Museum Resources for the English Language Teacher

Museum Resources for the English Language Teacher

Language teachers are constantly in need of inspiring new ways to get concepts across. You don’t need to be the most creative person to liven up a classroom, you just need to know where to look. Luckily, the world’s museums offer online resources for teachers. These resources include lesson plans, activities and themes to follow around the museum’s collection.

While most are geared towards general teachers, they are still useful for language teachers as you can tailor them to fit your needs. They can be graded up or down for different ages and levels. Meanwhile, some might not need tweaking at all! Of course, visiting the museums in person would be the enriching. However, high-quality images of the items often accompany the resources, so you don’t even need to be in the same country as the museum!

We looked at three museums with resources that can easily adapted for a language classroom. We'll also introduce you to an exciting Smithsonian initiative. But don’t let this limit you. With the world at your fingertips (via your keyboard), you can use the collections and resources from the world’s best museums: from art to history, science to design, technology to nature, these resources can enrich your learners’ experiences, ensuring it will be a lesson they can’t forget.

The J. Paul Getty Museum in LA

We’ll start off easy: The Getty Museum in Los Angeles is the perfect place to start utilising museum resources. They have developed curriculums specifically for English language teachers. With three levels (beginner, intermediate and advanced), and a plethora of research and tweaking, these resources are ripe and ready for you to use. No need to tailor them to your needs, they already focus on enhancing an English language lesson.

For beginners, artwork is used to teach vocabulary surrounding a theme. Themes can range from family to things in a room to the weather and more. They provide lesson plans and handouts created for teachers to use surrounding artwork from the collection. You can always use the ideas around the artwork with an alternative piece of art in a museum near you. It’s a great way to enhance a vocabulary lesson and get your learners engaged.

The lesson plans provided for intermediate and advanced learners still aim to enhance vocabulary surrounding certain themes, but these lessons are much more geared toward talking about art itself. Resources include lesson plans, worksheets and tips on how to teach different kinds of artwork. The resources (for all levels) are fully adaptable to different timelines. You can use them in the museum or in your own classroom.

The Postal Museums

When you think museum, you probably think art or history. But there are many other smaller museums dedicated to various topics. One type of museum that offers a surprisingly useful set of resources for English language teachers are the postal museums in the US and UK. The post is a more-or-less universally utilised service. Most English language learners understand the visual of stamps and letters even if they don't know the vocabulary. Besides this, the very nature of post is linked to writing and reading, making it a great jumping-off point for English lessons.

The Postal Museum in the UK has several resources that could be useful for young learners learning the vocabulary around mail. From an in-depth look at how the stamp was developed in the UK, to sending and delivering mail, there are slideshows, handouts and lesson plans geared towards young learners that could easily be adapted for an English language classroom.

In the US, the National Postal Museum has a series of resources surrounding their online exhibition about Victory Mail in World War II. While you’ll want to avoid the political implications of the Victory Mail resources, it can be used to inspire letter-writing lessons. Letter-writing allows students to attempt to use their skills and can be themed around new vocabulary.

London Transport Museum

Like postal museums, another type of museum with useful resources are transport museums. These can come in handy when teaching different forms of transportation. Like other museums, they also serve as jumping-off points for more inspired lessons.

The London Transport Museum offers a particularly fun activity: transport bingo. In this activity, students fill in a bingo sheet with the names of different types of transportation before playing bingo as a class. This kind of activity is especially useful as students must think of at least nine different nouns on their own. This is adaptable for lessons on different topics, as well. The lesson plans provided by the museum also offer ideas as to how to use the bingo cards in other ways. These include pair work and activities outside the classroom.

London Transport Museum also suggests an activity that has students “invent” buses for different kinds of people. Again, this kind of activity is adaptable to help solidify different kinds of adjectives and vocabulary. These resources also demonstrate that you don’t need to visit a museum to effectively use its lessons.

The Smithsonian Learning Lab

There are museums for nearly every topic around the world and many of them offer free resources for teachers. The possibilities are endless for English language teachers, as you can see from the postal and transport museums. There are many niche museums like these that have adaptable resources. Museums are also always striving to make their resources more accessible and useful for teachers. In 2016, University of Cambridge Museums looked at how museums could improve their teacher resources. They found that teachers want accessible, concise, clear, searchable activity ideas that they can adapt to their needs.

