This unit explores some ways to teach English through art, craft and drama.
The creative arts can make learning English fun and interesting. Students of all ages enjoy making things and being active. Incorporating English into art, craft and drama activities can motivate students to express themselves in English. In these kinds of activity you can practise and develop your own language skills along with students.
The unit suggests how your English textbook can be a resource for creative activities that can reinforce and extend language learning.
Creative arts lessons are hands-on and active for students. Language learned and used in these sessions can be memorable. In the first case study, the teacher takes notice of how students use language generally in art and craft lessons, and decides to incorporate English into these activities.
Mrs Pooja, a new teacher in Class V, was not very confident about teaching English. During her pre-service teacher training she had done Hindi pedagogy, but had not opted for ‘pedagogy of English’.
My assessments showed that very few students had learnt any English since Class 1. I thought back to my pre-service training, when I observed students learning Hindi during art and craft activities. I decided to try out the same strategy for English lessons.
From my English textbook, I chose a story that had many different animal characters. I had students make masks and costumes for the animals in the story.
Before the students started to create their masks and costumes, I wrote some vocabulary in English on the blackboard:
I had the students repeat the words after me, in English. I used the textbook pictures and my own gestures to make sure they understood.
As the students worked on their masks and costumes, I encouraged them to use the English words as much as possible with me and with each other. As they worked, I also used English for making suggestions, agreement or disagreement, and descriptions. For instance:
If my students didn’t understand a word or sentence in English, I would repeat what I said in Hindi. I encouraged the students to practise the English sentences with me and with each other as they made masks and costumes. It was good practise for my own English.
At the end of the art lesson I asked students to write words and sentences in their notebooks, in English, to describe their masks and costumes. For example:
While correcting their notebooks, I noticed that all the students had attempted to write, including one who had been diagnosed as dyslexic.
Pause for thought
Mrs Pooja was observant about what worked for students, and developed her practice based on her observations. Do you think Mrs Pooja had good opportunities for assessing the students’ English in the art and craft lesson?
What else do you think Mrs Pooja’s students could do with their masks and costumes, in terms of writing or performance?
In the art and craft lesson, how do your students talk to you and to each other? Do they ask questions, follow instructions and describe their plans and the outcomes of their work? Do they use special vocabulary? How could you use this for English language teaching?
Art and craft lessons have the potential to include all students, including those with learning disabilities. The rest of the unit gives you activities to use with art and craft for teaching and learning English language.
See Resource 1, ‘Using questioning to promote thinking’ to learn more about the value of discussion and interaction in lessons.
Choose a lesson from your English textbook – this might be a story, a poem or a description. With other teachers, write down your ideas for art or craft activities that could be included in this lesson. You can ask the art, craft or drama teacher for advice. Some ideas might include:
Now choose one of these art or craft forms to extend the English lesson.
Think of English words and phrases to use with students for the activity. These might include:
Write down the English words that you will use in the lesson. Practise these words and sentences.
Write down the English words you want your students to use in the lesson.
Discuss your ideas with fellow teachers or your head teacher.
In Activity 2, you will implement the lesson you have planned.
Let students know you expect them to use English in the art or craft activity. Label materials and tools in English. Teach students simple sentences to use while working in groups, such as:
Give and repeat instructions in English. Like the teacher in Case Study 1, model the English you want students to use. Use English to describe, praise and ask questions. As students work, move around the classroom to monitor and support the English they are using.
You can assess students’ attempts to use English. Use a simple checklist as suggested in Table 1.
|Students’ names||Uses English frequently||Uses sentences occasionally||Uses English occasionally||Yet to attempt using English|
Encourage students to use the English they learn in the art or craft lesson. This will boost their confidence to use English for different purposes.
Now try these activities for yourself.
Art can stimulate language learning and language practice. Look at these two paintings made by Class VI students. The teacher asked students to describe their paintings. The teacher transcribed these descriptions into Hindi and English, and created bilingual reading passages to go with the pictures. Students practised reading the passages in the language lesson.
The teacher then created the following reading and writing activity, using the transcribed descriptions. Try it out yourself.
