To inaugurate the website of the Visual Arts Circle we have invited Dr. Sylvia Karastathi of New York College, Athens, Greece who has a PhD and post-doctoral studies from the University of Cambridge, to write about the increasing important role of visual literacy in English language teaching.
Few language teachers can claim that they never use still or moving images in their lessons; yet, this standard practice is rarely touched upon in teacher training curricula on the assumption the way to introduce images into lessons is self-evident. This short article starts by introducing some key ELT resources on using images in the classroom; it then goes on to argue that we need to approach images not simply as an aid but as a key component of “multimodal communicative competence”.
The Status of the Image
In his 1966 ground-breaking study The Visual Element in Language Teaching Pit Corder made the useful distinction between “talking about images” and “talking with images”, differentiating between physical description and personal response. Since then, practical books such as Andrew Wright’s Pictures for Language Learning (1990), Jamie Keddie’s Images (2009), Ben Goldstein’s Working with Images (2009) and Peter Grundy’s et. al. English Through Art (2011) have suggested a wide variety of engaging activities that exploit the power of still images in the classroom and demonstrate their potentials to facilitate language learning. More recently, principled uses of the moving image in the classroom have become the focus of discussion in ELT with publications such as Ben Goldstein and Paul Diver’s Language Learning with Digital Video (2014) and Kieran Donaghy’s Film in Action (2015).