DEBATE : Is Graffiti a form of Art or Vandalism ?

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By Vicky Papageorgiou

The classroom debate is a highly useful tool for a teacher. It provides the students with an excellent opportunity to improve their fluency skills and to extend their vocabulary while, at the same time, discussing about complex contemporary issues and developing the students’ critical thinking skills. If organised carefully, classroom debates are something your students will look forward to.

Introducing a debate in the ELT classroom is a complex process without any doubt. If none of the students has ever taken part in a debate, the teacher has to ensure that several steps are followed :

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Visual Arts Creation in Language Education Conference

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We are delighted to announce that the Call for Proposal for The Visual Arts Creation in Language Education (VACLE) Conference in Valletta, Malta on 23rd and 24th November is now open. The VACLE Conference which is being co-organised by the ELT Council and the Visual Arts Circle is an innovative event that explores the possibilities that creation of the visual arts (drawing, painting, design, crafts, photography, film-making, video-making, computer art and gaming) offers to both language teachers and language learners. The VACLE Conference seeks to bring together leading experts and practitioners in visual arts creation in language learning that share their experiences, insights and know-how, and provide participants with a unique opportunity to enhance their competence in teaching visual arts creation in the language classroom.

The conference aims to showcase multimodal approaches to language education. There is a special focus on how oracy, the capacity to express oneself in speech and understand speech, can be developed through visual arts creation.

Registration for the Image Conference,Athens, is now open

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Poster Image Conference with Website

Registration for the Image Conference in Athens on 6th and 7th October is now open.

The Image Conference is the annual conference of the Visual Arts Circle, and this year it is being hosted and co-organised by New York College, Athens with the collaboration of the Global Issues SIG of IATEFL. Leading experts and practitioners in the use of images in language learning will share their experiences, insights and know-how and provide participants with an excellent opportunity to enhance their competence in the innovative, critical and creative use of images in language education.

We look forward to seeing you in historic and vibrant Athens.

Difficult Topics Made Easier with Film in the English Language Classroom

By Margarita Kosior

Brighton, 9 April 2018

Last April, Margarita was invited to speak at the IATEFL GISIG/VAC PCE session. You can read all about her presentation in this post :

Inclusion and integration

Inclusion and integration of various social groups is a commonly discussed topic in contemporary society. Therefore, since this topic is of general concern, it should also be addressed by educators, even (or especially) those involved in English Language Teaching. Despite its urgency, the practice of incorporating social issues into ELT still has some opponents. Film in the English language classroom is one way to do this.

Film : a useful tool for tackling with ‘difficult’ topics in the English language classroom

One of the recurring arguments provided by those more sceptical is that tackling “difficult topics” in class can lead to disputes and unnecessary tension, especially that many English language instructors are not trained to deal with such situations. It can be argued, however, that film can become a useful tool in the hands of educators. Film is unique in a sense that it allows students to make connections between their personal lives and the people and events on the screen, and to develop high levels of empathy. Therefore, approaching global issues through feature film, documentaries, or short inspirational videos, is an effective strategy. Thanks to its audiovisual nature and authentic appeal, film brings real life into the English language classroom providing a context in which the language is learnt, the students are motivated and the difficult issues are discussed with more confidence and ease. Moreover, cinema, be it a feature film, a documentary, or a short inspirational video can satisfy the sense of curiosity and the need for knowledge. It also teaches to think critically and to evaluate facts, events, and opinions. In this way, by developing in the viewers the competences of cultural and social understanding, film brings people from various backgrounds together.

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Another advantage of using film to discuss “difficult topics” is that focus is shifted from the learners and their attitudes to the movie characters. There is no finger pointing; just reflecting. Thus film, which acts as a shield or a safety net, allows viewers to get into the shoes of the protagonists and reshape their ideas and beliefs.

The Power of Film

The power of film can be discussed on the example of Garth Davis’ Lion (2016) starring Sunny Pawar as a five-year-old Indian boy named Saroo, and Dev Patel in the role of adult Saroo Brierley. By an unexpected turn of events, the little boy finds himself on an empty train, falls asleep and gets carried 1600 km away from his family and from his home to the city of Kolkata (formerly called Calcutta). Lost, scared and hungry, Saroo wanders the streets of the city looking for shelter and food, and a way to get back home. His search continues for many years.