Look at the painting [Figure 1].
Fill in the blanks in the passage given below with the words in the box.
On the right side ____________ a man is standing near a big bin. On the ____________ there is a woman. She ____________ doing some work. There are children playing ____________ their parents. The house ____________ it belongs to this family. By the river ____________ many trees. The sky ____________ and the trees ____________.
|seems to be||left side||looks like||there is|
|is blue||are green||near||there are|
Now look at a second painting [Figure 2].
Write a short passage about the picture in English and read the passage aloud.
Now choose some words and phrases in the passage to leave out and mark these on your writing.
How would you adapt this activity for younger or older classes?
Using the previous activity as a guide, develop an exercise using paintings made by students that will help their English language skills. If you don’t have paintings from your students you can use pictures from magazines, newspapers or catalogues.
List the steps you would need to take to implement this activity.
Would you do it over one lesson or two lessons?
Now carry out the activity with your students. Did they enjoy it? Did all the students participate? Did you notice any students who did not participate?
This type of art activity encourages students to talk and write in English. Such activities can also help students to talk and write about bullying among students and societal biases, in a non-threatening manner. For example, a teacher can use students’ drawings largely depicting women in the kitchen and men reading newspapers to get them to think about gender stereotypes.
Drama activities also encourage students to speak and practise English. Dramatisation of the language textbook lesson is a very good method for teaching English. You may be hesitant, because you may not have any training in drama or theatre. But you do not need to be an expert in order to use drama in the classroom, as the next case study will show you.
Ms Shalini is a Class IV teacher.
I chose a short and simple lesson about a boy who boasts to his friends, one after another, about how far he can shoot his arrow. I chose it because it had characters and ready-made dialogue, and the students knew it well.
First I told the story in English, focusing on words that the students already knew such as ‘friend’, ‘laughing’, ‘mine’, ‘lucky’ and ‘quietly’. I encouraged students to join in with me as I told the story.
Then I told the students that they would do a play based on the story. The students were very excited because they had not done a play before.
I explained that there would be a part for each student. I had created some new characters: more friends for the boy, a king and a queen. I asked students for their ideas, and they suggested new characters such as a doctor, a teacher, a princess, a movie star and a monster.
I had pairs of students improvise dialogues for their parts, using as much English as they could. The students tried out different words and phrases. I was surprised to hear them using English that had not been taught to them in the classroom. For instance, one pair of students developed this dialogue from the characters in the story:
Some students were less confident in developing dialogues in English. I discussed with them, in Hindi and in English, different ways to express their ideas in English.
When the students had practised their dialogues and were happy with them, I had everyone practise their lines, speaking with more expression and gestures. I did not insist on perfect pronunciation. As the students practised, I was able to observe their English usage and confidence. I had time to make notes on their progress.
Because the class was large, I decided to have two groups so that one group could be the audience for the other and vice versa. This was good for their listening skills.
Video: Using pair work
From your textbook, select a chapter that has characters and that you could change into dialogue. Maybe you can find a chapter that already contains dialogue and characters.
Plan your lesson and use these questions to help you:
Talk with colleagues about how you could implement your plan.
‘Drama’ does not mean a perfect theatrical performance. In the language lesson, drama allows students and teachers to develop conversations, make dialogues and practise them by becoming familiar with the roles and using vocabulary that is appropriate.
Students can develop English through role play, encouraged and modelled by you. In role play, you encourage students to use English in imaginary but still familiar situations. The next case study demonstrates this.
Ms Sapna is a Class IV teacher. Students start to learn English in Class I, but when they get to Sapna’s class they generally cannot speak any English.
I wanted to develop a fun activity for students to practise English with each other. In each of the four corners of my classroom I put a small desk. On each desk I put a sign, in English:
I asked the students: What happens in these places? Who works here? What do they say? Do they say anything in English? Do they write anything in English? They had lots of ideas from their life experiences, since many people in our community use English for work.
