Using arts and crafts in the classroom can be an excellent way to facilitate language learning with young learners. 

Arts and crafts with young learners - resources article

Below are some reasons why these types of activities can enrich the learning experience for your students, followed by some practical considerations I bear in mind when teaching English through arts and crafts.

  • Why I use arts and crafts
  • Considerations
  • Conclusion


Why I use arts and crafts
For mixed age and level classes arts and crafts activities can supplement a course book which isn't always appropriate for all students.

  • I get students to work on projects in groups with a mixture of levels. For example, if students are creating a graffiti wall, then those with a lower level work on designing a 'tag' while higher levels write an accompanying text about the history of graffiti tags.
  • Arts and crafts can be a great way to include cross-curricular activities in the English language classroom. Students can incorporate drama skills using masks they have made for role plays. They can use their knowledge of geography to make flag posters. Printing images found on the Internet for displays calls on students' computer skills.
  • I find that teamwork, class cohesion and sharing are promoted if students have to work together to complete an art project and that making something in class is a more creative and productive treat than video.
  • You can appeal to the competitive urge in many students by getting them to produce art work for competition, e.g., design a Christmas card or school magazine cover. This also looks good on the walls as do posters, photo stories, plasticine animals and all other finished products that can be displayed. I find that brightening up a classroom with students' work is also something that parents appreciate on open days.
  • Kinaesthetic learners who learn best by moving around and Visual / Spatial learners, who love making things will find arts and crafts activities motivating. Less academic students can shine as you don't have to know the past continuous to be good at cutting and sticking.
  • I find arts and crafts useful for recycling language. You can use a wall display to revise vocabulary as a warmer. Students look at it for 30 seconds then try to remember what they've seen with their chairs turned round.


Considerations
It's useful to show students an example of the end product. They will then have a clear idea of what they are going to make. I've learnt from experience that you should try the activity yourself first. Make sure that a resources book or course book activity isn't too complicated or time consuming.

  • To maximise use of English I elicit, pre-teach and practise language needed for the activity and for using the finished product first:
    • Can I have the scissors please?
    • tear
    • fold
    • glue
    • it's your turn, etc.
    Then I circulate, monitor and prompt.
  • I get the students to use the end product for pair work and group work, e.g. students compare their thumbprint stories then ask and answer questions about the stories. I demonstrate this earlier (using my own thumbprint story) and elicit questions onto the board. The students can use these questions as prompts.
  • It's important to prepare activities for early finishers. You could make a wordsearch with vocabulary from the activity. The students could start their homework, read a book or help others. I try to include a round-up or feedback task. If the students have produced something for a wall display, elicit and write on the board comments they could make about other posters. For example;
    • Fantastic
    • It's ok
    • I don't really like this one
    Then students stick on post-its with comments.
  • I sometimes break a project down into sections, over a number of classes. On a summer course we spent ten minutes a day on a class collage for a stage backdrop.
  • Tidying up is another time consideration. I allow about 5 minutes for this at the end of a session and allocate tasks to different students. Having a 'tidying up' song can be part of your class routine for small children. For example 'tidy up, tidy up, tidy up' or 'put the rubbish in the bin, in the bin' sung to any tune works well and speeds things up.
  • I think it's important to remember that some people don't like or are embarrassed about drawing. Think about using cut outs from magazines or printing images from the Internet.

 

Conclusion
Arts and crafts in the English classroom covers a wide area from simple activities such as cut and paste posters to more complicated projects such as making papier mache maracas to use for the school show. I find that appropriacy, preparation and clarity of target language usually ensure a successful activity and lots of fun in the classroom.

If you have any suggestions or tips for using Arts and crafts in the class you would like to share on this site, email us and put 'Arts and Crafts' in the subject line.

Sally Trowbridge

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Comments

Very interesting article. In my teaching english workshops I tell tales and I let the children make easy puppets so they can do their own puppet show. They learn a lot while having lots of fun indeed.

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