fruit-tree concept

– motivation in the EFL classroom

Back in the Art-CLIL Classroom

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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.



Author: suevernon

British born, artist, EFL and Art teacher in a bilingual primary and secondary school in Germany. Main interest: increasing motivation in EFL classroom through Storytelling based Art-CLIL.

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