A Toolbox for all Language Educators
A Toolbox for all Language Educators

Physical Description with Portrait Images

William H. Johnson, Art Class, 1939-1940. From the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

This is a 30-minute activity in which:

  • Each student chooses a portrait image they like (My set here);
  • In groups of 2, they describe their characters’ appearance;
  • Finally, they present their artwork(s) to their classmates.
  • Depending on the level of proficiency, the instructor may ask them to explain what they found arresting in the artworks they chose.

This activity helps students review and practice body parts, adjective, colors, and word order. It also gives students an opportunity to discuss and share their opinion on and preferences in visual arts. This activity will be fruitfully followed by storytelling.

The material below was designed to practice a few specific uses of indefinite and definite articles in French.  The activity was taught with students of French holding an intermediate level of proficiency. With more modeling, such an activity would be suitable for beginners. this activity can be followed by a variety of assignments  (written composition or digital project for instance).


I’ve also used this set of images to teach countries, ordinal numbers, and emotions. All images are public domain and many come from the Metropolitan Museum Collection.

By Angelique Aristondo