Art in the ESL

Tate Modern quiz.ppt

This is a short quiz on Tate Modern which you can use in your class. You can find it here

Tate Modern quiz.ppt

but also here.




Artify your Summer Course Activities for Museum/Gallery visits

(This article was first published in the May – June 2017 issue of the ELTA Serbia newsletter ELTA-Newsletter-May-June-2017)

In summer courses, and not only, museum and gallery visits are part of the outdoor activities planned for the students. This article presents activities that teachers can prepare before, during and after museum and gallery visits with their students (these visits could be part of a summer course but not necessarily). The idea is that you motivate your students to learn more about the art resources in museums and galleries while  teaching them English at the same time, as well as activating their imagination. Hopefully, the activities described here will succeed in encouraging your students to experience these places as ‘living organisms’, full of possibilities for fun and not just as ‘sacred places’ that are unapproachable.




This picture is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

The success of your visit depends on how it is integrated into the learner’s classroom work.

  • Be prepared! Learn about what you will see beforehand through pictures, research and discussion.
  • Get the museum trip off to a good start with a simple quiz show. You can also find some ready-made quizzes that you can use (the British Museum quizzz, n/d; Galleries – British Museum and Tate Modern , n/d; History quiz/Tour the National Gallery , n/d).
  • Remember to try to have a kind of competition in class to make it more challenging.
  • Be selective about what to look at on the visit – spending more time looking at a small selection of objects is more rewarding than trying to take in a large selection of objects in less detail.
  • Use materials designed to support ESOL learners participating on tours and workshops led by the Museum or make your own.
  • Make sure you already know the museum and its permanent collection before you plan any activities. If not, plan a visit to it yourself some time before you take your students there to familiarize yourself with it.
  • Make the activities fun and interactive.


Materials you can create

True/False Worksheets

Photos with museum objects

Museum maps

Find Someone/Something Who/Which….

Museum postcards


So, let us have a closer look at some specific activities we are suggesting you could use in your class.


Activity 1


Scavenger hunts 

Target level/audience : all

Materials : a list of items/objects the students have to search for


Yayoi Kusama  By Garry Knight –, CC BY 2.0,   


In a scavenger hunt, participants look for a series of items on a list, usually provided by the teacher.


Before the visit  :

  • Divide the class into two teams.
  • Give each team the list of things they must “hunt” for during their Museum visit. Tell the students to go and find the things on the list.

During the visit :

  • Every time they see something, they have to put a tick next to the word and note where they have found it. They might also have to keep some more notes next to it. Or you can ask them specific questions to answer which require certain details, e.g. something missing from a sculpture, the title of a painting, the name of an artist, etc.


Below you can find some sample lists of things that students could look for. Adapt the list according to the place/venue they are going to.

  • a specific artist :give them a specific name and ask them to write some bio details, write down 2-3 of his/her artworks that they liked in their visit
  • a specific era artwork : a pop art painting, an Impressionist painting, an Egyptian art artwork, etc. and , of course, they have to write down the title and the artist’s name
  • a specific painting, photograph, sculpture, etc. : Ask them to find a Warhol painting, or a self-portrait, a seascape, an urban scene, a landscape, etc.
  • Unknown words:  ask them to find and write down at least five words for things in English that they found in the museum/gallery they didn’t know before – they then have to record the new words and find their explanation.
  • People: find in a painting/photograph a young couple, a mother and child, etc. and then write a short description of each person (tall, short, clothes…)


You can also try to find  ready-made treasure hunt lists online which you can use  or it can be set as an example for you to create your own (Home to Home, n/d).


Also, if they cannot find the artworks they have to look for, some suggestions are :

  • advise them to ask for directions at the information desk  or generally ask the museum staff (that way they will engage in a conversation possibly with native speakers and practice their speaking skills)  ,
  • use a floor plan which all museums/galleries distribute for free at the entrance.

After the visit :  have students report back what they have found. Note also that Ss can bring their cameras to the scavenger hunt. They can use them to take photos and provide proof of their findings.


Activity 2


Draw your favourite artwork


Target audience/learners  : 11-18+

Materials : PCs, internet connection, smart phones, A4 white papers with or without the simple template shown below


Before the outing:  Ss can research any information they can about the museum/gallery they are going to visit on the internet. For example, let us consider Tate Modern as their next destination. Ask them to google search some practical information about the gallery (location, year it was established, etc.). Show them the gallery’s website and ask them to browse through the collection. Then, divide them in two teams and show them the quiz in the ppt. (Papageorgiou, 2017) .The team that gives the most correct answers , receives a small prize!

During the visit:  tell them you would like them  to imagine that they can take one piece of art home with them. They have to draw the piece they will choose and explain why they chose this piece of art (they can also take a photo of their chosen object and draw it later at home).

