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

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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.


 

Anna Whitcher & Kieran Donaghy: GISIG & Visual Arts Circle Joint PCE

Social Justice and ELT through the Visual Arts

Last March, Anna Whitcher and Kieran Donaghy presented at the GISIG and Visual Arts Circle Joint PCE.   In this session , they looked at a number of resources such as projects, resource websites, lesson plans and publications which promote social justice in English language teaching, created by members of the Visual Arts Circle, a community of practice of language teaching professionals with a shared interest in the value of using the visual arts in language education.

 

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These are the resources presented in the session:

 

 

 

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Judy BoyleThe NO Project

 

 

The No Project

 

http://www.thenoproject.org/

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The NO Project is an award-winning, global, educational anti-slavery campaign that specifically targets youth awareness of modern slavery and human trafficking through film, music, art, dance, theatre, journalism, creative writing, education and social media. The project was set up and run by Judy Boyle.

 

Naomi Epstein – Visualising Ideas

 

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https://visualisingideas.edublogs.org/

 

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Naomi Epstein is a teacher of deaf and hard of hearing children in a secondary school in Israel. She created her website Visualising Ideas to share her materials and ideas on how to use the visual arts with deaf and hard of hearing children in the language classroom.

 

 

Chrysa Papalazarou – Art Least

 

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https://chrysapapalazarou.wordpress.com/

 

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Art Least is a site created by Chrysa Papalazarou, an English teacher from Greece who works in a state primary school. Her site explores ways of using art in English language teaching and learning, promoting social justice, and a more thoughtful and creative flow in the English classroom

 

Linda Ruas – Easier English Wiki

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Linda Ruas – Easier English Wiki

 

https://eewiki.newint.org

 

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Linda Ruas is a trainer of ESOL teachers and an ESOL teacher at a London college. She is also Joint Coordinator of IATEFL Global Issues SIG.

The Easier English Wiki provides the same texts and photos that New Internationalist magazine offers, but with easier vocabulary and grammar. This content covers the issues many English language students are living with or experiencing, or issues that are vital to understand in today’s world. Learners can learn English, reading the simplified article and then the original, develop critical thinking and visual literacy skills, and break down barriers at the same time.

 

Kieran Donaghy – Film English

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http://film-english.com/

 

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Kieran Donaghy is a teacher, trainer and writer based in Barcelona. His website Film English has a large number of lesson plans designed around short films which promote social justice and universal values such as compassion, kinness and equality in the language classroom.

publications

 

 

 

The Image in English Language Teaching (ELT Council)

Edited by Kieran Donaghy and Daniel Xerri

The book can be downloaded for free:

https://visualartscircle.com/the-image-in-elt-book/

 

The Image in ELT

The Image in English Language Teaching is the first publication of the Visual Arts Circle in collaboration with the Maltese ELT Council. It’s a collection of 18 chapters inspired by talks at the first five editions of the Image Conference. Two chapters are on how art can be used to promote peace and social justice in the language classroom:

 

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Peace art: words and images interwoven

by Magdalena Brzezinska

 

 

Images on canvas: art, thinking and creativity in ELT

by Chrysa Papalazarou

 

 

For anyone interested, here is their powerpoint presentation and description.Social Justice and the Visual Arts in English Language Teaching Handout

PDF PCE VAC Social Justice and Visual Arts in ELT

Jade Blue: Workshop in the Visual Arts Circle and Global Issues SIG PCE, IATEFL 2018

We are delighted to present a write up of Jade Blue’s workshop in the Visual Arts Circle and Global Issues SIG pre-conference event at IATEFL 2018 last March in Brighton. This is the first of the workshops/talks from the joint even at IATEFL we are going to present here.

 

Drawing in the ELT Classroom to Explore Social Justice

 

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This was a practical workshop session applying practical teacher-drawing and learner-drawing tasks to explore issues of social justice and human rights.

 

Why Global Issues and the Visual Arts?  What’s the link?

