Posted 6/3/12

Since 2007, Google has been sending specially-adapted cars into our streets, each one equipped with nine cameras on a pole. The aim has been to obtain pictures for Street View, which can be accessed via Google maps and Google Earth. As is the case with life, the random images that are generated are usually mundane and unremarkable. But as would also be expected, there are hidden moments of love and beauty, life and death, tragedy and destruction, and absolute bizarreness. For a project titled The Nine Eyes of Google Street View, artist Jon Rafman has spent the last few years collecting and curating such images. This lesson plan aims to make use of some of the issues that he raises.
  • Language level: Intermediate (B1) +
  • Learner type: Teens; Adults
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Activity: Mental image dictation
  • Topic: Google; Privacy
  • Language: Looking at; Looks like; Looks as if; etc.
Google street view pdf [downloaded 5233 times]


For this activity, you will need to choose and download a few of the Google Street view images from The Nine Eyes of Google Street View project. Find images at the following links:

Spend some time preparing a short description of each image that you choose. Grade the language to your learners’ abilities whenever possible. Some examples are given below and possible language points are discussed in the PDF lesson plan.

This is a street scene. It is almost certainly New York. How can I tell? There are no landmarks but there are two yellow cabs. There is a man standing on the street corner. He isn’t paying any attention to us. He looks ecstatic. He’s got his arms in the air as if his football team has just scored the winning goal.

This is strange. In this picture, there is a little boy hiding outside a house. He is crouching down behind a rubbish bin. He is looking at us and looks frightened. It looks like he is hiding from us. Is he frightened of us?

This isn’t a nice picture at all. In this photograph, there’s been an accident and it doesn’t look good. The victim is lying in the middle of the road and there is a crowd of people around him. He is receiving attention from medics but I can’t see his face and I can’t tell if he’s dead or alive.

In this picture, there is an old man walking on the pavement. He’s wearing jeans, a beige jacket and a black hat. He is carrying a walking stick. He isn’t looking at us. Perhaps he doesn’t see us. The strange thing is that a few meters behind him, there’s another old man who seems to be wearing exactly the same clothes and is also carrying a walking stick. It looks as if they are clones.

This looks like a scene from a David Lynch film. The adjective to describe it might be ‘eerie’. We are looking down a desert road. There are four people in the picture and they are all staring at us. It’s as if they are checking us out. The scary thing is that they are all dressed up. One of them is dressed up as a wolf, one of them is dressed up as a cowboy. And two of them are dressed up as what could be the ghost character from the film ‘Scream’.

In this photograph, there a pick up truck outside a house. There is a woman opening the door of the truck. It looks like she is getting in. There is also a man standing beside her. But there is something sinister going on here. Perhaps. In the back of the truck, there is a third person – someone lying down on his back (I think it’s a man). It looks as if he might be dead and the idea comes into my mind that he might have been murdered.

In this picture there are two men. They are looking directly at us as if we are intruders. Perhaps we have interrupted their conversation. The guy on the right is a big guy and he’s holding a tiny dog. The guy on the left is waving his arms at us as if to say, “What are you doing here?”

Lesson plan outline

    1. On the board, write the following:
The Nine Eyes of __________ __________ __________
    1. Tell students that this is the title of an art project which involves a number of photographs. Ask if anyone can suggest what the missing words are.
    2. Read (or dictate) the following passage to your students:
According to the artist, the images are artless and meaningless. They lack human intention and give no particular significance to any person or event. As a result, the world that the images represent is more truthful and transparent than the world that is represented by conventional photography. They represent true documentary photography.
    1. Ask students to speculate about the nature of the project. Don’t worry if no one has anything to say at this stage. The aim is to get them engaged.
    2. Tell students that you are going to describe a number of the images to them. Tell them that their task is to work out what the images have in common. If they can do this, they will be able to identify the nature of the art project and identify the three missing words from the title in Step 1 above.
    3. One by one, describe the images to your students. As you do this:
      • Make sure that your students do not see the images.
      • Read directly from the texts if you like.
      • Make students believe that you are looking at images rather than reading from a text.
      • Ask questions and encourage student interaction when possible.
      • Draw attention to new or useful language and write this on the board.
    4. Describe all of the pictures a second time. This can serve as a recap of the language. Aim to elicit words, phrases, grammar structures, etc. that you have already used (crouching down, eerie, a walking stick, dressed up as, as if his football team has just scored the winning goal, it looks as if they are clones, as if to say, “What are you doing here?”, etc.)
    5. If students are unable to work out the connection (this will probably be the case), tell them that you are going to give them a number of clues. Read out the sentences below:
      • The quality of the photographs is not excellent but they have all been taken since 2007.
      • The name of the artist behind is Jon Rafman. However, he didn’t take any of the photographs himself. For the last few years, he has been collecting and curating images like these.
      • The artist found all of the images online.
      • For reasons of privacy, all faces and license plates are blurred.
      • All of the images have a little icon in the top left hand corner that looks like a compass.
      • The photographs were taken with an automated camera. They were all shot from the middle of the street from a height of 2.5 meters.


