fruit-tree concept

– motivation in the EFL classroom

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Why storytelling? Why visuals?

Storytelling is important for several reasons:

a) It makes use of the unavoidable element of suspended belief ever present in the EFL classroom. Storytelling turns this around into making the language  authentic within the context.

b) The skills needed within storytelling are used everywhere – from making general conversation basically more interesting to selling a product. It allows us to use vocabulary and thoughts which may normally have no place in the classroom.

c) It aids problem solving skills by putting yourself into someone else’s shoes, developing the ability to be able to see something from another perspective which is, indeed, an important element.

Graphic novels aid the development of visual literacy, a competence which is becoming more and more important. We have to decode pictures and set them in relationship to the text: videos, film, photos, illustrations.

A visual could be used as a straightforward opportunity to speak. However, to simply request a picture description would mean a loss of many other opportunities for creativity: Prof. Holzbrecher (Fotos und Fotographieren im Unterricht: Oldenbourg Praxis: 6-2013, p.9) comments that there is mostly an analytical approach used in the school context whilst the translation of pictures into another aesthetic  form of expression leads to a deeper understanding of the relationships behind the image – or formed by the juxta position of images and text. Of course, for the less confident speaker/learner, images offer an opportunity to ease into the language – especially if the picture is a personal one which they would like to share. Visuals help to activate cognitive schemata.

Never before has it been so easy to document whatever is around us – heuristic function (Holzbrecher, ibid) – and to generate new ideas. Excursions can be documented and reported upon. A sequence of photos ( or other visuals) may lead to a greater degree of creativity than a film sequence as there are more gaps to be filled as there could be in a comic, the viewer having to guess the action between the panels.

Niki de Saint Phalle wrote short poems which she illustrated. The students filled the lines with their own visual ideas.



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Challenging upbringing strategies…”Millenials are hard to work with”

This may not have so much to do with teaching English via Art but it does deal with the question of increasing our expectations of students in the classroom. Both language teaching and Art lessons need a degree of practice before the student can reap any great fruits – there are no real quick kicks. It is important to get the praise balance right and certainly not praise lack of effort.
Simon Sinek on Millenials (27.12.16)

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Evaluation Criteria for Art-CLIL – getting us on the same page


Above, you will find a document intended to aid structuring evaluation. You will see that there is no evaluation of language. In higher classes,however, when presentations etc. may become part of the evaluation, the language becomes important if the content cannot be communicated adequately. However, if the message is clear and it is only a question of grammar and misspelling, there should not be any noticeable deduction, although misspelling could be seen as a lack of care in the preparation.

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Back in the Art-CLIL Classroom

Doesn’t time fly? In the last couple of years (!) I have been taking ownership of my new post at a school and am actually able to put my money where my mouth is. I have taken over 5 classes from year 4 to year 9 in Art-CLIL, as well as English classes.

Meanwhile, I have been collecting a lot of experience, developing material and adjusting it accordingly but haven’t had any time to document it here.

Working in a small school, where there is little to no teamwork within the art department because I am the Art department and have a colleague in the primary school who teaches Art in years 1-3, I am collaborating with colleagues from sister-schools with an aim to standardize – at least within our schools – for example, our evaluation criteria. As there is very little material on the market, we shall also be developing and sharing our resources.

It isn’t always necessary to reinvent the wheel. There is age-appropriate material available but it does have to be translated or adapted accordingly  (scaffolding) which takes time and effort. This is what I have been up to in the last couple of years! We also have to take the language aspect into consideration. Art-CLIL is not just Art in English, neither is it EFL with painting. It is a regular Art class but more thought is put into working with and incorporating {English] text/language than perhaps in an L1 Art class, but without this becoming an elephant in the room. I am misusing this metaphor a little: not only should the language not become an embarrassing element which should be there but is ignored by everyone, neither should it steal so much space and attention that it stifles the main aim of nurturing creativity within the classroom situation.

The Art classroom becomes a space of opportunity for the students to experience the language in action. However, most importantly, the enjoyment and enthusiasm of being creative and solving problems (because that is actually why Art is so important in the curriculum) should always be in the forefront.

I have very interesting, if disparate, learning groups: year 4 is used to 60% of all lessons being held in English and they have absolutely no problem interacting with me or content in English. We can take a story, for example, which they listen to and then use as a basis for their own picture, either as an illustration or just inspiration. Year 5s, start at grammar level. Some may come from our primary school and are quite fluent but others come from other schools and are still quite reticent. Year 6 is similar but it starts to become apparent who is more confident and developing their skills and who is developing avoidance strategies. Year 7 is a Realschulklasse and they may try and avoid speaking English – especially those who are new in year 7 and were not used to a higher level of English usage outside of the EFL-classroom. Year 9 is also still in the Realschulsystem but the students accept the use of English outside of the EFL-classroom and the newer students seem to embrace the challenge. Of course, by year 9, the students have chosen their roles, either as the diligent worker, willing to take on a challenge or as the avoider, who claims not to be good at anything.


This week, we had the chance to visit an exhibition “Niki de Saint Phalle und das Theater – At Last I found the Treasure”.

img_1285 This was treasure for me: an exhibition nearby and the guided tours of the exhibition were held in English! This exhibition has been a wonderful resource inspiring us to form Nanas from salt dough, reliefs from papier mâché, print monsters and snakes, paint dream friezes, create a theatre in a shoe box.img_1351

As a preparation for the exhibition, I watched a BBC TV documentary about artists from 1966-1993, in which many artists, in original footage, spoke about their works. Niki de Saint Phalle was briefly mentioned, but, at least, it served to put her work into an art historical context. I nearly always show films with the English subtitles as this aids understanding.