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Cartoons - Speaking/Description - Spotlight Tool

Uploaded by Sanderin van Hazebrouck, Pädagogische Hochschule Heidelberg (Germany)


This clip shows the beginning of an English lesson in an upper secondary school class on the topic Cartoon Description. To introduce the cartoon, the teacher choses a learner to come to the board. The learner uses the spotlight tool to describe what she can see. The other learners were sitting in a semicircle around the IWB.


Target language: English

Resource language: German

Native language of learners: German

Age range: 14+

Language level: B2 - Upper Intermediate

Educational context: Secondary Education

IWB Features: Image, Spotlight

Teaching methods: Individual activity at IWB

Language area: Speaking, Strategies

IWB board used: Promethean

Teacher comment

Teacher:  So I would choose this clip, because it shows how one learner is coming up to the front and working with the spotlight tool. And the spotlight tool is a good means to focus on only a part of a picture, in this case the cartoon, and everybody is focused on only one special part of the picture. Everybody has to be concentrated and has to follow the spotlight. And, yes, it creates curiosity. All the learners are looking at it as you can see and everybody wants to see every spot on the picture. And how the learner is commenting on the cartoon here is quite interesting because the picture is not really one picture. It is divided into two parts and so everybody can find out: "Huh? Here is a polar bear, on the other side is a monkey; it doesn't really fit together." So I think this is good to motivate them to be interested in the lesson.

Interviewer: And how would you have done this part without the IWB?

Teacher: Actually, I'm not sure about it because we could have cut a picture into pieces or a puzzle, or something like that. But I think because of the time saving aspect you would have handed out the picture. But then it would not cause any curiosity and they would not stay focused on certain aspects of the cartoon. The spotlight helps to be first of all neutral towards the cartoon. 

Interviewer: How did the IWB in this extract help the learners to learn something?

Teacher: To describe a picture it is necessary that they have at least a minimum of language skills to describe what they can see in the spotlight. And sometimes it happens when they are not focused on a certain part, they start here and then switch over to the other side of the picture. So everybody is focused on one aspect and thinks about "How can I say that?" or thinks of alternatives. But when you have a whole picture the learners start describing it in their minds starting with different aspects. This flipchart helps all of them focus on the same part of the picture.

Interviewer: How does the whiteboard help learners with different learning abilities within your classroom? Do all learners benefit from an exercise like that?

Teacher: Absolutely, because the focus of the spotlight helps to concentrate on one aspect. And if you have one learner in front trying to express what he or she is looking at, every learner thinks about "How would I say that?" and if the learner is very proficient in talking, they can copy some structures. It's learners' language and they try to say it on their level. And they can understand each other since they have more or less the same level. But some of them are more proficient in talking and then they may copy single sentences because they are focused on a single situation of the cartoon. They find out later that it is a cartoon but in the beginning it is only a picture. 

Interviewer: Do you think the spotlight tool helped them contribute to language acquisition?

Teacher: I think it helps them to remember those words. I chose this kind of cartoon because I know they are able to talk about it. They know the animals; they know the sun, the tree, the cactus. They can describe the ground. I think this is a level they can really deal with and therefore I think everybody can do it. 

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