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Chapter 15 Art and Language

"The visual arts are languages that reach all people at their deepest and most essential human level. Thus, aesthetic literacy is as basic as linguistic is expression that words can't convey."
 - E. L. Boyer

Young children are very creative.   They learn to draw before they learn to write.  Give them a colouring book and crayons or a blank sheet of construction paper and a pencil - they can be happy for hoursEell most of them anyway.

Art is a form of visualization and can add another dimension to the young ESL learners classroom.  Art is a great way for young students to learn about colours, shapes, forms and how to express themselves.

Art teaches children how to use composition, design, proportion, style and colour to express their ideas on paper.

Some of your young students may not be too talkative because of shyness or awkwardness with the English language. Art is a great way for them to participate and to express themselves in a non-verbal way.  It can even help them to slowly get over their reluctance to speak as they share their artistic ideas with their classmates and teacher. This is also a part of building confidence and self-esteem in young learners.

Art gives the absolute beginners who have no knowledge of English, a medium though which to communicate.  The teacher can use these art-stories as an invaluable entry point to vocab and language learning. “This is Amy.  Your Mum,  Dad, Baby,  house, flower, car.  Where are you going?Eamp;nbsp; Write words down for them as captions, and help them to “re-readEthem.  This practice should form a regular part of the lessons for these beginning students.
With young learners, the visualization process is an integral part of learning, especially when it comes to learning a new language.

Words and Pictures = Language and Art

Student-Created Artwork

Student-created images enhance language learning in three different ways. (Christison, 1993)

a) Students are more involved, confident, and productive.
b) There is a positive change in the classroom environment that is uninhibiting and conducive to language learning.
c) Finally, students are more able to perform cognitively demanding tasks, and the quality of their written and spoken language improves.

When students are doing something which they enjoy, it provides an opportunity for them to learn how skills fit together and to develop them in tandem.  It builds confidence in their own abilities.

Sharing their creations with others lets them see that everyone's work has its own merit and teaches them respect for others and other ideas.

Bassano and Christison comment that when students cooperate with each other to create visual images and tell their stories, the class develops a sense of group unity, and individual and cultural differences are accepted. Classrooms that observe, value, and respect differences are better learning environments, suggests Franklin (1989).

Student-created images can introduce new subject matter because they are more real, vivid, and meaningful to the students' lives (Richardson 1990).

Steiner (1986) advocates cultivating children's appreciation for the beauty of language by integrating art experiences with language learning in order to help them develop a sense of international and intercultural acceptance.

Learning about your students

Through student-created images, the teacher can learn a great deal about the students' personalities, experiences, and interests. The teacher can study the content and style of the students' artwork in the same way that one would study a master work of art, which can lead to a teacher's greater respect and value for the students. It can also help the teacher learn about the students' literary and aesthetic preferences. Student artwork can help the teacher to become more aware of and sensitive to the attitudes, needs, interests and personalities of each student. This makes it easier to individualize instruction and to plan lessons and units.

Student-created artwork also helps the students to discover more about themselves. This self-discovery can help increase the students' self-esteem as they uncover their unique learning styles and resources and apply them to language learning. This happens in part because through drawings and other artwork, barriers are lowered, and the students feel a freedom from anxiety which makes them more apt to learn.


Draw their house:

Ask children to draw their house and all the people who live there.  They must put names (in English) beside the people. “My daddyElt;/FONT>

You can extend the theme to rooms inside. (This also helps you to get to know a little more about your students).

Other subjects:

Draw their pet and show its name in a sentenceEamp;nbsp; “This is my cat MaxElt;/FONT>

Draw the teacher. You can add an action such as sitting down, waiting for a bus, sleeping, or whatever the students want to do.

Word Blocks:

Show your students how to draw a three-dimensional block. Then, put a letter on the front side of the block. Now your students can create ‘block wordsElike their own name. They can even build a simple sentence leaving a space between the words or building one word on top of the previous one.

Listen and Draw:

You might pick a short fairy tale to read.  As you read it, go slowly when you describe characters in the story. Then, ask the children to draw a picture of one of the characters. You can read the descriptions for them again. Keep the descriptions simple.  You may be able to use progressively more complex words as the children master the easier ones.  "The princess wore a long scarlet gown" instead of " Eong, red dress" for example.

Many children’s storybooks and fairytales have superb illustrations. Of course, these are professionally drawn but they can provide insight into the characters and a basis for the drawing of your students.

Whatever activity you choose, be sure to keep it fun and easy to do.  Young students get bored quickly if they are not having fun.

If you have access to an overhead projector and especially a way to produce colour transparencies, you can vastly improve the quality and quantity of visual art subjects for your class.

Activities that are student-centered and student-initiated will keep your students interested and learning.  Let them use their imagination and creativity. It is boundless!

Education affects more than the intellect, it also reaches the soul and becomes a 'whole' experience. This applies to second language learning and learning in general. Teachers have to respond creatively and professionally in order to ensure that learning is an opportunity for students to achieve this 'whole person' learning. What better way than through a combination of art and language as communications media.

Many art and craft activities can be adapted to use as listening exercizes, and as practice in following directions.  A simple example is to give the children a photocopied picture to colour, then tell them what colours to use in which place: stripey red arms, blue spots on a yellow dress.  Make it more complicated by adding conditions; EIf you came to school by bus, colour the eyes blue.  If you came in a car, colour the eyes brown.Elt;/FONT>

Have more advanced students draw scenes as you dictate.  This could be a useful exercize for practicing prepositions:  “There’s a small alien beside the rocket.  He’s got four arms and three eyes.  There’s a long, green alien lying down in front of the rocket.  It’s got no legs.Elt;/FONT>

Give out a worksheet with pictures of different people or creatures which can be used to practice descriptions: “In the third row, colour the girl with long hair and a short dress.Elt;/FONT>

Once your students are familiar with the format, let them play in pairs, back to back., taking turns to give each other the instructions.  This is even better, as it provides speaking and listening practice in a safe, non-threatening situation.

Chapter 16
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