Drawing in the ELT Classroom to Explore Social Justice
The artist Maurizio Cattelan once said: ‘Whatever comes after you’ve done your work, it doesn’t belong to you. You can’t control it.’ For me, this is the power of the visual arts, that the viewer’s response becomes as legitimate as the artist’s intention. It’s this great equalising relationship between artist and viewer – and between one viewer and another – that make the visual arts such an invigorating launch pad for dialogues.
But the act of drawing is different from just looking at someone else’s image, as it allows us to explore concepts in a more personalised and memorable way. The very act of drawing triggers connections in the mind. As scholar and art critic Nick Sousanis describes, ‘we draw not to transcribe ideas from our heads, but to generate them in search of deeper understanding’.
We, and our students, are global citizens, of a world in which themes such as social justice and human rights are becoming increasingly important. 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. Drawing has the power to help us do that, it has the power to trigger deeper discussion and engagement with a topic.
At the Image Conference in Athens this year I’ll be talking about drawing in the ELT classroom to explore issues of social justice and human rights. The session will try out some drawing tasks designed to act as a springboard for discussion, and participants will use drawing to generate, share and respond to thoughts about human rights and individual and social obligations. We’ll also try out a teacher-led drawing task, a PICTOGLOSS, designed to aid learner comprehension of stories and language before discussing the themes of the story – in this session a story about a child refugee.