How will pictures and illustrations help my students to learn?


  • Will pictures really keep my students talking?


  • Can students learn with pictures?


  • How will storytelling help my students remember vocabulary?


  • Does storytelling help students understand the deeper meaning of words?


Many teachers dislike it when students are reluctant to speak out of fear they’ll make a mistake. Teachers and leaders need to facilitate conversation and learning. We need to break the silence, get students talking, laughing and communicating.


Students who lack imagination, can’t think of a word, struggle to create full sentences… storytelling can help. 


There are students who know 10,000 words, but can barely utter a sentence. There are others who know 1500 words and sound fluent (at least to someone new to teaching).


Memorizing words is very different from being able to use them correctly and effectively.


There was one person who you may have heard of that is especially well known for thinking and creating with images.


And that’s my story for today…


Have you ever heard of this guy? 



He was a very quiet kid.


He hardly spoke at all until he was three years old. His parents thought that something was wrong with him and they consulted a doctor.


He was even told that he would never amount to much.


When he was about 5 years old, his parents gave him a magnetic compass.


And that is where it all began.


He was fascinated by the fact that no matter which way he turned the compass, the needle always pointed in the same direction. This new “toy” made him curious. It made him wonder about magnetic fields, which led him to become interested in physics.


That’s how his lifetime journey of exploration started. Many years later, he wrote about the compass saying: “That experience made a deep and lasting impression on me. ”


His name: Albert Einstein.


Most of us are not that level genius. But we do have the same capacity to be curious about new things. We love novelty.


Albert Einstein once said what?


He once said that all of his most important and productive thinking was done by playing with images in his imagination, “imagination is more important than knowledge.”


His work on gravity was influenced by imagining riding a free-falling elevator.


Everyone is born with an imagination. Storytelling is engrained in us. We are all storytellers to some degree. 


We are nothing like Albert Einstein, but visual images do help connect our thoughts. They can help us retain things by sequencing ideas together and putting words in context.


New words are novel and we should explore and create with them.


The mind and imagination are wonderful things. Our job as teachers and leaders is to give our students opportunities to use words. 


Don’t just ask them to memorize a random list of words and expect them to pass the test you give them. Give your students opportunities to grow. Ask them to tell you a story about their weekend (I mean a real story with adjectives and suspense, etc.)


Here’s some food for thought:,28804,1936731_1936743_1936760,00.html


Keywords: overcoming shyness, how to overcome shyness in the ESL-EFL classroom

Which do you focus on more in class?


This is always an interesting question and one that we as teachers will

inevitably always debate. The truth is that they are both very important.


There really is no clear cut answer for one or the other, but most teachers

push one more than the other.


That together with depending on which country you live and teach, the school

system will push one over the other.


As native speakers, we don’t typically study grammar patterns of our native

tongue. At least I can’t ever remember studying them in school.


Instead we learn first from hearing and repeating. We try to copy our parents

or siblings.


Then pointing and repeating. We want something, we go for it.


Then being read to or reading, singing and playing.


Speaking and short conversations. Practice, practice and more practice.


And on and on.


So as a result of the above… we believe that vocabulary is key to learning a

language. We think that it’s the foundation for which we communicate.


Putting the words in the right order (structure) will come with listening

practice, reading, and speaking in a variety of situations. Practice, practice and

more practice.


It really isn’t just that simple though.


Why is it more than just words?


English isn’t just a bunch of words or words that are structured in a way that

are meaningful.


Collocations, idioms and chunks are equally important. The higher the level of

the speaker, the more of these we see.

Many words in sentences when taken out of context make no sense at all.


English really isn’t a piece of cake (this idiom would make no sense at all to an

EFL-ESL student)


It’s raining like cats and dogs (your students would be lost if they looked up

each of these and tried to make meaning of this idiom)


Words have multiple meanings. Depending on the intonation or rhythm we

use, they can mean something completely different.


Let me stop there before I completely go off on another tangent.


There’s a lot to learning a language. Students need to start somewhere, and I

think that somewhere is vocabulary.


Lessons and Resources to Teach, Lead and Inspire During a Global Pandemic

First of all, hello to all of our subscribers, teachers, and leaders.

We have been extremely quiet over the past year and for that we sincerely apologize.

However, we have been hard at work, creating hundreds of new lesson plans.

We have been modifying, updating, and editing older content and completely redesigning Pocket Passport’s user interface and experience.

More about all of that in some blogs over the coming weeks as we roll things out.

For now, we wanted to check in and hopefully offer fellow teachers and schools some lesson content and materials.

However, we thought that we should focus on positive things that are happening in the world right now.

We completely understand how easy it is to become completely absorbed, overwhelmed, and paralyzed by our current global situation.

