Saturday, 29 July 2017

A vocabulary game using paintings

In previous posts I have discussed the use of paintings in writing and speaking.
It takes an amount of time to search for paintings that will inspire the students to write or talk, but it is well worth the effort especially if the painting has a more universal appeal.

However, one can use paintings in less sophisticated and more spontaneous ways without detracting from the usefulness and effectiveness of the activity.

I had this brainwave while I was looking at some seascapes and felt drawn into them. Here is the game or activity – whatever one might choose to call it. 

The activity can be used with students of all ages who have had at least three or four years of English. I imagine it might have a special appeal to adults because of their knowledge of the world.

The teacher picks a few paintings, diverse in theme, atmosphere and abstraction and shows them one by one to the students asking them to write down a word that they associate with the painting; one must make it clear that the word need not be descriptive; it can illustrate the atmosphere or a thought the painting brought to mind.

The higher the level of the students the more specified the rules can be and the more narrowed down the activity. For instance, with advanced students the teacher might ask for words that are related to an emotion (happiness, joy, sorrow and so on) or a descriptive term referring to a particular feature of the painting. There are plenty of choices depending on the paintings.

The activity would be all the more relevant following a revision of vocabulary that the students were asked to do at home.

When the students have all written their words down, they can compare them and perhaps explain their ideas to each other with the teacher as a facilitator.

Here is an example though the potential is enormous depending on the teacher’s and students’ enthusiasm.

Ballet Dancers by Constantin Piliuta


A Bay by Lev Lagorio



The Bohemian by William Adolphe Bouguereau




Tree and Houses by Amedeo Modigliani 




Whistlejacket by George Stubbs




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