How often do you see teenagers this eager and engaged in an art gallery? I hope your answer is all the time, but I often see that today’s young ‘digital natives’ find it increasingly difficult to connect with historical or modern art and regard galleries as rather uninteresting places.
This is why I found quite refreshing that Angle Education included a visit to the National Gallery in their immersive cultural programme. Accompanied by their teachers, the students were given an interactive art quiz to make sure they make the most of their excursion.
After helping students to build basic vocabulary with a word and definition match of art terms, they went on an exciting treasure hunt, where they had to find paintings based on their descriptions.
The students were encouraged to ask for help from the museum’s staff if necessary, and it was lovely to see quite a few of them chatting to room guards, not only using their reading comprehension skills but engaging in conversation.
The trip to the National Gallery presented fantastic opportunities in the classroom for discussion, focused language work and skill based activities. Although art is said to be all around us it seems to be a relatively underused resource in ELT. I was delighted to find excellent resources written by Jamie Keddie, that I could use in my art related lesson plan, building on the students’ previous experience in the gallery.
At the beginning of the lesson, I asked a group of intermediate level students to interview each other with the help of a short printed questionnaire in pairs (including questions about art displayed in their rooms or their favourite piece of art), then I opened up the pairs to tell the whole group about their partners’ answers and made them vote on the most beautiful piece of art in the world.
We then continued with a picture dictation activity, using Marc Chagall’s surrealist piece, titled Birthday. The students listened to the description of the painting 3 times, drawing images on their mini-whiteboards based on what they had heard. This was followed by adjectives projected on the whiteboard to choose from. After a short recap of tenses and vocab to describe paintings, students were given an iconic painting to describe to their partner.
Using art proved to be very motivating. It took the emphasis off of accuracy and put it on fluency, especially benefitting students whose progress in speaking was hindered by a fear of making mistakes.
The gallery trip and the art lesson can be beautifully integrated into the end-of-course presentation where students have a great chance to collaborate and present their UK culture related posters, role-play, drama and PowerPoint presentations to their group leaders and peers.
Written by Anett Salyik, EFL Teacher