Visual puzzle

From Teflpedia

Visual puzzles are commonly used in TEFL to teach grammatical structures such as relative clauses, or (semi)fixed phrases such as "more or less".[1] The task of deciphering the visual puzzles can be difficult and as the task involves little communication, it is advisable to set short time limits or keep the number of puzzles presented to a minimum.

A Mexican, or cowboy, (who is) frying an egg—one of the most renowned visual puzzles

Perhaps the most useful language point demonstrated in this type of puzzle is the reduced relative clause, in which the relative pronoun may be omitted, as in above and these examples:

Various visual puzzles
  1. A Mexican (who is) riding a motorbike
  2. A Mexican couple (who are) kissing
  3. A giraffe (which is) passing a window
  4. An elephant (which is) passing a window
  5. Three Mexicans (who are) rowing a boat
  6. A koala (which is) hanging onto a tree
  7. A knife (which is) viewed from its end
  8. A Mexican (who is) riding a surfboard

However, not all images of this type use the reduced relative clause; the following must use a relative pronoun:

A spider which has just won the lottery
A man whose bow tie has got stuck in a lift
A Mexican whose tie has fallen into his soup
A cowboy who has just survived a gun battle

Idioms and (semi)fixed lexical phrases can also be taught and tested through visual puzzles.

More or less
Over the top
French kiss
One in a million

Additional exercises[edit]

Can you dream up visual puzzles for more idioms or collocations?

  • hands down?
  • overpaid?
  • a piece of cake?
  • sitting on top of the world?
  • underworked?
  • out on a limb?


  1. 12 of these visual puzzles depicting lexical items can be found in the book Multiple Intelligences in EFL: Exercises for Secondary and Adult Students by Herbert Puchta and Mario Rinvolucri, Cambridge University Press

External links[edit]

Mexican doodles at lessonstream The inspiration for some of these ideas whose author, Jamie Keddie, has agreed to their being shared.

Optical illusions An interesting page of optical illusions.