I am always looking for ways to bring creativity into the classroom. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: language is nothing without the transference of ideas. The entire purpose of language is to communicate.
It’s important for students to know how to speak and write and read and listen, but getting students to communicate is the most important part of ESL, in my opinion. All of the language skills above serve the purpose of pushing individuals towards communication.
That being said, it can be really scary to share ideas and opinions with other people, especially in a second (or third) language! This task is one of my favorite activities for getting students to let their guards down and express some original ideas in an informal and non-threatening way.
It may seem silly at first, and that’s because it is, but think of it as a precursor to discussing ideas and opinions that may carry some more weight to them. If students can’t share creative ideas that are just for fun, they won’t feel confident enough to share their opinions on bigger political, social, or religious ideas.
Plus, it’s just fun! Having fun with students is a great way to build relationships between peers and with you, as a teacher.
This activity is incredibly diverse. You can use it with advanced-level learners or those who are just beginning. All that is required is that students are able to write. You can also use this activity with a wide range of language goals and topics. You can use it to practice kitchen vocabulary or storytelling, the grammar behind questions and answers or medical vocabulary.
All in all, I think it's a great task to use in almost any circumstance, and my students have really enjoyed having fun in the classroom. Most of the time they don't even realize they're learning and practicing language!
Student Groupings: Individual-Whole Class
Teacher Prep: Prepare the drawing prompt and list of questions
Resources Needed: Free Community Creation Worksheet (found in our Free Resource Library)
- Give your students a drawing prompt. For example, "Draw a picture from your favorite childhood story." Give students a few minutes to draw their picture before moving on.
- When students are done drawing, have them sit in a circle and pass their picture to the right. With the new picture in hand, give your students a question to answer. For this example a good first question would be, "What is the name of the story?" or if you'd like to focus on different parts of a plotline, have students begin to tell the story based only on the writing. You can set a sentence limit or a time limit.
- After they are finished writing, have the students pass the picture to the right again. Give them another question such as, "What is the main character doing?" or have them continue the story where the previous person left off. Continue this cycle until the picture comes back to the original artist.
- Give students a few minutes to read over the story or statements that the other students have written on their paper. Then, have them share with partners, small groups, or as a whole class, depending on the amount of students and time you have.
Teacher Notes: Find ways to spin your drawing prompt and questions, so that your students have an opportunity to use any new vocabulary or terms that you've covered recently. For instance, if you're talking about family structure have your students draw a picture of their family or sketch a fictional household. Or if you're talking about the benefits of city life v. rural life have students draw an image of an individual in one of those settings.
3 Different Ways to Use the Activity
There are so many different ways that you can customize this activity for your own classroom. I want to give you a few ideas to help you get a better idea of how you can do so.
Culture: Art Gallery After teaching your students about art history and famous artists, have the students create their own original piece of art for the drawing prompt. As they pass it around and answer questions, have them make up a story about which famous artist did this drawing, what was the story behind it, and what message it's trying to convey.
Personal Experiences: Food and Recipes After discussing different types of food and different words used to describe and talk about food, have your students draw a picture of their favorite meal from their home culture. As they pass it around and answer questions, have them guess what ingredients are in it, which country it comes from, and when it is typically eaten.
Story Telling: Plot Lines After teaching your students about the different segments of a plot line (rising action, climax, falling action, etc.), have them tell a story based on the drawing they receive. Split your students into small groups if you have too many, according to the number of plot segments you'll be assigning. If you have 4 different areas of a plot, put students in a group of 4. As they pass the drawing around have them write a few sentences for each plot segment and, at the end, read the story out loud to the class.
I'm always looking for fun and interactive activities to get my students to speak up and laugh more in class. I think that laughter can be one of the best tools for language learning.
I've found, especially with my young adult students in Mongolia, that this activity is really enjoyable for my students and it's really effective at getting them to think creatively about the English language.
I'd Love to Hear From You!
What are some of your favorite activities to encourage idea-sharing?
Do you think your students would have fun with this activity? What drawing prompts and questions could you use to guide them?