It’s clear that museums are working towards this, with the Smithsonian group of museums in the United States taking the lead. They have created a sort of open-source platform for teachers to share their lessons based on museum collections. There are over 5,000 collections of curated material for teachers to take advantage of in the Smithsonian Learning Lab. While many of these won’t apply to English language teachers, a flick through these plans could offer inspiration and you never know what you might find.

Whether you teach young learners or adults, beginners or advanced, you’re bound to find inspiration in online museum resources. From slideshows to handouts to full lesson plans, you can take pieces to tailor the resources to your needs. But one thing’s certain: the wealth of inspiration that can be found from museums is unparalleled.

Have you used museum resources in your lessons? We'd love to hear from you!

Check out our online courses for English language teachers.

English Language Teaching and Classroom Management: Anger in our Classrooms

English Language Teaching and Classroom Management: Anger in Our Classrooms

English language teaching, Classroom Management and the Effects of Anger on Our Learners

Reflecting on Anger and Classroom Management

At my age, a lot of memories of being seven-and-a-half have been pruned or locked away. But this memory of being told off at Halloween has always stuck. Why should that be? In this article we look at the effects of anger and "tellings off" on our brains. If we want to develop a classroom environment and a rapport with our learners that is good for both learning and well being, we need to seriously rethink the effect our actions have.

First, an activity. Let’s try out an exercise that psychologist Dan Siegal likes to do with groups. It aims to get us reflecting on how we manage ourselves and how we react to others. Try it with your friends, colleagues, family or your class, as a way of understanding your own brain and its different reactions.

The Activity:


You Say: “Close your eyes. Be still and listen.”

Now say emphatically and with strength these words, pausing between them:


Then pause and gently say, again pausing between each word:

“Yes………..Yes. ………..Yes………….  Yes. ……….. Yes…………..Yes”

Follow with these instructions:

“Take deep breath. Take your left hand and put it on your chest and the other on the abdomen. Apply some gentle pressure. Now swap hands, your right hand on your chest and your left on your abdomen. How does that feel? Now put your hands in a position where they feel most comfortable and you feel most comforted. Breathe.....Sense the breath.....Take a last deep breath, blowing out through the mouth....What did you feel?”

Neuroscience and the Reactive State: Our Reactions to "No!"

It’s likely that the feedback that you’ll get about hearing the word “No” will include words like: Tight, scary, angry, hurtful, rejecting, frustrating. restriction, painful, shaming, annoying. My six year old daughter informed me it made her think "Please, I won't do it again mama". Wow. Poor thing. It really got me thinking about how often I might say "no" and "don't" to her, on top of the rules she is constantly governed by in her class each day.

In part, Siegal explains, when you get told off or shouted at, you are activating a threat state - a reactive state governed by the brain stem. Consider how this might affect a learner, or yourself for that matter, if this is happening frequently.

The brain stem is a 300,000,000 year old brain. It’s often referred to as the lizard brain. It regulates bodily functions and fight, flight, freeze or faint reactions. These reactive states are the basis of stress. Our reptilian brain includes the main structures found in a reptile's brain: the brain stem and the cerebellum. It's reliable and there to protect us. Stress makes us run faster, or freeze and fake death so something won't consume us. But it isn't flexible and can cause us trouble.

For example, in a situation like I had as a child of being told off for my dud Halloween trick, the “no” brain state made me feel inadequate, shamed, a little scared and I definitely froze. And the memory of that shame has stuck there for forty years!

What Can We Do to Improve Our English Language Classrooms and Help Our Learners?

You don't want to be known as the teacher who you could hear halfway down the corridor shouting your students into submission. Remember the state of fight/fight/freeze or faint? Well, it puts our body into a reaction where blood flows away from our extremities to protect our internal organs. Our hands feel cold and don’t function well. The back of our head feels prickly (blood is flowing to the back of our brain too). Fear is triggered. Aggression too. But sadly, not reason. This is the effect that ranting and shouting can have on a learner.

The first thing we need to do is to think about strategies for managing people where shouting and anger isn't needed. We also need to have strategies for when we've lost control and want to get ourselves and our class back on track. I write this article painfully aware that I became that shouting teacher more than once. I was teaching pre-teens and had no idea what I was doing. There was little support and only now that I have more experience with YLs and have woken up to the neuroscience that I can see what I was creating. We're humans. We lose control. We must forgive ourselves and get back on course.

