Blog 6: Teaching ESL Through Arts

As an artist, I suddenly had this question in mind:
Could the use of arts be efficient to teach English as a second language?

I was surprised to realize a lot of information mentioning that this approach as very efficient.
Here are some ideas of activity that caught my attention…
To that, I will add the electronic devices avenue that I would take to improve even more students’ ESL learning, but also improve my own teaching.


“Findings reveal that unstructured art periods lowered the affective filter of language acquisition and led to greater ease in language acquisition for ELL students.”


So, if students feel more comfortable and welling to begin a discussion in English through unstructured artwork, as a teacher, I would integrate an art activity to make them practice free English expression while exploring their art interest. I would make them choose an artist of their choice through Google image, and let them get inspired from him or her for a further personal artistic project. Internet is the most efficient technic for image research that I know, and I think it is important that students learn how to use it properly while they are very young as it will help them in all their life.

They will also choose the medium of their choice through a limited selection like watercolor, Acrylic, and pastel for example. The exploration will be the goal of this project as I really believe that arts is a great way to express our personality, and find our own identity. Using English will be an additional and important way to orally express themselves. I think that this opportunity to unify arts and speaking through a project will have very positive effects on their life in general.

Gathering information about this artist would be the first step of this activity. Thus, from the beginning of this project, they will be aware about key works that they will need to use during their artwork for discussion with other classmates. There, I will show them how to use valuable online translators like Google translator, and Reverso. They are easy and fast, and with a good supervision before and during using it, I will certainly give them the chance to master an essential internet tool. Students will learn by trying, get more confident, and the use of this tool will become natural and so helpful in many situations. 

I really believe that all students will be more ready for open discussion during an artistic creation if they choose an artist of their choice. Also, I this participation will widely improve their oral ability in English. Through an activity like this one, they will also learn new English words from each other if they work around a table, facing each other. Their artistic abilities in drawing or painting will improve as well. It is a great idea to improve English where the artwork is only an intermediate. They won’t be evaluated on their technique or artwork result, but mainly on their participation in English through the activity.

Here, the computer could come as an interesting option for students whose would like to use programs like Photoshop, Paint, or others, to realize their artistic creation. I could certainly help them with my formation in visual arts, what could provide to some of them a good occasion to discover, and improve their interest for this kind of electronic work. Also, as many things in life are about electronic devices, and programs, it will help them to become at once more comfortable with the art program used, but also with other most common programs because the creators, or programmer, basically used the same kind of applications and tools. As a teacher, I will open their eyes on many new technology options in arts.


“Learning English through a work of art allows students not only to utilize grammar and vocabulary but also to use their creativity, which is a fundamental joy of using a language.”

An other possible activity would be to ask them to talk about a piece of art of their choice. They could learn many useful words: what they see on the painting (people, animals, actions, colors, etc.), what they feel about it (emotions, feeling, impressions, etc.), what they like and why, etc. I would also present this activity as a free discussion between team of their choice. The goal would be to make them participate as much as possible. I really think that they could improve a lot their level of proficiency in English, and their self confidence using the language.

In this activity, I will also teach to students how to use Online translators, and Google image for images and pictures’ researches.


“Let’s think of all the words that come up to your mind when thinking about ART.”


Now, a very different approach that I really enjoyed myself during a the SPEAK day we had last semester is to create art from related words. The idea is that in team, students write everything that comes to their mind about a specific topic like “Arts” and create an original visual. First, I would ask them to do 10 minutes of free writing (they can write in any languages), and they will need to translate every word in English with an Online translator before the next step. They can help each other. Second, they will have to gather all words of the team together, and use them to create an image of they choice. It is fun, different, stressless, and most of all, it can be a good occasion to practice English by sharing, learning and using new words.

This activity will be a very good occasion for me to teach them how to use basic functions in Photoshop, Paint, or other arts program. They could include related images or pictures from some Google Image research. The tasks could be devised through students. One student could be looking for images while the other begin the design with the selected words.

4… and more!

“The muppets, songs, and animation made learning accessible…”


I could buy some muppets at the Dollar store, and ask students to produce a short exchange between their muppets. I think it could be a nice activity with a lot of fun. It would promote their decision-taking as they choose their muppets, and their topic, but also help them to learn new words while creating the scenario. They will develop their oral expression in English as they present it to their classmates. So, I think it is the kind of activity that is original and that promotes the use of English in a less stressful environment.

In this activity, I would provide cameras so the students could tape everything instead or presenting in at the front of the class. In they do it with friends, the stress with be even less present and the pleasure of using English as a second language will be increased.


The good results arising from an art activity using electronic devices in English classes:

• Students become more self-confident in English, in arts, and electronic devices like computers, Internet, softwares, and cameras;
• Students increase their sense of accomplishment through all tasks as they will learn a lot;
• Students quickly establish an higher level of English proficiency while because they practice it in an environment with a low level of anxiety;
• Students become more knowledgeable about arts in general (artists, artistic movement, and creation + artist software tools);
• Students improve their capacity for decision-making while working with others. They become more cooperative to complete their tasks.


I think that for every age group, arts and electronic devices make a very good team that bring, and keep attention from students in a English classroom.

Students improve their English proficiency through artistic creation, their knowledge of electronic devices while exploring simple and useful tools, but also, they increase their self expression through a favorable stressless environment, which is very important.


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