I am a big time fan of Spike Milligan, who has nothing whatsoever to do with foreign language teaching or foreign language teacher education but who has given me hours of great delight and, at times, inspiration for materials or activity design.

In 1985, he brought out a book called “Further Transports of Delight” with a selection of photographs for which he wrote the captions. All the photographs involve some means of transportation (hence the title) and Spike Milligan’s comical captions.

This was spot on what I am interested in, developing creative thinking skills, and one way of doing this is by using ambiguous pictures for interpretation. It seemed to me that there was great potential there for language work where students have to think ‘outside the box’ and the activity described below is a sample.

But first, to get an idea of the type of captions in his book, here is a photograph from the book:


Image capture from Milligan, S. 1974, Further Transports of Delight, Penguin Books; New Ed edition (1986)

Now, what caption might you think about for this photograph? Have a think before you scroll down to the end of this post to see the actual caption in the book.

Suggested Classroom Activity

AIM: Creative writing, motivation, fun, laughter

  1. Students are shown this or other photograph with a mad caption.
  2. Groups, or pairs of students are given a collection of photographs to select from or they are asked to search for likely photographs on the web
  3. In their groupings, students are asked to collaborate and attempt to write the silliest, nuttiest, funniest caption they can think of. The teacher supplies help with vocabulary, grammar, ideas, etc.
  4. Each group displays their photograph and caption on the wall of the classroom (or a class blog, or other) for other students to visit and evaluate
  5. If students viewing picture and caption displays ‘live’ (!) in class, a winner can be declared by measuring laughing time in front of each one! If on web or school bulletin’ board display, some other way of commenting or giving each one stars can be used.

Our students love this activity and so do the teachers. It’s a lovely filler and can be even used topically by giving students pictures related to  a topic or theme they have been working on.

Well, here is Spike Milligan’s own caption:


Image capture from Milligan, S. 1974, Further Transports of Delight, Penguin Books; New Ed edition (1986)

I originally thought of calling this post “The Irish Hydrobike” but for fear of incurring the wrath of all Irish people in my PLN, I haven’t… Although I still think it would have been more fitting…

I have more activities with a high focus on nonsense. Let me know if you would like a few more as I specialize in this field!!!

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