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Image prompts

Image prompts are a great way to activate learners prior knowledge, act as a visual hook to make associations and recall concepts.

Caitlin Foran avatar
Written by Caitlin Foran
Updated over a week ago

Give learners an image that relates to both the topic and their likely prior knowledge. Ask them to tell you everything they can about the image. For instance you might show...

A disagreement...

... to start a topic on communication.

Wilting flowers in a vase...

... for a topic on how plants grow.

A famous artwork...

... to highlight tone and mood when starting a unit on a particular poem or short story.
You can really use the idea of a picture being worth 1,000 words to kickstart learners' thinking on a topic.


  • Choose images that would make sense to learners and also allow you to connect to the new concepts.

  • Be mindful of the huge amount of cultural context involved in decoding some images (especially images involving historical references or people).

  • Consider using an image that highlights misconceptions or stands as a counter example to the topic. This can be a great starting point for discussion and debate.


  • Turn it into more of a "gallery walk" by including multiple images for learners to reflect or comment on. .

  • Ask learners submit their own photo (or drawing) that relates to the topic and explain why/how it relates.

  • Have learners label an image to say which parts relate to the topic (and how).

Make it social

  • Have learners share comments or their interpretation of how the image relates to the topic.

  • Have learners share their own photos relating to the topic and explain why/how it relates.

  • Group learners to share their own images and look at things like: In what ways are they similar/different?

  • Give learners multiple images and ask them to compare and contrast: In what ways are they similar/different?

  • Give learners a pulse to poll them about which of two images is a better fit for the topic.

  • Have learners co-create a collage to summarise a topic. This could be using an in-page discussion or using collaborative tool like Padlet or Google drawings.

Image prompts are just one way of activating prior knowledge, be sure to check out the rest of the articles in this set.

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