May 19th is National Drawing Day (at least in Ireland) and while it might seem to odd to use drawing in language teaching, there are a number of benefits to incorporating art in your language lessons. Art can be a source of discussion as students describe an interpret works of art. Students can also discuss and explain their own works of art and how they created them. Drawings and visuals can also be a way to present new vocabulary. Many teachers use pictures to help explain a new word. But a picture showing new vocabulary in context gets students engaging at a deeper level. This in turn improves their memory. Art also provides more for students to talk about.  And drawing is a way for students who lack vocabulary to express themselves.

Our 60 Positive Activities for Kids and 60 Positive Activities for Adults books are wonderful opportunities to mix art with language. Each page of these collections of prompts is an invitation to draw and sketch before moving on to more language-focused activities! We’ve discussed how in this post on these positive prompts for students!

Creating art can even be a way of reacting to story, or a form of prewriting. Stories Without End by Taylor Sapp is a collection of unfinished short stories and is full of ways to incorporate art and drawing in language teaching, giving students many opportunities to create visual as well as written projects.

Ideas for using Drawing in Language Teaching

  • Get students to play a drawing game like Pictionary to practice vocabulary.
  • Use doodling as a kind of soft start to class or a check-in. Students could draw how they feel, how they feel about the homework, what they look forward to doing in class, or more.
  • Have students draw a goal of theirs in English. Let them visualize what life will be like when they finish their studies (or maybe just a goal for the month or term)
  • Let students create a comic or storyboard. This is great pre-writing, but it’s also a way to make writing narratives accessible to students with limited language.
  • Have students create their own emojis or icons to illustrate their writing!
  • Have students draw a selfie and use it to introduce themselves
  • Give students a writing or discussion prompt and let them respond by drawing their response first. Then they can tell label or caption the drawing, tell a partner what they drew and take questions. Now they are ready to write a longer response on the topic, armed with vocabulary and some ideas for details to fill in!
  • Have students draw a scene from a story and explain why they chose that scene. What visual details would they add and why? This helps them process how authors build mood with small details. It can also help students figure out the action of the story, and what they may or may not have understood.
  • Turning a story into a comic or storyboard for a film is a great exercise for exploring fiction. Getting students to put a story into a new medium
  • An idea taken directly from Stories Without End by Taylor Sapp is to create a poster for the story in the style of a movie poster. Again, this gets students crossing genre boundaries. It also forces them to pick what they think is most important. Or the most appealing in the story.

I’d love to hear your ideas for incorporating drawing into language teaching! Leave a comment!

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