I demonstrated how I wanted students to use these areas. I became ‘Doctor Sapna’. I sat at the desk and told students to wait for their appointment. I called one student to the desk. I asked him: ‘Are you sick? What is your problem? I will give you some medicine. You must take it three times a day.’ The student had to try to answer me as much as possible in English.
I put students into four groups, one for each role play area. I put one student in charge of each area, with the responsibility to make sure that everyone got a turn to speak and take the lead role.
To start, I asked for volunteers to lead the role play in each area. I encouraged the others to imitate them.
I helped each group, and monitored the activity. The ‘school’ area was very amusing to observe, since the students were pretending to be me! I recorded students on my mobile phone and played their words back to them, so they could hear themselves using English.
Set up a role play area in your classroom. You could use the examples in Case Study 3, or it could be a fruit shop, health clinic or bus station. Decide on the English words or sentences you want students to learn to use in these situations.
Talk to your students about these places. What do people say to each other in them? Model the language you want the students to use. It is a good idea to write these key words and phrases on the board or on a poster. For younger students you could draw a picture next to the word to help them learn the words.
Then ask your students to act in the situation. As you observe students in these areas, notice if there are students who are better English speakers. Are they helping the students who are less confident?
You can also evaluate students who show they understand but do not yet speak by nodding their head, following an instruction, or by giving one-word answers of ‘yes’ or ‘no’. If you have a mobile phone, record the students and play back the video to them.
We hope you have enjoyed this unit, and that it has given you some ideas and confidence to integrate art, craft and drama from the English textbook.
Why not plan some imaginative and interesting activities where you can practise English together with your students? When students learn English through art, craft and drama you can have them present or perform their work to the school or to parents.
Other Elementary English teacher development units on this topic are:
Teachers question their students all the time; questions mean that teachers can help their students to learn, and learn more. On average, a teacher spends one-third of their time questioning students in one study (Hastings, 2003). Of the questions posed, 60 per cent recalled facts and 20 per cent were procedural (Hattie, 2012), with most answers being either right or wrong. But does simply asking questions that are either right or wrong promote learning?
There are many different types of questions that students can be asked. The responses and outcomes that the teacher wants dictates the type of question that the teacher should utilise.Teachers generally ask students questions in order to:
Questioning is generally used to find out what students know, so it is important in assessing their progress. Questions can also be used to inspire, extend students’ thinking skills and develop enquiring minds. They can be divided into two broad categories:
Open-ended questions encourage students to think beyond textbook-based, literal answers, thus eliciting a range of responses. They also help the teacher to assess the students’ understanding of content.
Many teachers allow less than one second before requiring a response to a question and therefore often answer the question themselves or rephrase the question (Hastings, 2003). The students only have time to react – they do not have time to think! If you wait for a few seconds before expecting answers, the students will have time to think. This has a positive effect on students’ achievement. By waiting after posing a question, there is an increase in:
The more positively you receive all answers that are given, the more students will continue to think and try. There are many ways to ensure that wrong answers and misconceptions are corrected, and if one student has the wrong idea, you can be sure that many more have as well. You could try the following:
Value all responses by listening carefully and asking the student to explain further. If you ask for further explanation for all answers, right or wrong, students will often correct any mistakes for themselves, you will develop a thinking classroom and you will really knowwhat learning your students have done and how to proceed. If wrong answers result in humiliation or punishment, then your students will stop trying for fear of further embarrassment or ridicule.
It is important that you try to adopt a sequence of questioning that doesn’t end with the right answer. Right answers should be rewarded with follow-up questions that extend the knowledge and provide students with an opportunity to engage with the teacher. You can do this by asking for:
Helping students to think more deeply about (and therefore improve the quality of) their answer is a crucial part of your role. The following skills will help students achieve more:
As a teacher, you need to ask questions that inspire and challenge if you are to generate interesting and inventive answers from your students. You need to give them time to think and you will be amazed how much your students know and how well you can help them progress their learning.
Remember, questioning is not about what the teacher knows, but about what the students know. It is important to remember that you should never answer your own questions! After all, if the students know you will give them the answers after a few seconds of silence, what is their incentive to answer?
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