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April 15, 2012

How Art Helps to Teach English to ESL Students

Children inherently make connections between words and actions. When art is used as a writing prompt, both sides of the brain are engaged: the left side which commands verbal, language and logical processes as well as the right side, which guides artistic expression and creativity.  ELS students will be more likely to verbally express themselves when they are in an environment with familiar visuals- they are all looking and comprehending the same image so at that moment there is no disparity.  They are not thinking, “I don’t know what is going on and everyone else does!”  It levels the playing field and caters to the visual learner.  When students are engaged in looking at art, or better yet, using art materials, they will be more likely to talk about those materials.  For example, I have painted with ESL students where they had to ask other students for particular materials like paint, brushes, colors, water cups, newspaper, etc.  When they use the materials as they pronounce them, the connection is deeper and they will be much more likely to remember, repeat and use them in the future.

Images also encourage conversations about the subject matter. Pointing at scenes and pronouncing words help students have a visual connection to that vocabulary.  Not to mention, if they are looking at or making art in a relaxed environment, they are enjoying themselves, which makes them more receptive to internalizing information.

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