Friday, 7 April 2017

Paintings in teaching 1

Teaching language means really teaching anything that can be put in words, and this comprises the whole range of arts and sciences. I have often mulled over the question of how a student’s general knowledge and sensitivity to their own language determines how much they can learn in a foreign language.

The answer is obvious: the more content there is the more words you will need to clothe it and the more sophisticated the structures.  Students who read books normally perform better in all four skills, notably in writing.

The ability of a language teacher to intervene in the overall scheme of things at schools is almost zero. However, I find that there are ways in which we can provide stimuli for our students to broaden their horizons and excite their curiosity for learning.

Paintings make great springboards for writing or discussion while at the same time they may serve to introduce students to art.

 Depending on what the painting depicts, you could approach it in different ways. You might want to focus on vocabulary development or on a particular grammatical pattern. The possibilities are endless exactly like the paintings.

I will begin with a painting by one of my favourite painters, Frederick Childe Hassam. It is called Moonlight on the Sound, and it has a calming, even mesmerising effect on me.

 After allowing some time for the students to have a close look at the image, you could do the following or any of the following depending on your group and aims:

Ask the students to think of other compound words with “light” (sunlight, twilight, candlelight, daylight, floodlight, spotlight etc)

Teach the phrasal verb “make out” and ask what they would be able to make out if they stood on the shore, if they made part of this seascape.

Could they see the hues of blue? Could they hear the lapping of the waves? Could they smell the salt of the sea?

Refer the students to the colour thesaurus for a first acquaintance with the wealth of words for hues of blue.

Give the students the following words and ask them to write a poem:
sail, float, lull,  effortless,  fade

Introduce a sea poem. There are plenty of them.
Here is one:

The sea is never still. 
It pounds on the shore 
Restless as a young heart, 

The sea speaks 
And only the stormy hearts 
Know what it says: 
It is the face 
of a rough mother speaking. 

The sea is young. 
One storm cleans all the hoar 
And loosens the age of it. 
I hear it laughing, reckless. 

They love the sea, 
Men who ride on it 
And know they will die 
Under the salt of it 

Let only the young come, 
Says the sea. 

Let them kiss my face 
And hear me. 
I am the last word 
And I tell 
Where storms and stars come from. 

By Carl Sandburg

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