Monday 20 February 2017

Image challenge - how to teach critical thinking through INSTAGRAM

Image Challenge - week seven

This is part two strictly devoted to Instagram. This time, however, I'm looking at this tool from a bit different perspective.  If you haven't read part one, just scroll down and enjoy the activities.

Critical thinking and Instagram?

At first glance it doesn't seem to have anything in common. But if we take a closer look, then we realise that with information and images overload, we have to learn to look critically at things that surround us.  It is what visual literacy is all about. It is the ablility to interpret visuals, as well.

It is estimated that there are over 400 mln active users daily on Instagram. And if each of them posts at least one photo a day, the number of uploaded photos every single day is staggering.

What it means is that we can't take everything for granted and what is more we shouldn't let our students believe in everything they see. Those pretty and sexy looking girls, those well-built, handsome men, those perfect lifestyles with glamorous cars and amazing parites that never end. If we don't teach our students crtical thinking, it will lead to constant frustration and anger. After all, their lives aren't as stunning as they would like them to be. Celebrities also set unrealistic standards for their followers.

That is why, in today's post I would like to present you a quick lesson plan that includes elements of images together with critical thinking. It is perfect for pre-intermediate + students, age 13+. 

The truth behind Instagram photos

Warm up

For a start, ask a few questions:
1. Do you use Instagram? If yes, how often? If no, why not?
2. What kind of things do you post? Photos of you and your friends or maybe photos of objects? What objects ?
3. What other things do people post and why?
4. Do you follow any particular people? (some would say that they follow celebrities, you can ask which ones and why)
5. Are there any photos that you don't like? Which ones and why? etc.


Tilda Lindam, a model with an excellent sense of humor, decided to show the truth behind the photos posted on Instargram as well as vanity in creating photos. In a series of photos she showed the reality. Let me show you what she did.  (Source:

Take those four pictures (there are other photos available if you have a bigger group) and divide your students into groups. Each group gets an Instagram photo (without background) and a set of questions. Give them 4-5 min to discuss the photos.


Take a small picture posted on Instagram and ask a lot of questions concerning the lifestyle of a person. For example:

Students' version

1. Who do you think posted the photo? Is it a man or a woman? What makes you think so?
2. Where do you think the photo was taken? How do you know?
3. What kind of a lifestyle does the person have? Is it a typical businessman or a teenager?
4. Why can't it be a teenager's room? (they would say it's too clean)
5. What do you think is on the walls? Are there any other furniture? Which ones? etc.

Original photo

Now students swap and discuss another photo. There should be at least two changes. Then you can show the original photos and ask additional questions:

1. Were you right? Why not?
2. Why do you think people post untrue images? What is the reason?
3. Do you sometimes post such photos? Do you know anybody who does? (sometimes students even show who does it and they discuss if it looks convincing or not)
4. Should we believe then in everything that is posted on social networking sites? Why? Why not?

To finish the topic you can play a film:

Youtube address:

Hope you will enjoy it:)


  1. Thank you! This sounds like a perfect topic for my instagram obsessed high-school students!

  2. thank you I'll visit your blog with pleasure:)