After the visit : class feedback- put Ss drawings on the walls around the class,  Ss go around read the descriptions and vote for the most interesting description.


Activity 3

Modern Art Gallery

Target level : 12+

Materials : cards to be completed (on one side the photo of the artwork is printed and on the other side there are some sections to be completed)


Before their visit : give your Ss the titles of specific artworks and ask them to find them in the Gallery and complete the cards that accompany the photos. Pre-teach them some expressions that they might need to use, e.g. “This makes me feel…”, “This piece is beautiful / ugly/ unusual/ extraordinary / different ”, “What the artist is trying to say is….”, etc.

During the visit : the Ss have to locate the specific artworks. The details on the cards have to be completed with the thoughts that the specific artworks create to them.  How can the Ss write their opinion on the artworks?

After the visit : the Ss have to present their cards to the rest of the group and  talk about their experience, if it was positive or negative and why.


Some examples :




My feelings:



Activity 4


Picture Story


Target level : 12+

Materials : an object/mascot of their choice, a camera


Before the visit :

  • Divide Ss into small groups.
  • Each student will need to choose an object or a mascot.

During the visit : Ss are going to take pictures with the object/mascot in different rooms/floors during their museum/gallery visit. Give them examples of pictures they need to take.

After the visit : When Ss are back in class, ask them to create a picture story using the photographs they have taken and explain more about the different sections of the museum they visited and the exhibits. Explain to them this is not going to be a simple ‘diary’ but they actually have to create a short story about their visit with them being the protagonists. You can upload their photo stories on an app like pinterest or padlet.


Activity 5


Video Diary


Target level : 12+

Materials : a camera or tablet, a PC, a projector, internet connection


Before the visit : Students are told that they will be conducting video diaries. Discuss with them what specific section/room they would be interested in presenting. They are going to be placed in pairs/groups, they can record a commentary of what they are doing/seeing.  Help them to research this area more and learn more about the exhibits. For this reason, they can visit the museum/gallery’s website and online collection. Give them some time for their preparation   

During the visit: Pupils record commentaries on their phones.

After the visit: Using a computer and a projector, different groups take it in turns to show their video footage.  



All in all, there are a lot of resources out there already so, if you are interested in preparing visits to art places and create activities to complement these, you can definitely find plenty. While some of them are ready-made and can fit the needs of an ESL class, most of them are not. There is no reason you cannot use the latter ones either though because what you need to do is set your objectives, try to find related material and adapt it to your particular needs each time. All museum and galleries worldwide have their own website and most of them have already started, for some years now, to share educational resources. The only thing you have to do is browse through and find what you are looking for. Here are some useful links for you to use :




Art in ELT : An interview with Chrysa Papalazarou


Art does not reproduce what we see; rather, it makes us see.

Paul Klee

I met Chrysa Papalazarou, online first (through social media) and then in person, early this year, and we both thought that we had a lot in common, especially our love for art. Chrysa has been using art in her English class in a systematic way for the last 3 years and has created two blogs for this purpose. Her work caught my attention immediately because it was  the first time I saw a colleague use a systematic research-based framework to ‘marry’ ELT and the Arts. The framework in discussion is Visible Thinking which stems from Project Zero (Harvard University). Even more intriguing though, is the fact that through these lesson ‘proposals’ , as she likes to call them, Chrysa tries to raise her students’ awareness on contemporary issues such as War and Peace, bullying, disabilities, etc.

The following is a video Chrysa created to talk about her work :


  • Chrysa, I would like to welcome you and thank you for this interview. First of all, please tell us a few things about yourself.

I work as an English teacher in a state primary school in Greece. I have also worked in secondary education and as an educator with adults from socially vulnerable groups.

  • I would like to ask you about your blogs and how they started.

There are 2 blogs I have worked on this year: A personal blog (Art Least and a class blog (Art in the English Class ). I started elaborating on the idea of a personal blog, to share things I have worked on or would be working on, last summer after coming across Kieran Donaghy’s Film English, a website I love.

The Art in the English Class blog was a way to publicize students’ work during the project; a place where they could watch again the audio visual material used in class, their own photos from class work, share and read extracts from their learning journals, and an attempt towards more interaction through their comments.

  • Why ESL and Art?

Art is an extremely effective way of realizing educational aims and improving the quality of learning; language learning alike. I work a lot with paintings, photography and video. I try to use visual stimuli which provide an aesthetic alternative from commercial standards. I also try to choose topics that teach values. I am worried to see children so prone to acquiring a pseudo visual literacy devoid of meanings, true information and feelings. Media over exposure to consumerism ideals is responsible for that. I believe this approach enhances their ability to evaluate the huge amount of visual information they receive daily. It also helps them become active readers of images. Coupled with the powerful effect of thinking routines it can stimulate curiosity, imagination, creativity, and develop their critical thinking skills alongside their English language skills.

images (1)

  • What is your relation to art? Have you studied art in any way?

