English Language; Drama & Speech; Social Etiquette. Est. 1986, Hong Kong


20 November 2015

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words!

Famous works of art often tell a story – and can be used to teach language.  They release the learner’s imagination, allowing their mind to wander over the story behind the image, the use of colour, what the artist might have been thinking when he created the picture . . . and so are a wonderful starting point for discussion and conversation.

Works of art can also be used to develop descriptive writing and the correct use of adjectives, adverbs and for exploring the senses.  Below, are two ways that artworks can be used in the classroom:

(1) Take a traditional real-life painting:

Hide the title of the painting! – instead encourage learners to make up a story that fits the image on the canvas. They can chat about the value of  introducing a narrator into the scene, and then they can tell the story from that person’s perspective.  They can decide whether to tell the story in an intimate way, in the first person, or in a more distant way by using the third person.

At the end of the task, tell the learners the title of the painting, and see how well their own stories fitted in with the artist’s title.  This will lead to a lot of discussion about the real story behind the painting – they may decide their own story is better than the originator’s!

(2) Take a modern painting – like Picasso’s “Woman”:

It’s fun to create a poem that matches the painting. But, before writing, everyone in the class can discuss what kind of words they could use to describe the painting. They can discuss why the artist wanted to paint the character in this way. It is fun to link the colours of the painting with adjectives and similés to create a poem filled with colour.

Have fun practising English with the help of famous artists!