Archive for Tag: pictures in learning

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Science of Using Art in Language Classrooms

KFieldingKristine Fielding teaches ESOL at Lone Star College in Houston, TX.

What’s the difference between art and science?

I suppose a person’s answer will be based on her perspective. For example, when I was a Chem 101 student, I fell in love with the elegant beauty of the periodic table. Such a simple design, yet it represents an enormous amount of information. As a starry-eyed student, I felt art and science were the same. On the other hand, a politician looking to cut a state’s education budget would have a much different view of art and science.

As language instructors, we have another perspective, especially when it comes to teaching. We often mix art and science to maximize time and student success.

One of the most popular uses of art in a language class is showing students pictures to activate background knowledge. We know if students associate new knowledge with old, they will understand new concepts better and remember them longer. But I would like to talk about another way we can use pictures in language classes: We can use simple images as symbols for new ideas.

A few weeks ago, my low level adult ESOL students were learning the different forms of the simple present “be.” From experience, I knew some students would forget the three forms and would have difficulty recalling them when writing short sentences, so I decided to use a simple image to help them remember. I drew a triangle on the board and asked the students to tell me the three simple present “be” verbs. When students gave me the answers, I wrote each word on a corner of the triangle. Later, when I was helping students with their sentences, I only had to draw a small triangle to help students remember that “be” has three forms.

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