quinta-feira, 13 de junho de 2013

Art-sy way to learn English


It may be a creative craft to many but art can also be used to develop language skills.

ART-BASED activities are often mistakenly viewed by some teachers as a “recreation” or “leisure time” activity.

They see it as a much-needed “respite” period for themselves and their students.

In actuality, these activities are ideal teaching and learning tools, especially for developing English language skills.

In Early Childhood Education particularly, art should be seen as a vital, positive, learning and communication tool.

It should not serve only as an optional extra or something to do when a “diversion” or “time out” is needed from more mentally-challenging study.

Art can be used as a key medium for young learners to communicate and represent their own ideas, hidden feelings, inner emotions, past and present experiences as well as demonstrate their individual understanding of the world.

It is through art that learners are free to depict and express their personal interpretation, meaning and appreciation of people, places, things and events that are part of their immediate environment.

This can occur in a non-verbal form. Spelling skills are not required nor is a knowledge of correct grammatical structures.

Instead, the “picture” becomes the “message”, couched in a myriad of “pictorial words”.

Introducing terminology

While free artistic expression is important, art-related skills and techniques need to be taught and art-related knowledge imparted.

Over time, young learners should encounter art vocabulary such as medium, style, paint, pastel, clay, crayons, watercolour, lead pencil, charcoal, oil, acrylic, primary and secondary colours, line and texture.

Other terms that can be introduced include landscape, portrait, abstract, pop art, caricature, still life, cartoon, modern, contemporary, narrative, expressionism, classical, fine art, lithograph, sculpture, pottery and mosaic.

The advantages of the arts go well beyond appreciating the creativity of others or the personal enjoyment and satisfaction of having created something by yourself.

Artistic pursuits in a classroom can significantly add to the personal development of an individual — culturally, emotionally, cognitively, socially and even spiritually.

Art can be used to learn about the past, the present and what others think the future will bring.

It is a way of seeing the “magic” and “magnificence” of everyday things. Hidden lessons

It is through the personal encounter with works of art, such as art gallery visits, that students learn to “interpret”, to “critically analyse”, to “discern hidden and multiple meanings”, to “detect purpose” and to “respect alternative points of view”.

All these skills are “transferable” to the other art forms, ie. drama, dance, media and music. They can also be used to study an additional language such as English.

Throughout schooling, the learning of art involves students creating and reflecting on written, spoken, visual, kinaesthetic and auditory modes; either separately or in combination as multi-modal texts.

Through these experiences, students develop their abilities to listen and view attentively, and to work in metaphorical and symbolic ways.

They develop their oral skills, kinaesthetic memories and sensitivity to words.

They explore a variety of expressive forms as ways of creating content and learn to look for multiple meanings in texts.

Art is in fact a higher level or form of communication.

To this end, early childhood learners should be given the widest possible range of artistic-related encounters with examples of quality creative works.

From these experiences, children can discuss their feelings, emotions, imagination and use their communicative and interpretative skills to devise a more mature and committed approach to learning.

Skills at play

In the 4S Accelerated English Programme (4S-AEP) — six and not four Macro English Skills are taught and enhanced.

These skills are the receptive: reading, listening and viewing; and the productive: speaking, writing and interpreting.

Art is an excellent tool for teaching and enhancing the additional personal English language skills of viewing and interpreting.

Viewing a painting, be it a portrait, still life or a landscape, involves voluntary and involuntary personal discernment.

Interpretation comes into play as mental questions are asked: What am I seeing? What is it about? What does it mean?

When discussion ensues, speaking or writing is involved, thus putting in use four of the six Macro Skills.

The ability to “interpret” artistic images can be transferred to English “text” and “sounds”. Meanwhile, the quest for new information about English words and concepts that children need to express their feelings and ideas about particular art works can turn into a fulfilling lesson.

Comprehension talents are also enhanced while the opportunity to delve into a world of different visual experiences beyond the classroom and local community are maximised beyond measure.

In time, as the artistic encounters become more regular, varied and sophisticated, the personal development and social skills of the learners can reach new, higher and positive levels.

Self-confidence and self-esteem are clear visual results as is the positive attitudinal shift when learners are required to work cooperatively, sharing resources and acknowledging the contribution of others.

> Keith Wright is the author and creator of the 4S Approach To Literacy and Language (4S) — a modern, innovative and proven method of accelerating the learning of English.

The 4S methodology and the associated Accelerated English Programme (AEP) mentioned in this fortnightly column are now being used internationally to enhance the English proficiency of people with different competency levels.



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