My relation to art is that of someone who appreciates art and looks at it with wonder just like my students. There are always so many things to discover.

  • Do you  think that any ESL teacher without any specific knowledge of art could use these lesson plans? How could they benefit?

Yes, the lesson proposals in Art Least provide step by step guidance. I use the term proposals instead of lesson plans. This is deliberate. To my mind, it means a greater degree of flexibility on how to make use of them. Someone may decide to experiment with the entire idea of the proposal or choose one or more steps and work on them. I was happy, for example, when I got feedback from colleagues who had tried out successfully in their teaching situations specific steps. The greatest benefit is in experimentation per se; in the will to try something different, a change for them and their students.

  • What about the students? How interested were they in these lessons?

The students were very interested and this was really rewarding. Working without textbooks, team work, ample of visual stimuli, meaningful themes, activities that ignited their curiosity, publicizing our work through the blog were some of the sources of their enthusiasm. They also loved the thinking routines we used, and this validates the Making Thinking Visible approach in that it fosters engagement and motivation.

  • Are you going to continue with your project next year?

This is an excellent question I keep asking myself, as well. I honestly do not know. The Art in the English Class Project has been a wonderful experience, enriching for students and me alike. But no two classes, no two projects are ever the same. I will be revisiting this question in September.

  • Thank you, Chrysa, for agreeing to talk to me and for your time.

Thank you, Vicky!

Anyone more interested in Chrysa’s implementation of the Visible Thinking Approach as well as Project Zero itself might find useful the links below.

Useful links

  1. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum / Project Zero Educational Collaboration in

  2. Papalazarou, Chrysa. The Art of ELT & the Power of Thinking Routines in

  3. Visible Thinking’ in

Listen to my painting

This is a new series of activities about art paintings and sound effects.

In this activity students will explore sound effects and storytelling. They will compose a sound effect sequence from a picture stimulus and tell a story. They will have to find and select the sound effects on the internet, build up their own sequence and create their narrative and share it with the rest of the students who will have to guess which picture the sequence relates to and why.

Lesson Plan

Paintings and sound effects


Language level: Intermediate – Upper Intermediate


Learner type: Adults


Time: 60 minutes


Activity: Listening to sounds, narrating and writing stories

Language:  1) use of the simple past, 2) you might want to pre-teach some structures, such as :

It might be…

I think it is possible that…

Could it be …?

I believe it is..

Skills : The primary aim of this activity is to encourage students to use their imagination to build up a story with the use of sound and image.

Materials: Sound effects websites, art paintings/photos

Prepare a selection of pictures. In this case, it is : Matisse (Dance I), Edward Hopper (New York Movie) and David Hockney (My parents), Edward Hopper (Night Windows), Henri Rousseau (Luxemburg Gardens), Raph Steiner ( American Rural Baroque). Depending on the size of the class, of course, they could be more.

Henri Matisse  Dance (I)Ed. Hopper New York movie


download (1)


download (2)

Ralph Steiner American Rural Baroque



It could be art paintings or art photos– in this case, you can browse through the various museum sites, such as the MOMA or the Getty museum )

You can also suggest some sites with sound effects which the students can use, such as : , , , etc.

Step 1

Divide your students in pairs and give each of the pairs a painting or photo. Tell them that they have to come up with sound effects to fit the pictures. Using the painting as a point of reference, they need to build up a story around it. (Show them, for example, Edward Hopper’s ‘New York Movie’. They should come up with the sound of a movie playing, the opening of a cinema door, the sound of the velvet curtain, the walking of a person on a thick carpet, etc.) . Also, tell your students NOT to reveal their pictures to the other groups/pairs.

Step 2

Allow each pair of students time to discuss a short narrative for their pictures. Tell them that they have to write down only the basic parts of their story and not all the details.

Step 3

Let them explore ways of expressing it using sounds. Ask them to find the MP3 files of the sound effects on a relevant site.

Step 4

After they have prepared their sound sequences, let the groups share them with the rest of the class. Now it’s also time to reveal all the paintings.

Step 5

Ask the rest of the class to guess which picture each pair of students used. Encourage the other students to describe the elements that led them to this conclusion.

Step 6

Now, ask them to explain the story that each sound-sequence think that it narrates.

Follow up

  • Get the students to explore each other’s stories and decide who made the better sound adaptation

  • Encourage students to research online more about the paintings or photos and the real story behind them (if there is one documented, but most of the times there is one and that’s why using paintings for this purpose is ideal, they can be a starting point for comparisons between the initial idea behind the painting and the story learners made up)
  • Ask the students, in the end, to write their stories in a more elaborate way.