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Finding and using images on the Internet

Image 1: Google image search


Before you begin

You need a picture for class? You can find pictures on the Internet, can't you? You just go to Google, right (see Image 1, above)?

No, not always.

Looking for images on the Internet is often a much more time-consuming process than people imagine, especially if you want it look just right, to be large and colourful and to be helpful to students in explaining a vocabulary item, for example, or as a starting point for discussion.

Would a picture in a magazine, on this week's cover of Newsweek, for example, be just as good - and much faster to find? Or couldn't you just draw it on the blackboard…?

Before you do spend hours looking for images, it's also worth remembering that, first of all, it's not the material that usually makes for a good class, but the interaction that the material generates. If you haven't really thought about that, if you haven't visualised what your learners are going to be doing (as they teach you on your CELTA course), do that first before you start trawling around on Google.

Remember, also, that for the amount of language that they contain and will generate, texts rather than images are probably in most cases much richer and more productive in the classroom.

Where to find images on the Internet

But you really do want some images… where do you go? Google (or another search engine) would probably be the obvious choice for most people - but it's by no means always the best.

The search engines

You can certainly use Google to find pictures, as you can see in the screenshot shown at the top of this page. By default, the search engines give you text documents; if you want images, click the "Images" link circled in the image.

If you don't find what you are looking for on Google, try a different search engine - like MSN or Yahoo!


Clipart (ready to use graphics, often of a cartoon-like nature, example, right) can sometimes in fact be a much better choice of image than a photograph that you might find on Google. They tend to be simpler, reproduce better and more clearly, and will often be much more easily visible if, for example, you are holding them up as flashcards and want them to be seen at the back of the class.

Add the word "clipart" to your search terms on Google (et al) if that is what you want. Adding "gif" will also produce good results.

Some other sources (ensure your pop-up blocker works before you go!):

The Discovery site has the option to view all the images in a given section on one page - which partially overcomes the problem of it taking lots of clicks, and time, to find what you are looking for on most sites.

The Microsoft site also has thousands of useful images on it (though can be tricky, and thus again time-consuming, to download from), with some great clipart.

Similarly, screen beans (example, right), can sometimes be useful - because their clean, simple lines are reproduce well and what they are saying is (sometimes!) readily identifiable.

Other sources

News and other websites will often also be a much better source of images than Google or other search engines. Google produces a fairly random selection of images, not always of any great quality, and certainly not necessarily ones that will reproduce well or be of any real value in the classroom.

A news website, on the other hand, has a vested interest in providing images that are good, powerful pictures that may be much better for your purposes in the classroom.

Some suggestions:

  • Yahoo News
    The Yahoo News section has a great selection of topical photographs (click the "Photos" link at the top of the News section), conveniently set up in slide shows, which makes it a site much easier to search around than most image sites.
  • 20Minutos
    20Minutos is the hugely successful local free newspaper and has a some great pictures on its website.
  • Ver para creer
    Not the easiest site to find images on (again, is that the best use of your time, I wonder?), VerParaCreer is where to go if you want something really bizarre.
  • National Geographic
    Like its print edition, National Geographic is unrivalled for pictures of animlas, nature, people and places.
  • National wildlife federation
    The NWF site is also excellent for pictures of wildlife (particularly American wildlife).


Image 2: Two ways of saving an image

How to save images

Once you've found a suitable image, right clicking on it will produce a context menu, as shown in the screenshot above.

If you think you might want to reuse it some other time, choose "Save image as" ("A" in the Image 2, above), and save it on your computer. You might want to use Windows Explorer to sort your images into different, easily identifiable folders (food, clothes, people, etc).

However, for a one-time use of the image, to paste it into a Word document, simply choose "Copy" from the menu ("B" in Image 2), go to your document and simply paste it in.

Image 3: Inserting a saved image into Word

How to insert images into a Word document

If you have saved an image on to your computer, in Word, choose "Insert" from the menu at the top of your screen, then "Picture", "From File" (as shown in Image 3, above) and navigate to wherever you saved it... You do remember where it was, don't you...?


On this page Celta Course webmaster and editor Tom Walton looks on the Internet for images...


Can't find what you are looking for on Google?

Tip #1: Don't just use Google! Yahoo and MSN, and just about any other search engine these days, also has "image search"...


Coming shortly Creating your own images...