 

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Those of us attending the PCE were doing so because we’re interested in, and recognise, either (or both) the power of visuals, and the importance of Global Issues in English language teaching.  The visual arts have the power to trigger deeper discussion and engagement with a topic.  We, and our students, are global citizens, of a world in which themes such as social justice and human rights are becoming increasingly important.

I believe that these things need to be talked about.  One of the many things we’re doing as language teachers is helping to ‘grow’ a shared language – a lingua franca – with which we can talk about such things.  The visual arts have the power to help us do that.

 

 

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But Why Drawing?

How does the act of drawing differ from just looking at someone else’s visual? In a nutshell, the act of drawing as a way of exploring language leads to a deeper and more personalised, memorable connection.  The workshop demonstrated and tried out learner-led and teacher-led drawing tasks.

The learner-led tasks are designed to act as a launchpad, or springboard, for discussion, with learners working in pairs or groups to share and generate ideas.  These tasks looked at what a child in today’s world needs to survive and thrive, and the relationship between society and the individual, although the activities can be adapted for a range of related topics.

The teacher-led task, a PICTOGLOSS, is designed to aid learner comprehension of stories and language.   In the PCE session, we looked at a story entitled ‘Teacup’ by Rebecca Young.  Whilst telling the story the teacher illustrates it on the whiteboard and the learners then use these visuals to verbally reconstruct and discuss the content of the story.  Again, the Pictogloss activity can be adapted to work with a wide variety of text types.

 

Jade Blue’s slides from her workshop can be viewed here JADE BLUE Drawing in the ELT Classroom to Explore Social Justice

Jade Blue 2018

 


Header Image: “Satellite View of The Road to Arlit, Niger” The Road to Arlit is a dangerous passage way for human traffic and economic migration. This is a detail of a carbon and pencil drawing. Artist Emma L Pratt drew every detail of the topography of this area as a reflection upon reading about the discovery of the bodies of 92 people who died of thirst after their vehicles broke down as they tried to cross the Sahara.

Call for Papers: 7th Edition of the Image Conference, Athens 2018

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We are delighted to announce that the Call for Papers for the seventh edition of the Image Conference, the annual conference of the Visual Arts Circle, which will be held on 6th and 7th October at New York College, in Athens, Greece, is now open.

 

Thank you for wanting to submit a speaker proposal for The Image Conference 2018, Athens, Greece.

We would appreciate it if you would take a moment to read through these speaker guidelines to help you, us and the delegates get the most out of the conference.
The deadline for proposals is Friday 8th June. Notification of acceptance of proposals will take place on Friday 6th July. Once you have been accepted to speak, you will receive a provisional acceptance email.

 

Prospective speakers for the conference are kindly asked to submit abstracts for talks or workshops – 50 words maximum. All proposals must be related to the use of images in language teaching and learning. Topics can include:

  • images
  • video
  • film
  • gaming
  • art
  • mental imagery
  • virtual reality and
  • augmented reality.

As Greece is at the epicentre of the refugee crisis in Europe, we encourage proposals related to using images when teaching English to refugees and/or when teaching about refugees through English.

 

Proposals should be chosen in line with the following presentation categories:
• Workshop (45 minutes, including questions): A workshop is a session in which there is active audience participation via the experiencing and discussing of tasks provided by the presenter.
• Talk (45 minutes, including questions): A talk tells the delegates something about teaching English through images.
Please also submit your bio-data ( maximum 50 words).

Are you speaking on behalf of a publisher or institution?
If so, please make this very clear. Delegates are likely to be disappointed if a session they attended based on the description in the abstract turns out to be an advertisement for a publication, product, or course. The submissions of speaker proposals for commercial presentations are welcomed but, if you are basing your presentation either in part or in full on a newly or recently published material, you should clearly say this in your abstract.

Is the information in your abstract clear?
Be explicit about whether you are offering a talk, a commercial presentation or a hands-on workshop. We want to be sure that when delegates register for sessions, they can do so on the basis of accurate information.

You can download these guidelines for submission of proposals guidelines-for-speakers-athens-2018

 

Please submit your proposal by completing this form by Friday 8th June.