Introductory activities, Ongoing engagement

Language Portrait

Reflect on language experiences with your students and share biographical information.

Click on the CC icon in the bottom right corner of the video to turn on closed captions.  

Language Portrait
Educator prep: None
Student prep: None
Breakout rooms, Paper / pens, Shared online space
Duration: 30+ mins

Activity purpose

Reflecting on language experiences, sharing biographical information.

Useful for

  • Getting to know each other
  • Starting discussions about language, ways of speaking
  • Talking about life experiences and stories, attitudes to language(s)
  • It can also be good for students expressing communication challenges they are facing


  • Tell participants that they will need a piece of paper and some colours
  • Silhouette image to share
  • Instructions


Individually: Can you represent graphically your linguistic repertoire (that is languages and ways of speaking that you have experienced/are important in your life). You can either copy the silhouette or draw one yourself.

Choose colours that fit the different languages and modes of speaking that have a particular meaning for you.

(possible follow up questions: How do you experience different ways of speaking, writing, communicating with other people? How do you experience languages and language use that are to be found in your environment?)

Pairs or small groups

Show each other your portraits and explain them to each other, ask each other follow up questions. Remember you do not have to share anything you don’t feel comfortable sharing with others


Follow-up in the main room - participants can be invited to share their feelings about the activity, reflections about their language experiences with the larger group.


Students can be invited to share their images on a pinboard (e.g. Padlet) with short explanations and a key for the colours (if they want to - some may prefer not to). Students might want to modify their portraits if they want to after their conversations.


5-10 minutes for drawing 10-20 minutes for sharing stories - depending on size of the group.

Adaptations and examples


Technical requirements

Pen/cil and paper Breakout rooms if working with a large group.

Possibly a sharing space like Padlet for people to share theirs if they wish and comment on each other's (also possible on a discussion board)

Useful resources

This activity is inspired by the work of Brigitta Busch.  

See empty silhouette and Fran's portrait used in the video: click here

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