What’s the Difference?

Luke Houghton, British Hills

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: Descriptive language, prepositions of place, speaking, listening, turn-taking
  • Learner English Level: Lower intermediate and above
  • Learner maturity: Junior high school and above
  • Preparation time: 10 minutes
  • Activity time: 10 - 15 minutes
  • Materials: Two different photos of your classroom (see preparation), note paper for students

This is a communicative pair activity that requires students to use descriptive language and questions for clarification and detail. The activity is easily personalized to individual classes and can be extended into collaborative projects for students.


Step 1: Take two photos of your classroom without students present. Label these A & B. There should be ten differences between the first and second photo: for example, one photo before and one photo after a lesson, desks moved, windows opened or closed, or the spelling of words on the board altered. Ensure there are both obvious changes and less obvious ones. Note these changes yourself for reference later.

Step 2: Print off enough pictures for one A & B photo set per pair of students.


Step 1: Ask students to form pairs facing each other, and give each student note paper.

Step 2: Explain that each pair will have two photos, and race to find ten differences in ten minutes by describing and asking questions about each other’s photo. The first pair to write down all ten (or the most, if not all are identified) differences and show the teacher is the winner.

Step 3: Elicit and pre-teach target language, as necessary, for example “Where are the textbooks? What is written on the board? There is a bag under the chair.”

Step 4: Hand out photo A to one of each pair, and photo B to their partner. Ensure students cannot see their partner’s photos.

Step 5: Start a timer for 10 minutes (variable).

Step 6: Monitor and note language needs as pairs complete the activity.

Step 7: Once the time is up, declare the winner.

Step 8: As a class, go over the ten differences, noting the correct language forms on the board.

Step 9: Once the activity is finished, address any language needs noted.

Step 10: Set pairs to make their own photo sets to challenge others next class (see extension).


This is easily modifiable by changing the photos. Your classroom is easily adapted, and you can introduce surprising elements such as a giant stuffed panda in the teacher’s chair. You can also use other areas of your school, or elsewhere. The more interesting the differences in familiar settings, the more students will be engaged.

The competitive element of the activity can be removed if inappropriate. Instead, have a second set of photos prepared for early-finishers.


As an extension ask pairs to take their own two photos in their free time, writing down ten differences and then challenging other pairs in the next class. Turn it into a creative project by having the two pictures tell a story: a picture of their living room first tidy then filled with deflated balloons and empty bottles hints at a party in between, for instance. Once students have identified all the differences in their friends’ photos, they can explain what they think happened in the time between the two pictures. Classes can also create sets of pictures to challenge other classes.


This activity provides learners with the opportunity to practise verbal and non-verbal communicative strategies to convey information, offers teachers an opportunity to identify areas of language need, and can be personalized for each class, engaging and motivating students to complete the task.