Input to Output: Turning Part I: Photographs of TOEIC Test into a Productive Activity

Yumiko Cochrane, Fukuoka University

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: TOEIC, Part 1, describing photographs, productive skills
  • Learner English level: Pre-Intermediate or above
  • Preparation time: 15 minutes 
  • Activity time: 80 minutes
  • Materials: Digital photos, instructor’s computer

The Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) is an international standardized test for assessing English proficiency. With the growing number of Japanese corporations requiring TOEIC scores for their employees and new recruits, many universities are increasingly offering TOEIC preparation courses. While the test now offers a Speaking & Writing component, most of the TOEIC textbooks available for university courses remain focused on Listening & Reading; the two receptive skills of the four core language skills. This activity exploits Part 1: Photographs of the listening section of the test to provide much-needed opportunities for language output by activating learners’ already acquired receptive skills.



Step 1: Prior to implementing the following activity, it is recommended to familiarize students with the format of Part 1: Photographs in an earlier class. Teaching strategies such as making predictions, listening for keywords, describing photos (or objects) in a simple, systematic way, and analyzing their own errors (in association with confusing sounds, words, and spelling), would be of great advantage. Some introduction of phonics would also help. 

Step 2: Prepare photos. The number of photos may depend on class size (e.g., 3 or 4 photos for a 30-student class). 

Step 3: Insert them on PowerPoint slides.


Step 1: Divide the class into groups of three or four and have each group choose a group leader. Explain to students that they will make sample TOEIC questions in groups.

Step 2: Show the photographs to the class.

Step 3: Have each group choose one photo. If the teacher is using an LMS, post the photos there to share with the class.

Step 4: Give each group 10 minutes to describe the picture in a single sentence (This will be the correct statement). Students can first work on their own to produce the sentence, and then as a group combine these sentences to create an accurate description of the photograph. 

Step 5: Give the groups an additional 10 to 15 minutes, and have them make three distractors. 

Step 6: Give them another 10 to 15 minutes to go over what they have produced in preparation for the final step (group presentation). At this time, have them pay attention to the grammar and polish all the produced statements. 

Step 7: Decide on the order of the group presentation and display on the screen the photo chosen by the presenting group. 

Step 8: Have everybody in each group read out one of the 4 statements to the class. Give the rest of the class a few seconds to discuss and choose their answer. 

Step 9: Repeat Step 8 until every group takes their turn.

Step 10: Have each group reveal the correct answer. 



When there is a time-related constraint, have them record the 4 statements as homework and play the recording in class. As an extended activity, peer or teacher feedback can also be given to turn students’ attention to grammar accuracy.



In theory and practice, learners require a blend of both input and output to acquire a foreign language. This activity aims to address a lack of language output often recognized as problematic in some EFL environments, such as Japan. It is also hoped that by turning learners’ focus on language production, their receptive skills would further improve.