is the Joint Events Coordinator for IATEFL’s MaWSIG (Materials Writers’ special interest group). Katherine is a co-author of Look, a seven-level primary series from National Geographic Learning.

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