Stimulating Big Questions

The film tackles a number of issues which can be effectively transferred into an English language classroom. Without revealing much of the plot, it can be mentioned further that Lion stimulates viewers to consider many questions related to seeking one’s identity and going back to one’s roots: questions such as ‘Where is home?’, ‘Can we be happy away from home?’, ‘Who is family?’ or ‘Can we be happy without knowing our roots?’ reverberate throughout the duration of the narrative. What makes Lion so relevant is that an individual’s desire to know who s/he really is, the urge to be close to home and to the beloved ones are among the issues troubling many people nowadays forced by war and persecution to leave their homeland and seek safety elsewhere.

Social Issues in ELT

Except for feature film, documentaries are yet another way to introduce social issues into ELT. A prime example of a documentary appropriate for English language learners is He Named Me Malala (2015) directed by Davis Guggenheim. For its great part, the film presents the events leading up to the Taliban attack meant to take Malala’s life. In doing so, it paints an intimate portrait of a young girl who, influenced by her father’s beliefs, stands up against injustice and becomes a globally recognised advocate for girl’s education. Being just a 15-year-old girl on the day of the attack, Malala can become a role model for many teens all over the world. Hopefully, by the end of the session devoted to that Pakistani girl and her life, students realise that there are many similarities between each of them and Malala. This will empower them to follow in her steps and take action to support a cause they feel passionate about.

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Last but not least, short inspirational videos have the power to facilitate “difficult discussions” in the English language classroom. The Conditioned (2014) directed by Michael Marantz tells the story of how a homeless poet’s life gets forever changed when he meets a woman who does not walk by indifferent. The name of the poet is Raimundo Arruda Sobrinho and the name of the woman, Shalla Monteiro. After reading some of Raimundo’s poems, Shalla created a Facebook page through which the world could experience Sobrinho’s writing. A session based on this short film could involve students in a variety of tasks which aim at developing high levels of empathy in the students and at making them understand that being homeless is not a choice, and that all of us are more vulnerable than we might think.

Overall, regardless of its genre, film opens new possibilities not only inside the English language classroom, but also outside of it. It encourages prosocial behaviours in students and develops their sense of justice, and encourages them to create a more inclusive society.

Here you can find Margarita Kosior’s presentation slides margarita 2

Visual Arts Symposium: Street art in EFL classroom by Magdalena Brzezinska

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10th Virtual Round Table

On April 27, the Visual Arts Circle went  live on the 10th Virtual Round Table. Among the people who participated were Kieran Donaghy, Rob Howard, Magdalena Brzezinska, Magdalena Wasilewska and Valeria Benevolo Franca.

One of the VAC Circle’s members who presented, Magdalena Brzezinska,  talked about the use of street art in the EFL classroom with teens. Her session was especially designed for the Visual Arts Circle symposium at the 10th Virtual Round Table (VRT) Web Conference and 9th vLanguages Conference.

Mura-love : Street art in EFL classroom

In her talk, Magdalena shared with the participants her love for street art, and she offered some specific tips on how such art can be successfully used in an EFL class to improve students’ knowledge and skills and to inspire learners to create.

The activities presented varied from simple pen-and-paper ones to high-tech online ones. Discussion incorporating certain MoMA’s art and inquiry techniques was introduced. Some other activities included :

  • a debate;
  • street-art-inspired creation of headline poetry, stencils, or students’ own graffiti;
  • designing a social campaign; and creating a virtual interactive walk.

There followed a sub-section devoted specifically to Banksy’s peace art and Banksy-inspired stickers and tattoos, where such techniques as impersonation, focus on the senses, and designing one’s own peace sign/symbol were examined.

You can download Magdalena’s slides Magdalena Brzezinska VAC Mura_love Virtual Round Table.

 

ART & LANGUAGE LESSONS

In our series of ART & LANGUAGE lessons we invite you to explore the world of contemporary artists in the classroom. They are all members of the Visual Arts Circle, and they have given us exclusive permission to use their artwork to create lessons for the Visual Arts Circle website.

Art & Language Lesson 1

Charis Loke and the ‘Sorcerers Royal’

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In our first lesson we take a journey through Charis Loke’s  illustration, a cover for a fantasy novel. The title of the artwork is ‘Sorcerers Royal’.

Charis Loke is an illustrator, visual storyteller and visual art teacher. She is based in Malaysia, and she also works on community arts and culture projects with Arts-ED Penang.

Aim of the Charis Loke lesson plan

The aim of this lesson is to explore a book cover visually and use it as a starting point to find out more about the story it illustrates. We start with the image as it is easily accessible for most students. By looking closely your students might come up with ideas which are surprising and unexpected for you, and we believe that real discussion starts like that.

