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Conversation lesson: Do you mind if I take your picture? A lesson based on Humans Of New York

If you’re on Facebook, you most likely know the inspirational Fanpage Humans of New York. It’s one of my favourite non-ELT fan pages on Facebook because it’s so…witty, unpredictable,inspiring and thought-provoking.
I meant to craft a lesson plan about it for a while, and I’ve finally put it all together.



Teaching English and Humans Of New York have more in common than meets the eye: teaching and HONY both connect people, tell a story, and inspire. Brandon Stanton, the creator and, as he puts it, the storyteller of this huge community  has 17 million fans on Facebook, 5 million fans on Instagram, and two New York Times best sellers under his belt. Wow!
And for those teachers who are not comfortable in using PARSNIPS in the classroom, a little warning: I love it. That’s why I chose a love story of a gay couple from Humans of New York so that students can engage in fruitful discussions about LGBT and diversity in the classroom.

Download Student’s PDF handout:  lessondoyoumindifitakeyourpicture1

Download the presentation as pdf : conversation-lesson-do-you-mind-if-i-take-your-picture-1-1

Link for Google Slides : here 

Lesson Plan Outline

Level: B1

Time: 1’20”


* Describe pictures beyond the use of adjectives
* Create meaningful stories through storytelling
* Discuss reasons to share or not to share intimate thoughts with strangers
* Listen to details

Step 1
Prime students with the three questions from slide two before showing them the two pictures. Give them enough time to observe and hypothetise ( Slide 1)

Step 2
Show them each picture separately and give them a few minutes to discuss the initial questions with their peers. They might jot down some ideas if needed be ( Slide 3 and 4)
Step 3
Share the three pictures related to the woman’s story ( the wedding dress, the hair stylist, and the dog) and, in pairs, they should come up with a story. Help them with vocabulary if needed be ( Slide 5)

Step 4
Then, share the three pictures related to the couple’s story ( the subway, the cookies, and the Black Label). Students should come up with a story using the three pictures in pairs ( Slide 6)

Step 5
Show the two pairs of sentences to the students. They are supposed to match the sentences to the pictures.
“I wasn’t even planning on going out that night” and “I just started dancing by myself” are related to the couple’s story.

“I quit my job” and “everything is one big question for me right now” are linked to the woman’s story ( Slides 7 and 8)

Step 6
Next, students are supposed to read each story.

Ask them: Did you use the pictures correctly to make sense of each story? Were your inferences accurate? Were your initial questions answered within the texts?
Some phrases and expressions you might need to go through:
Story 1 – The woman
I feel like I’m about / I can’t help but… / to mess up / nothing has come of it

Story 2 – The couple
cookie dough / to make out with someone / to run into someone

Step 7
Have students join small groups to open the debate with their peers. Allow them to agree, disagree, make jokes, etc.

Step 8
After the debate, they should click on the links to leave a comment or reply to a comment from the post. Help them with new vocabulary and monitor what they write. Ensure their opinions are respectful and supportive.

Photo 1 : Link here

Photo 2: Link here

Step 9
Listening to details: Tell your students they’re going to watch a three-minute video about Brandon Stanton, the creator of Humans of New York. Let your students read the topics that Brandon might tackle in the video ( Topics mentioned: Why he thinks people open up to him, his most popular photo and the questions he likes to ask people). Let students share their guesses.

Watch the video here.

Step 10
Questions about Brandon Stanton and Humans of New York. Let your students make questions in pairs or small groups. Share their answers with the whole group.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Matthew says:

    Gonna use it in a lesson in about 30 minutes, I’ll let you know how it goes. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Matthew says:

    The last lesson what focused on polite requests and the “do you mind if I…” construction became the star of the show (the confusing negative answer thing, etc.). I was doing a simple google search on related stuff and your lesson came up. It went well! I’ll write more when I have a chance. 🙂


  3. […] Conversation lesson: Do you mind if I take your picture? A lesson based on Humans Of New York […]


  4. […] tesolmatthew said that he finds himself doing increasingly more pre-reading activities, working on prediction amongst other things – this means learners have much more of an impetus to read the text when asked to do so.  He shared a link to cecilianobreelt‘s lesson on Humans of New York. […]


  5. Katie says:

    This looks like a great lesson! Unfortunately the video is no longer available on YouTube.


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