In my session this coming weekend at the IH Barcelona ELT Conference (February 5 and 6), I'm going to be talking about how both teachers and learners can use simple drawings in some fun, language-rich activities.
Here's one that requires both you and your learners to be able to draw cats and/or dogs. If you don't think you could do that, here's a simple cat that you can quickly teach yourself to copy; you'll then find a simple dog at the foot of this post.
What you're really doing is not so much draw as represent
How to draw a simple cat
Below, you have a step-by-step for an easy cat. Key to lots of classroom drawings is to pick the right starting point: here, start with the face, and after that it should all fall into place.
As with all classroom drawings (which used to be called "blackboard drawings" when I started out as a teacher), what you're really doing is not so much draw as represent. And, as Andrew Wright, suggested in his wonderful book, you're copying, not drawing.
The activity, step-by-step
Colleagues and I have tried the following at various time (some going back a long time!) from roughly A2 level up to and including C2 and it's one that has worked well with both teens and adults.
- Make sure everyone knows how to draw a cat and a dog, teaching them if necessary. Draw my examples for them, with appropriate explanations and running commentary and you've got a live listening comprehension activity.
- Get the class to divide themselves into 4 roughly equal groups, of dog-lovers, dog-haters, cat-lovers and cat-haters. Anyone who says they have no feelings one way or the other must be persuaded and recruited into one of the four groups. If the groups are not of approximately equal size, have the smaller groups try to persuade others to join them. (It doesn't actually really matter what size the groups are, or how disproportionate they are, but what we want as language teachers is discussion and use of language!)
- On a square piece of paper (square so that it can be easily Instagrammed afterwards, you understand 😉 !), each learner should draw a cat or a dog, depending on which group they now find themselves in. I like to limit drawing time to 60 seconds maximum. This is not an art class!
- They should then pair up, pick the "best" cat / dog and collaborate to add to the piece of paper everything which they know or think about cats or dogs — cat lovers and cat haters writing about cats, dog lovers and dog haters about dogs, for example:
I'm not a big fan of dogs, as you can see 😉 !
- Share the work produced — either by just showing it to other people (great for a "mingle" activity!), or by posting the pictures on a wall or by photographing them and sharing them via Instagram or an Edmodo or WhatsApp group etc.
- Comment on the drawings and on the ideas included, either orally or digitally (the latter possibly outside class time, not necessarily in real time)
- Discuss the topic of which make better pets, cats or dogs.
- Optionally, get the learners to produce a piece of discursive writing on the subject, of appropriate length.
- Optionally, have the learners make a very brief, collaborative, formal presentation to the class of their conclusions
What does drawing add?
The sharing makes your classroom a creative space in
which we generate things we then share together, which is terrific for group dynamics
You could of course do the activity without anyone drawing anything but requiring the drawing adds a lot:
- it makes the activity way more fun
- it seems to generate a whole lot more language ("What's that supposed to be?! / It's supposed to be…" often prove to be useful expressions!)
- its seems to generate more ideas
- it generate more creative, more original ideas
- it leads to the creation of artwork
- the artwork can then be shared and commented on afterwards, if you have some kind of shared, digital space where that can happen
It isn't artwork for the sake of artwork, and doesn't have to be of a standard to really merit the term "art" but the creating and the sharing makes your classroom a creative space in which we generate things we then share together, which is terrific for generating good group dynamics. I belong to this community because we drew cats and stuff together…
How to draw a simple dog
Here's simple dog step-by-step. It's fun because people inevitably have lots of scope for adding (often unintended) "personality" to their dog when they draw the face and/or proportion the body.
As I'll be suggesting in my Conference session, what you need is not talent but practice. You're not really drawing, as I've suggested above, merely copying, and by copying the steps a few times your practice gives you the other vital ingredient to classroom drawing — namely, confidence.
As the title of my session ("Yes, we can: not drawing, merely representing") suggests, "Yes, YOU can!"