Quite frankly, it sucks.

However, we also believe that as teachers, educators, and leaders, we need to step up like never before.

We aren’t here to dwell on what is bad with everything that is happening in the world (because that is evident enough).

More importantly, as teachers and leaders, we are here to help our students go forward positively.

We are here to teach: compassion, caring, trust, sharing, love, understanding, empathy, sympathy, how to overcome fear, cultural awareness, hope, wisdom, and optimism, to show that tomorrow will be better.

How we handle what lies ahead of us will make us better people, communities, and human beings.

This current situation is unprecedented in our lifetimes and it seems it is still very much, just the beginning.

Physical health is part one.

Economical, mental, spiritual health are all challenges which lie ahead.

As a result, we have created a series of lessons and resources to focus on things to spread all that is good today.

And what we can look forward to in the future.

I invite you all to join us to create a better world today – student-by student, and lesson-by-lesson.

So that tomorrow we are more prepared and better equipped to take on the most challenging  upcoming phase of our global pandemic: recovery.

The conversations, videos, illustrations, and lesson plans are all meant to stimulate conversations, share, and tell stories in order to make the best of this situation.

To make the world a better place.

Today’s first set of resources is a set of illustrations about sharing and caring.

We encourage you to teach vocabulary and expressions that are centered around positive, happy ideas that are helping to make the world a better place to be.

The world is in dire need of leadership right now. The world needs more leaders like you.

To access the original set and lots more resources that encourage, promote and teach optimism, growth and leadership sign up:

Language and culture are connected at the hip, however cultural competence is often overlooked and under-covered when teaching English.

This week we will use one of our sets of flashcards to storyboard dining etiquette in a Japanese restaurant (the examples are meant to be very light and basic though we will touch on and cover cultural competence in varying degrees later on)

This blog references and uses material from the Pocket Passport storyboard library. This particular set was created to talk about and explain dining.

The example stories that I am referencing and including links to merely touch on a couple of methods to teach this lesson. There is a myriad of ways to use these flashcards.

These stories (the pre-made stories that I am using as an example) can be used by any level students. These are two examples of a very beginner and an intermediate lesson to show the level of English that might be expected and how the language can be scaffolded if teachers choose to create their own lessons (create their own vocabulary lists, scripts, listening, vocabulary and grammar exercises).

There are infinite possibilities of how and for what level classes/courses they can be used for.

Just a few examples…

For beginner level students, have them point to each card and model what the character is saying. For a warm-up to the lesson ask them to flesh the characters out. Elicit a name and basic backgrounds for each of the characters.

A few examples of some warm up questions are:

1.  What is (his/her) name?

2. Where is he/she from?

3. Why is he/she here?

4. What is he/she doing?

5. How long will he/she stay?

Brainstorm feelings, greetings and common expressions that people use in a restaurant. For lower level students it is okay to elicit it in Japanese since one of the objectives is to ask them to explain their culture and customs in English.

You should deter your students from using sweeping generalizations like, “we Japanese…” and instead teach them more common ways to introduce their understanding of their culture such as, “In Japan it’s common…” or “Some people in Japan…” etc.

Here is an example of the language we might expect to come from a low-level student. 

Here is an example of the language we might expect to come from a low- intermediate to intermediate level student.

A few sample flashcards 

Other Ideas:

– customs of dining in Japan

– comparing Japan and other countries dining etiquette

– greetings, meanings of greetings at a restaurant that serves dishes that  are not from an English speaking country

– customs and taboos of dining (from anywhere)

– conversation sketching and storytelling

Our extensive library can be used in a variety of fun and innovative ways to explain a number of things including: health and nutrition, social responsibility, environmental issues, cultural awareness, communicative competence, respect and manners as well as to build creativity and imagination with our fairytale and science fiction storyboards.

For more information email us at:

*Pocket Passport’s storyboard sets are made up of between 4 and 30 flashcards per set and touch on a variety of themes and topics.

**In addition to our storyboard sets we have over 2000 vocabulary building flashcards which can also be storyboarded.

Technology has advanced quickly.

Overall many or most schools have not kept pace. In fact, they are in most cases far behind the times.

I am not talking about simply having smart boards or tablets. Having these things just to have them doesn’t mean you are keeping pace.

I mean I have seen a lot of teachers trying to incorporate something involving technology just so that they can tick the box off that they have indeed done something.

That is absolutely the wrong approach.

In the ESL/EFL world there are some great apps and sites that are one time, occasional or skill specific solutions.

Though I am obviously a fan of our software and think it’s fun and intuitive UI, UX and overall tools and resources are a incredible I am also very curious… what do you use?