Range of topics to explore during this lesson

  1. The visual world of the illustration
  2. The creative process of the illustrator
  3. History: Regency Era
  4. History and Geography: Globes and maps, exploring the world
  5. Literature: Magic and fantasy novels

Here you can download the slides of the lesson plan in PDF format:

You can also download the Teacher’s Notes in PDF here:

 

We hope you will enjoy this lesson!

This lesson plan was written by Nora Nagy , Arts & Pedagogy Coordinator of the Visual Arts Circle. Nora works as a blog writer (Helbling Readers Blog). She is also a PhD student in Applied Linguistics, and she’s writing her dissertation about multimodal literacy development. She teaches at Eötvös Lorand University in Budapest, Hungary.

 

Emma L. Pratt at the IATEFL Conference Brighton 2018

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One of our VAC members, Emma L. Pratt, was invited to participate in a innovative way at IATEFL 2018.

Header Image: Detail from “The Ecosytem”, in response to the first plenary about the relationship between research and the classroom.

Being Invited to be the Artist in Residence at IATEFL in Brighton 2018

When I was invited to be the artist in residence at IATEFL in Brighton this year, I jumped at the chance. I had already been talking about artists’ residencies in learning at our Image Conference  http://theimageconference.org/emma-louise-pratt-talks-about-her-session-at-the-image-conference/ and especially language learning contexts, and I was keen to develop my own practice and build on my knowledge from having coordinated artists in schools in New Zealand.

The Pre-Conference Day for the GISIG

I had also been invited to participate in the Visual Arts Circle’s facilitation of the Global Issues SIG PCE day. This was an opportunity to explore workshop as performance; an artwork in itself. I had used video and storytelling to lead delegates into a space where they were invited to express their own personal thoughts and stories visually on the theme of social justice.

The Visual Arts in IATEFL 2018

Over the four days of the conference I made work that responded to the guest plenary speakers of IATEFL. I was daunted by the prospect of having to produce “something” under pressure on a topic that was not of my choosing. Added to that, having to do it in public. In short, a difficult brief that is almost counter-creative. Not everyone can do it, but I have a secret weapon. Children and a day job.

My arts practice has long fitted itself around the requirements of co-raising children, co-running a home and co-running a small company. When you are this busy, you become very efficient in the art of filtering noise, stealing moments and giving space to let ideas bubble and process. When I can’t physically make with my hands, I see it in my mind’s eye: images, shapes, colours, all coming and going.

I’ve heard it called “El rio bajo rio” the underground river. All practised creatives know that this river of creativity is flowing even when it’s apparently built over with the day to day needs asked of you. There it flows in the dark velvety deep.

The Teaching Artist

The concept of a teaching artist is perhaps a new idea in language teaching circles. However, in arts circles, it’s a term well used, especially in the United States. You may have heard the concept described sometimes as the participative artist, collaborative artist, the citizen artist and activist artist.

These are all ways to describe artists who move and shapeshift, finding their practice to be something that covers both the making of art works and interaction with a community.

These acts of art making take place away from the sometimes exclusive or problematic world of galleries and museums. They take place in the forms of residencies, performances and workshops in classrooms, public spaces and in my case this April 2018, at the IATEFL conference in Brighton.

Slow Digestion

My temporary art studio, with its work in progress provided chance for reflection. I only had one plenary to digest slowly for the day. Meanwhile, others dashed about in front of me, often asking me hurriedly if room 11 was anywhere near.

Conferences cause a sense of rush. We often need to “doggy bag” our thoughts and reactions, in order to sit down at the next meal. One workshop or presentation after another blurs into a degustation menu that is presented too fast, the plates taken away too suddenly.

I on the other hand, had the space to slow it all down. People could, and did, come and pull up a chair and chat with me as I worked or wandered about the visual work I was creating and peered over my shoulder.

Giving Silence a Place

During the GISIG preconference day, in the first playful stage of our workshop, I noticed that the room had fallen silent.  Everyone had been asked to pick up brushes and in and water and simply play with the material on watercolour paper. It was a stage designed to loosen everyone up and introduce them to the materials before we got on to more serious matters.

I had expected chatter, but what I found was silence. A silent room. One delegate described it as if the act of watching the ink absorb in the paper made our bodies and minds slow down too. Perhaps we could consider more space for that.”

Emma would like to thank the GISIG, VAC and IATEFL for the invitation as well as her small team at Frameworks Education Group who walked the dog, fed and entertained the children and held generally held the fort, enabling her to be there. 😉

Emma Louise Pratt IATEFL Artist in Residence Brighton, 2018.