An Art Experience for Teenagers in the ESL class
Real ESL Classroom Experiences

An Art Experience for Teenagers in the ESL class

Being constantly curious and rebellious, teenagers often resist traditional teaching methods. As teachers, we embrace this because it preserves their spark and imagination.

But would art intrigue them? It might seem unlikely, but it works miracles. Here’s the experience of my teenage students and the magic journey we took through art.

How it all started

What would be considered a better yet place than an art gallery owned by a fluent English speaking artist. Our course book, #English 4, offers an abundance of CLIL lesson plans, and art is inevitably part of it. We came across a reading text introducing the target vocabulary of art through the interpretation of works of art and art movements. This inspired us to take the lesson outside the classroom. What better place than an art gallery owned by a fluent English-speaking artist?

Objectives of the Lesson 

The ultimate goal of every lesson is the acquisition of language patterns through a combination of practicing multiple language skills and using various means that promote multimodality in the lesson. The use of audio, visual, and interactive means enables every learner to absorb the target language by using the teaching material that best matches their distinctive needs.

For our B1 class (aged 12-13 years old), the objectives were to:

    • Present, analyze, and interpret famous works of art
    • Recognize and identify styles of well-known artists
    • Place them in the timeline of art history

Means and materials used

Multimodality enhances the learning procedure, so we used a variety of materials:

    • Images of paintings referring to milestones of art history and detachable fact files composing a chronological poster for students to assemble
    • A Wordwall game with the target art movements, images of works of art for each movement, and the artists who created them
    • A second Wordwall game with a timeline and art movements to match
    • A PowerPoint presentation of art history delivered by the gallery owner
    • Reading text from #English 4, Module 6
    • The CLIL reader A World of Art to introduce the target vocabulary

Introducing and involving

Capturing the learners’ attention is always the first step to a successful and meaningful lesson. We began by asking questions about their previous knowledge of art and categorizing the various forms of art using the CLIL reader mentioned above and the corresponding video from our course book.

Stepping into the world of Art

The next lesson was a field trip to a local art gallery with a contemporary art exhibition. The gallery owner and professional artist prepared a PowerPoint presenting:

  • Numerous art movements throughout history
  • Characteristic elements and the most important representatives of each movement

The learners were captivated by this cultural lesson, which broadened their horizons into new fields.

Practice makes perfect

After the presentation, the learners participated in hands-on activities through matching poster and Wordwall games, consolidating the target vocabulary and practical use of grammatical structures.

Learners as critics

The reading text from the course book guided the learners in explaining, analyzing, and interpreting a work of art, giving them the role of art critics. They chose a favorite work from the poster and, following the procedure from the text, presented and interpreted their chosen painting using their newfound knowledge. The outcome was astonishing, with the learners naturally incorporating the target vocabulary and structures.

Learners as artists

In the final activity, learners became artists themselves. They were provided with materials to create a self-portrait or landscape using the art movements they had learned about. This wasn’t just a painting activity; it was a holistic experience where they applied certain art techniques and explained their choices.

Outcome of the lesson

This lesson offered multiple benefits to the learners:

  • Linguistically: They absorbed language structures and used them with incredible ease in meaningful contexts.
  • Culturally: They gained a new perspective on art, understanding it as a majestic and fascinating subject.
  • Emotionally: They felt a new world had opened up to them, realizing that art is not dull but surprisingly engaging and suitable for everyone.


About the author

Ursula Harikiopoulou has been an English Language teacher for the last 20 years. She owns Ursula’s EFL School in Myrsini Tinos, holding a BA in English Language and Literature in the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens.

Written by Ursula Harikiopoulou
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