Note: Try to prevent students from shouting out answers at this stage. The aim is to give each student the opportunity to work out the answer for himself. You could ask students to write down their answers. Alternatively, put students into pairs and ask them to discuss their ideas in private.
  1. Take feedback and find out who has guessed the answer and managed to complete the title of the art project (The Nine Eyes of Google Street View.) Ask students if they know what the Nine Eyes refer to. Show them a picture of a Google camera car and point our the nine lenses that it uses to capture images.
  2. Show students the slideshow. Use each image to recall as much language as possible from your prepared descriptions.

Follow up and Variations

See the PDF lesson plan download for these.

Please note that you can find out more about the artist Jon Rafman here.

Posted 6/3/12

33 Responses to Google Street View

  1. Another great one, Jamie. I’ll try it out next week.

  2. Phil Bird says:

    This looks like a great lesson…. Streetview is just such a great stimulus – it has (almost) everything.

    I’ve got a feeling that you could base a whole syllabus on things found in Streetview – maybe that’ll be the online English course of the future….

    Anyway, I wrote down a few ideas here – – I’ll add a link to this as well…

  3. Jamie Keddie says:

    Hello Phil
    Long time …
    Yes, it’s a great resource. That is surely one of the reasons why Google gets away with it. Thanks for linking to your ideas. Between us, we now have a veritable Google Street View feast!
    Hope all is well.
    Jamie :)

  4. rimgh says:

    I work a lot with images especially with one of my groups; ss comment on the pics using directions e.g at the top/ at the bottom, in the left-hand corner/on the right, in the background/foreground etc. I can see this and that …
    Never used Google street view though; I usually work with documents related to particular themes suggested in the syllabus. It’s become boring in the long run. Choosing random pics looks like a beautiful idea. I’ll try this for a change. Thanks a bunch for the wonderful lesson plan!

  5. Faye Karamani says:

    You inspire me! Great lesson plan! I will definitely give it a go :)

  6. Jamie Keddie says:

    I almost used this activity in the conference Faye
    Glad you like it. Nice to meet you yesterday in Thessaloniki.
    Good luck! Jamie :)

  7. Tatiana says:

    Thank you so much from Slovakia. Jeremy is right) another great lesson.

  8. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you Tatiana :)

  9. ParaskevopoulouMaria says:

    Well done Jamie for this great lesson plan..It is so creative because I can teach my ‘intermediate’ students in a more interesting and enjoyable way..they will love it..they will use their imagination, they will enrich their vocabulary and brainstorm a lot of ideas!Keep on with the good job Jamie

  10. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you Maria. Let me know how it goes. Always interested to know.
    Jamie :-)

  11. ParaskevopoulouMaria says:

    I will inform you Jamie as soon as I will try the specific lesson plan..Could you please tell me a few words about your book ‘Images’? What is it about and where can I find it? thank you in advance..

  12. Jamie Keddie says:

    Hello Maria

    The best thing to do is to look at it on Amazon. Do you know the ‘Look inside’ function? Well, that will allow you to read some of it and get a feel. You can see some of the activities in this way. here is the link:

    And if you like it, you can get it from Amazon, order it in a bookshop or buy it from Oxford:

    Hope you like it!
    Jamie :)

  13. Stephen says:

    I tried dictating the URL to the students to research in our computer lab on their own to find a couple images they thought were interesting and to work out their captions. Too bad about the “unfortunate” name of Mr Rafman’s website! =S

  14. Jamie Keddie says:

    Hello Stephen
    Are you referring to the term ‘artfag’. It was new to me. From Urban Dictionary:

    n.1) an art student fully immersed in the art school culture, i.e. dressing in all-black or the trendiest rummage sale attire, listening to music only played on college radio, and referring to obscure artists or writers constantly

