Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Art in ELT

This is one of the lessons I won't forget and I think my learners won't forget, too. 
Why so? The amount of engagement was high and learners were involved along the whole process, with varying degrees, of course.
Earlier than this, I had conducted a questionnaire with my learners and what I discovered is pretty telling. In fact, according to the results of the questionnaire (By Dr Silverman), 70% of my learners are Visual Learners.  They enjoy all sorts of visuals and retain better when they see the word, let alone when they engage in drawing or/and are asked to describe/ or write about their drawings. 
How: I explained to my learners that they wouldn't be judged upon the quality of their drawings or their talent in drawing. It was not a lesson in art. It is rather studying English via Art. Art encompasses many activities, but in my lesson , the focus was on drawing.What matters most is the fact that they share their insights , either by speaking or writing. They also engage in a collaborative activity after drawing. They try to describe their drawings to their peers before describing them to the whole class. They ask each other questions based on the wh-questions: who, what, where, when, why.They do not only practice the wh-questions, but they also ask for their teacher's help to translate to them some words, they've never come across and would like to know their equivalents in English.
Level: This lesson was taught with 7th grades of basic education.The age range is :12 to 14 years old.They are beginners and they are so enthusiastic about the language. This does not exclude the fact that they face difficulties, yet, they show a lot of energy and interest in their English classes. Though English is studied , starting from the age of 11 , which is a bit late and we are expecting a lot of reform to happen. English is the third language and learners, in public schools, yearn to study it at an earlier age. French is still the second language here. 
What:  What amazed me in the lesson itself, is that I discovered the favourite learning tools my learners used. Some low-achievers preferred to copy some ready-made pictures, though I asked them to imagine a scene and draw it. Well, I was observing them and relishing the moment they were fully-engaged, in the process. Some other learners started commenting on some learners "poor" talent in drawing. At that moment, I was there to tell them that there was no perfect drawing. More importantly, every drawing was a piece of them and this counts a lot. To my astonishment, the most shy girl showed great skills in drawing and her peers gathered around her and asked if they could learn from her. She felt extremely happy and proud that she was special in some way. I could notice those glaring lights in her eyes. She could assume a positive role and I could feel her joy. Another instance is of a boy, who, though very calm, in nature, displayed a lot of violence in his drawing. Does this reflect his environment? I am not certain. 
The drawings, helped me see my learners clearly. They reflected their innocence, their inner beauty and their wonderland. The beauty of the family, of  Nature, of the sea, of the people,of Tunisia,  is well-reflected in their drawings.

The While: The core of the activity was not testing the learners' talent in drawing, but it was using drawing as a means to engage the learners and push them to write about their own drawings. This activity helped them them discover a piece of themselves. What are their predilections? How far can they use their imagination to go beyond the world around them?How skilled are they? 

This short experience would never be forgotten for most of them, as they outspoke this with elation. After drawing, learners engaged for a while to write sentences describing the pictures they drew. The sentences were not perfect and they faced a lot of difficulties with some vocabulary they needed, but I was there to help them and the frowns on some faces disappeared.

Amazingly, the activity was engaging and the learners were contented that their teacher has taken some pictures of their drawings and would publish them. This type of activity is wondrous due to its positive impact on all types of learners. Some learners showed their hidden talents and others felt self-confident and helped their peers to draw and choose colours. 

One shortcoming was that one session was not enough, especially for stumbling learners. They did not finish the writing and they were invited to resume it at home, which is something I hate and I do not believe it could lead to better learners (IMHO). I believe every production (spoken or written should happen inside the classroom and whatever should be completed, should be at least a tiny proportion of the whole required from the learners). What I always cannot master very well is Time, which seems always to flee subtly. Will I be more proficient in managing time with my learners? I hope so! 

Happy Day!