Picture this holiday!

Paul Wicking, Meijo University


Quick Guide

  • Keywords: Drawing, speaking, writing, postcards, past tense, vacations, pairwork, cross-cultural awareness
  • Learner English level: Elementary to intermediate
  • Learner maturity level: Junior high school and above
  • Preparation time: 10 minutes
  • Activity time: 50-60 minutes
  • Materials: Blank postcard handout (See Appendix)

Most elementary to intermediate textbooks have a unit that covers the topic of travel or the function of talking about past experiences. Often there may be a writing task along the lines of “Imagine you went to a foreign country on holiday. Write a postcard to a friend.” The following activity was born of a desire to spice up this otherwise bland writing task by incorporating a country quiz and a picture drawing activity.


Photocopy one postcard template per person. Alternatively, you may prefer to hand out blank pieces of paper and have the students can draw the template themselves.


Stage 1: Past tense revision and vocabulary building

Step 1: In pairs, have the students think of a country and write four sentences describing an imaginary holiday there. Each sentence must give clues as to the name of the country. For example (elementary), “I ate caviar. I drank vodka. I saw Red Square. I went ice-skating.”; or (intermediate) “I took a tour of Harare. I went on a cruise down the Nile. I shot a tiger. I tried a zebra burger.”

Step 2: Repeat step 1 for three different countries.

Step 3: Mix up pairs into groups or three or four.

Step 4: Each student reads one of their descriptions of the holiday without saying the country name, and the others guess which country they’re talking about.

Stage 2: Drawing and writing exercise

Step 1: Give each student a handout of a blank postcard.

Step 2: In the centre, have them write the name of the country.

Step 3: In each of the four squares, students draw a picture to answer the following questions:

What did you eat and drink?

What did you see?

What did you do?

What else did you do?

Make sure students draw only pictures and do not add any English.

Step 4: Once finished, students swap their postcards with a partner.

Step 5: Students write a letter on the back of the postcard that they’ve been given, adding as much information as possible. Write a demonstration card on the board if your students are not familiar with the conventions of postcard writing.


This activity allows students to practice both speaking and writing in a nonthreatening and relaxed atmosphere. Drawing pictures is always a good way to tap into your students’ creative side, increase motivation, and have a good laugh.

Appendix:Sample postcard handout available below.