    2) one who uses “artistic” to explain dubious decisions or behaviors
    That art fag welded a high-heel to an umbrella and ran around the Village all day in the rain.
    Jamie :)

  15. Darsiman Marsudi says:

    I love spending my time reading the content in this great website. It’s so cool and inspiring. Thank you so much

  16. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you Darsiman
    I really appreciate your nice comment
    Jamie :)

  17. Hanna says:

    Hi Jamie,
    Thanks for this lesson plan. I used it couple of days ago with my group of IT specialists. I was looking for sth ‘light’ as an end-of-semester activity and it worked very, very well :) They had super-funny ideas working out the connection between the photos. I asked them not to write anything while listening to the descriptions but ‘allowed’ them to write one, characteristic word or phrase just to remember the order of the photos and help them to recall the language. As a follow up, I showed them more images and we were thinking up good/funny titles for them. Great fun :)

  18. Jamie Keddie says:

    Hello Hanna
    I like your variation. Thank you for sharing.
    Hope all is well in Poland!
    Jamie :)

  19. Seda Oz says:

    Thank you for sharing this great lesson plan.
    I haven’t tried it yet though it seems a lot fun.
    The only thing is I’m planning to change the process a little.
    After describing couple of the pictures to my students as an intro, I will ask them to pick up one – without actually seeing the picture – and describe it to the others. I hope it works ok.

  20. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you Seda
    Don’t be tentative about making changes – that’s what it’s all about. I would never expect any teacher to follow the plan exactly. In fact, I probably like you way better!
    Good luck and let me/us know how you get on
    Jamie :)

  21. Barbi Bujtas says:

    Haha, the other day we did ‘giving directions’ with a group, using Google Street View. The dad of one of my students happens to have been captured, selling vegetables and flowers on GSV –forever!!
    Next week I have no other option but to use this lesson plan, thanks :)

  22. Jamie Keddie says:

    Hello Barbi!
    You could include his photo in the series of images. That would be a great twist.
    Let me know how it goes.
    Hope all is well in Hungary
    Jamie :)

  23. Arthur says:

    Thank you very much! My learners enjoyed it, and me too :))

  24. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thanks Arthur
    Great to hear it
    Jamie :)

  25. daniel says:

    Great lesson, Jamie. I’m going to adapt it to activate modals of deduction: may/might be, may/might have been, must be, must have been, can’t be, can’t have been.

  26. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thanks Richard
    Good luck!
    Jamie :)

  27. Frances Walker says:

    Hi Jamie! I used this gem this week with a teenage student in a 1-to-1 class, and it went down a treat. It tied in nicely with a lesson a couple of weeks ago on Google Maps (using his summer holiday snaps). As an extension, I asked him to invent a story behind some of the photos, role play the characters with me in others, and create a caption or newspaper heading for more that I’d found on the sites you recommended. We both had a good laugh! Thanks!

  28. Jamie Keddie says:

    Hello Frances
    I am actually thinking of updating this activity. I have used it a couple of times recently and there are some changes that I would like to make.
    Thank you for your comment. Great to hear from you!
    Jamie :)

  29. Kseniya says:

    Thank you, Jamie Keddie! I fell in love with your lessons-yesterday I found out about them today Ive given the lesson! At the 35th minute one student shouted the answer, but all students were realy happy, we started disscussing the questions, and left them as a home asignment. Thank you again you’re genuine teacher.

  30. Jamie Keddie says:

    Hello Kseniya
    Thank you for your nice message.
    I am very happy to hear that you have found love on my website. Most people use Tinder :)
    Shouting out the answer is always a possible problem with activities like this. I always assume that it *will* happen and work with it accordingly. It is worth pointing out that if a student shouts out an answer, he won’t know if it is right or wrong until you tell him. So, entertain all ideas. Explore them and discuss them. But don’t say whether or not the student guessed correctly.
    Hope that helps!

  31. Carmen Sekitani says:

    Hello! I’ve just discovered your website and it is wonderful! I’m looking for lesson plans about Bullying/cyberbullying but didn’t find among the topics. Maybe I didn’t search correctly… or maybe there isn’t anything about it yet?
    Thanks a lot for sharing all the amazing lesson plans!
    Best regards,

    • Jamie Keddie says:

      Hello Carmen
      Nice to hear from you
      Great to hear that you have discovered my site. And glad that you like it!
      Unfortunately, there is nothing related to bullying or cyberbullying. There does seem to be a huge amount of stories and material online, however.
      Thanks for getting in touch and thanks for your nice words!
      Jamie :)