During my internship, I had realized that children in schools do not want to learn a foreign language at all. It is not interesting, but boring and too much difficult. Apparently, there is a methodological problem. Still, many teachers use traditional methods that does not satisfy modern students. I argue that using art in the ESL classroom would be beneficial for second language acquisition.
We have asked the teachers on the subject of using art. According to the poll, only 31 percent of the teachers use art in their teaching process regularly. That is regrettable, because teachers do not realize that art is a powerful teaching tool.
To clear it up, we should firstly ask a question what art is. “Art is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power” [4] This definition of art is given by oxford dictionary.
According to Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary “art is making or doing of something whose purpose is to bring pleasure to people through their enjoyment of what is beautiful and interesting, or things often made for this purpose, such as paintings, drawings, or sculptures” [5].
However, many thinkers and philosophers still argue about the definition of the word ‘art’. While some of them offer different theories of art, others say that art cannot be defined. There are a lot of art theories and all of them contribute something to the concept. To sum it up, art is the emotional product of social and historical influences that reflects outlook of an artist and was made to convey an information to other people. If it is difficult to come to an agreement about art definition, from methodological point of view, I could say that it is a helpful tool for teaching.
Vygotsky, for example, tackled the problem of traditional linear and artistic non-linear forms of thought, giving equal weight to both of them. He thought that instrumental and artistic thinking should be considered equally important forms of intelligence that use different kinds of semiotic mediation to actualize meaning. By activating mediational activity, symbol systems may stimulate covert responses such as internal schematic connections, rehearsal, and comparison, extracting and processing information in coordinate ways resulting in a synthesized process [1, 101].
Authentic art-based curriculum presupposes integration of drama, songs, pictures and video art in educational process. According to Wong-Fillmore, such a curriculum facilitates second language acquisition bringing no harm to high-order cognitive development [1, 102].
Moreover, art in teaching also positively influences cognitive development of a child, creativity, self-direction and complex thinking in particular. For example, standardized creativity test revealed that students who participated in art-based reform have more highly developed creativity. “J. Burton noted that students in high-arts groups performed better than those in low-arts groups on measures of creativity. He concluded that creativity is a "capacity" for learning that can be developed through an arts-based curriculum. In related areas, high-arts students also demonstrated better capacity than low-arts students in the areas of fluency, originality, elaboration, and resistance to closure” [2, 9].
Furthermore, arts programs develop self-assessment, organizational, and planning skills of a student. “Students in high-arts groups, compared with students in low-arts groups, also demonstrated better rapport with their teachers and more sustained focus. Such abilities help students connect with themselves, each other, and the outside world” [2, 9]. These abilities could help students in their future life.
According to A.D. Efland, development of thinking skills is connected with interpretation of symbols. As we know, art could offer a broad range of symbols. Students who are involved into the art-based curriculum learn to interpret symbols and understand abstract ideas. “Students of the visual arts, for example, learn visual problem solving by interpreting the symbolism of visual artworks. The ability to construct meaning through various representations leads to deeper, more conceptual thinking” [2, 9]. In addition, Eisner stated that the arts help representation of different ideas. If an idea is represented once, it could be developed through comparison and discussion. That in turn leads to new learning [2, 9].
Nevertheless, above-mentioned pros of a work of art depend on several factors such as principle of choosing an artefact, methodology of using it and teacher’s attitude. Firstly, let’s dwell upon the principles of selecting. While choosing a work of art the teacher should follow the principles below:
- The principle of vocabulary utilization. The work of art “must utilize vocabulary that will be new, novel, and/or of interest to them (students). If the work of art lacks “meaty” vocabulary it will not challenge these… learners.” 3,19]
- The principle of authentic material. When pupils get to know parts of a foreign culture, they widen their lingvocultural view. It satisfies pupils’ natural curiosity about everything new.
- The principle of emotional impact. This principle allows us to select from the great variety of authentic material. For example, songs with remarkable and impressive music are suitable for the ESL classroom.
- The principle of age idiosyncrasies, accessibility, individualization. The chosen work of art must be appropriate for the age of the children, their level of knowledge and individual needs. For instance, the song “old McDonald has a farm” would be inappropriate for the 10 grade students. On the contrary, difficult material may demotivate children of the lower grades.
- The principle of methodological value. Art material must be suitable for the theme of the current level of education. The rule should be followed in order to create holistic system of teaching.
Secondly, methodology of art utilization is a crucial part in implementation of the art-based curriculum. Generally, the whole process could be divided into three stages. They are preliminary, operational and conclusive stages. Each stage must be provided with appropriate activities. For example, at the preliminary stage children should analyze with the title of the work through a brainstorm in order to get ideas about the artefact they are going to deal with or, at the conclusive stage, it is essential to organize group discussions, debates, dialogues and other interesting pursuits for high-grade students. In order to engage lower level students one can give them a task to prepare comic strips or pictorial representation of the work.
Finally, good implementation of art mainly depends on creativity, enthusiasm and fantasy of the teacher. If one is eager to make one’s lessons fun and informative children will listen to him/her and be motivated to learn.
To conclude, a work of art is a versatile teaching material that can facilitate acquisition of the foreign language and all-round development of a student and bring joy simultaneously. In my opinion, art material, meeting the demands of state educational standard, must be indispensable component of the English language teaching system.