We’ve all seen optical illusions before. Many of them, like the Ames Room above, take advantage of the flattening effect of the still camera, which only captures images from a single perspective. But part of the fun is moving around to a different vantage point, which reveals how the eye is tricked.
Brusspup is an artist who has a YouTube channel that reveals optical illusions that he creates. These videos offer the best of both worlds because the viewer can see both the illusion and how the trick is achieved. Some examples are below.
How can these be used in the classroom? Optical illusions are almost universally engaging. Beginning with a still image of the illusion (or by pausing the video at that point,) students could be challenged to express how the illusion is created. The class could then watch the video to see the solution. This could be a fun and challenging way for students to formulate hypotheses and think critically.
Alternatively, students could be directed to the YouTube channel and asked to find their favorite illusion. They could then be assigned the task of describing the illusion (both the effect and how it was achieved) in a presentation or in writing. Depending on the level of the students, breaking down the task into step by step pieces would also be a good test of their English.
There are lots of other ways to use these videos. Whether they are incorporated into a classroom activity or just viewed as an informal warm-up activity, they are sure to get your students talking.
“How did he do that?” wasn’t intended to be a series of posts, but I couldn’t help posting this picture. It’s the entire alphabet carved into the tips of 26 pencils. How did he do that, indeed.
I think this would be an interesting question to pose to an ESL class looking at this picture. It would certainly get them talking. Were these letters made by hand? By machine? How long did the alphabet take? How many letters broke while being carved? Which letter was the most difficult to create? And why were such old, chewed up pencils used?
Unlike last time, I actually have some of the answers to these questions. The alphabet was carved by an artist / carpenter from Connecticut named Dalton Ghetti. He carves all of his sculptures by hand, without magnification, using a razor blade and a needle. Pretty amazing stuff.
The patience required for this work is astounding. In an article in the New York Times, he talks about this being the thing that strikes people most about his work.
I’ve always been fascinated by chain links that are carved from a single material. I have made a few minor attempts, but nothing like the pencil seen here. In fact, that might be another interesting question to get students talking. How did he do that?
Getting your students to write (or speak) can sometimes be a challenge. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, which got me to thinking: Where can teachers find interesting pictures that might prompt students to write or talk. Here are some examples:
Photoshop Contest.com is a website that posts a picture each week for visitors to edit into other pictures. The results can be fascinating. The historical decoder device at right used this picture of typesetter’s letters as a starting point. In addition to generating interesting pictures, trying to tease out which components of the picture are from the original can be an interesting challenge for students.
Worth1000.com is similar to Photoshop Contest with a variety of contests for beginning through advanced photo manipulators. Although the results range in quality and interest, some of the theme categories could generate some interesting writing or discussion. For example, the subjects in Sports Literalisms and Bald Celebrities may not be universally recognized by students, but Unsung Vending Machines and Less Than Usual require no explanation. Some of the Literalisms provide interesting visual examples of idioms and other common English expressions.
Flickr is a very popular photosharing website. And, although the sheer number of photos posted means it takes a little more digging to find them, similarly provocative photos can be found. I often use Compfight.com to search Flickr because it’s very easy to select search parameters like Creative Commons licensed content and Safe Search. Try searching for terms like manipulate, photoshop, and trick to find pictures that have been digitally edited. Some, like the example of the car parked on the street have had no digital manipulation, but there is another trick involved. Can you spot it? Can your students?