Your future self

This is a very quick lesson idea that I recently did with my FCE teenagers, who are turning out to be my guinea pig class.

I have been meaning to use Fotobabble ( for a while now and after experimenting with it briefly last year, I really wanted to do something useful with it this year. Very briefly, Fotobabble is a site that allows you to upload a photo from anywhere and then record a minute of audio over the top of that image. Russel Stannard provides a very thorough training video of how to use it here –

I wanted to help the students with part 2 of the FCE exam, which requires them to speak for one minute about two photos. While the speaking wasn’t a huge problem, getting them to fit everything in to a full minute was proving to be slightly more difficult. This was where Fotobabble came in.

Instead of just asking the students to talk about any old photo, or linking the speaking to one of the out of touch topics from the book, I opted for a more unusual approach which was at first inspired by one video and then reinforced by another.

I was introduced to the video below by Matt Ellman (@mattellman), who suggested it might be good for class room use. The video is called ‘a conversation with my twelve-year-old self’ and involves the protagonist, Jeremiah Mcdonald, interviewing himself at both 12 and 32 years old, cleverly using video editing technology and some sharp humour. Check out the video below.

I could have done a million things with the video, but I didn’t. I simply asked the class to talk about how Jeremiah feels when he remembers the cartoons he used to draw. After discussing this I asked the students what would be the pros and cons of talking with themselves in the future. They mostly agreed it would be positive. In fact one of the students asked if she could show a video which was related to this one and would show how positive it could be, why not I thought. I asked her to give an outline of the video and we watched it. I couldn’t believe my luck!

Unfortunately, the video is in Spanish, which was perfect for my class, but the main idea was there. Recording a video for your future self, which was the idea I had originally had but this video served to reinforce it. I asked the students if they thought it was a good idea and they all responded keenly.

I then introduced Fotobabble by showing them two examples that I had made. (These aren’t a message for my future self but just an example of how Fotobabble worked, the idea came after.)

The students seemed interested and I then told them it was their turn and that I wanted them to record a message for themselves in the future, similar to the ones in the videos we had seen. They could say whatever they wanted as long as it was one minute long and contained some sort of message/advice.

One week later, three of my students had the courage to share their videos in class and I was taken aback by the quality of their speaking and the meaningful messages that they conveyed in their one minute speech. It was clearly evident that the students had practised and made numerous attempts until they had got the timing right as all the videos came in at exactly one minute, with the students mentioning that they had to re-record several times. The students used photos of themselves or images related to their lives to talk over.Just yesterday another of my students, who had been dragging his heels slightly, eventually showed us his Fotobabble and again the standard was excellent.

What excited and pleased me so much about this activity was the fact that the students also seemed excited about it. The end product showed that it was something that they cared about, and for teenagers to show off work in front of other teenagers, and to do so off their own back, goes to show how well it worked.

Not only does this activity practise speaking, but also the drafting and editing process to get the message to last for one minute. Then there is the obvious feedback stage and analysis of the students recording which is probably best done privately if you have the facilities. Or to get the students to share their work in a shared document (Google docs) to comment on each others work. Something which I will do next time. Unfortunately, due to the students ages I can’t share their work, but I would highly recommend trying this activity. Fotobabble is useful for all levels and if incorporated correctly into class, can produce excellent results.

I hope you enjoy the activity and please let me know how it goes.


2 thoughts on “Your future self

  1. I love this idea! I have used Fotobabble to help TOEIC students practise talking about a photograph for a minute – my students also find that they get cut off – but leaving advice for your future self is a wonderful idea. Thank you – I’ll let you know how it goes.

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