Language and art can complement and help each other. When a concept is not clear in its written form, the visual form can help the student to understand it. On the other hand, when the visual form is confusing and unclear, the written form can facilitate its understanding.
In his TED talk, Ken Robinson made an interesting point, saying that the majority of students working in his classroom today, will be joining a workforce in the future that we still cannot visualize. Therefore, learning a specific traditional/past skill set may not be as valuable. Learning to be more creative and adaptable is the essential tool for preparing students for life beyond the classroom.
Some schools and companies around the world are already connected to this idea, adopting techniques from creativity courses. Many companies today practice the 20% rule (allowing employees to dedicate 20% of their working time to think creatively and explore new ideas).
This tendency to evaluate creativity goes beyond the big technology companies that have long treated “innovation” as a keyword. A 2010 survey of more than 1,500 executives found that creativity is valued as the most important business skill in the modern world.
“Creative” is one of the most used terms on LinkedIn year after year.
Creativity is no longer seen as just for artists and musicians. It is a crucial skill for everyone to master.
Teaching and art
Art has been a medium of visual expression used to convey a wide range of tangible and intangible ideas. Art can take the viewer to different times and to different worlds. It can also be used to introduce different levels of vocabulary for students of a second language.
Learning a second language, for most teenagers, for example, is a challenging experience. They are not only trying to adapt to a new language, but they are also trying to adjust to themselves and a new environment. They are aware of almost everything, but they are highly aware of their performance in the classroom. By changing the student’s focus to something creative where everyone participates, a certain degree of self-judgment is thus eliminated.
The art experience in the classroom has to be a pleasant one for both the student and the teacher. I do not propose an in-depth study of art, but the use of it as a language development tool. The student becomes familiar with the works of art, but he does not really need to understand them in depth, it is the first impression that the student receives as a new observer that will provide the starting point for the introduction of vocabulary.
Art has always been an effective tool for teaching and learning among various classes of people. When combined with reading, writing, speaking and listening, art can open doors to high levels of analysis and also challenge students to explore their surroundings and thus find ways for sophisticated understanding and communication. Familiarizing students with the arts is an enjoyable part of authentic learning. “The heart and soul that complement the mind and body, a powerful integrative force that teaches every social, creative, emotional, intellectual and physical child” — (Le Francois, Psychology for Teaching, p. 499).
Why use art in the classroom?
Lessons based on works of art have many benefits for the teacher and students.
1. Art can be very stimulating and leads to a wide variety of activities. In its simplest form, you can describe a painting, but with a little more creativity, all types of exercises are possible. For example, the well-known “Grammar Auction” activity can be redesigned as an “Art Auction”. And countless adaptations with existing exercises.
2. Using art provides a change of pace. While many teachers use visual images to introduce a topic or language item, that image can be a piece of art, which encourages them to get involved on a very different level.
3. Incorporating art into the classroom develops language skills in the real world. Visiting an art exhibition or museum will awaken habits that students / families may not have yet experienced.
4. Thinking or even creating is very motivating. You can take the emphasis off precision and put it in fluency and the ability to express thoughts and ideas clearly. The answer to art has the potential to develop creative thinking skills. Students at a pre-intermediate level, for example, will be able to read a brief biography of an artist and discuss how his art portrays different aspects of their lives.
The excellent approach to ESL students at the J. Paul Getty Museum
Historically, art museum education departments have focused on the use of works of art to engage with art history and artistic practices. In recent years, museums have reconsidered the relevance of a historical focus of art for their local communities. In Los Angeles, where the J. Paul Getty Museum is located, current demographic data indicates that 41% of students are English language learners, 94% of them speak Spanish. Language through art: an English enrichment curriculum for second language learners, from the Museum’s Department of Education, seeks to meet the needs of this audience by using the universal language of visual art to overcome language barriers.
Getty: Resources for Visual Art and Cultural Heritage
Visit our Los Angeles museums and library, interact with art, and access free research tools.
The curriculum uses art objects as a catalyst to improve language skills, develop new vocabulary and expose diverse visitors to a variety of cultures and experiences worldwide.
The “Learning Through Art” of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston is a curriculum portal that consists of four parts:
:: Curricular connections: written and tested by teachers in the Houston area, curriculum connections are flexible and can be easily incorporated into language arts, social studies, mathematics, science and art classes.
:: Image library: search by content area and mental habit or thinking disposition to find the artwork that adapts to the needs of your classroom.
:: Teaching tips: techniques for incorporating object-based teaching in your classroom and for integrating higher-level cognitive skills to promote students’ development of 21st century skills.
:: Teaching resources: online resources with museum collection materials that can be easily integrated into the K-12 curriculum.
Welcome to Teaching and Learning Through Art | The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Welcome to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's Learning through Art online curriculum! Connects the MFAH's encyclopedic…
Get inspired and take art to your classroom!
Source and reading suggestions
Thinking Fast and Slow — Daniel Kahneman
Where Good Ideas Come From — Steven Johnson
The War of Art — Steven Pressfield
The Creative Habit — Twyla Tharp