We talk about this in more detail in our Young Learners course Module on Classroom Management and we'll delve further into this with our Pre-Teens and Teens Module due out soon.

Help learners (or ourselves) self-calm and move through emotions:

Here are some ways we can help ourselves and others move from a state of stress to being calm again.

  • Placing our hands on our gut area and heart help calm us down.
  • Sitting and placing our hands on our thighs and our feet on the floor with deep low breathing. Focusing our thoughts on our hands and our feet -feeling the floor - can help reverse the flow of blood away from our extremities.
  • Placing our hand on our forehead draws our attention away from the old brain toward our newer brain - the prefrontal cortex nestled there behind our forehead. The prefrontal cortex plays an enormous role in regulating our actions and emotions.

Teaching Mental State Language to Young Learners:

Mental State Language is where we feed children words to describe how they are feeling. A child might fall, hurt themselves and have an emotion or two or three. Mental state language includes words like “that must feel scary seeing that blood.”, “that hurt didn’t it?”, or “that gave you a fright didn’t it?”. The language shows the child that it’s OK to have the feelings, that these feelings are known by someone other than the child and the feelings have names. As language teachers, the lexis of mental states should form part of our teaching.

In contrast, if a child falls over and the parent simply shouts “Come on, get up!” or the parent panics and gets as distressed as the child, then there is no reflective dialogue. The parent or carer doesn't help children understand their emotional state and how to move through it. Worse still, the child might bury their emotions to avoid the parents reacting in certain ways, which is called miscueing. Children do this in order to protect the distressed parent.

Secure attachment theory and research see this as being unhelpful in our emotional growth and our ability to regulate ourselves. Being emotionally with children and young adolescents is an important thing for parents and teachers to do. We need to be the stronger and wiser adult who guides children and adolescents through stormy states. We shouldn't be the one who loses control.

Creating a Receptive Learning Environment: Our Reactions to "Yes."

We want a positive learning environment in our English language classrooms. So, we need to consider how we affect that with shouting, dressing down and telling off. Consider you’re your colleagues felt when they heard the word yes.

Reactions to “Yes” could include: Comforting soothing accepting relaxing empowering warm loving open affirming relief freeing calming.“Yes” brain statements Siegal argues, encourage a receptive brain. This is the limbic area which can help regulate our feelings and reactions.

As English teachers, we need to rethink how we manage situations, beginning with ourselves. Activating a fear state in our learners can make us feel powerful, but it isn’t a receptive state for learning. Do we really want to trigger that? Do we want to be remembered as the person who caused children to feel fear and shame? I hope not.

Other Articles on Classroom Management

Post CELTA: Managing the Young Learner Classroom

Classroom Management: Getting the Buggers to Behave, by Sue Cowley

Free Mini Workshop: An Introduction to Drawing as a Tool for the Language Classroom

ELT Activities

I've written this free mini workshop for English language teachers in response to my experiences running artists in schools projects and working with visual arts, community and English language learning. Drawing is a way of creating your own content and visual material for the English language classroom and a springboard for teaching English around the experiences and expression that students bring to the activity. In this workshop, I look at how drawing can be used as an ELT activity in the language classroom, not only for young learners, but for all ages as a way to:

  • focus attention
  • initiate a communicative activity
  • expand and deepen ideas and reactions to content through the creation of ones own
  • give extra tools for expression in the language classroom

I developed this online workshop after I gave face to face workshops to teachers in Athens, Greece at the Image Conference 2018 and in Liverpool at the IATEFL annual conference and the Image Conference in Brussels in 2019. If you haven't managed to catch me at a conference or teacher development day, get a sneak peak at the kinds of things she's talking about in this free online resource for English language teachers.

In this mini workshop, we’ll look at:

  • drawing – what’s good about it but also what makes it so difficult.
  • how our brain works with drawing and the affects of schema and peers.
  • some warm up activities that you can use in the classroom to use drawing in a way that supports less confident drawers
  • a case study of how I would combine getting my learners drawing and expressing personal ideas and how it can connect with storytelling and exploiting illustration as text
Image Conference 2019 Brussels Image by Frameworks Education

Intercultural Communication Competency in ELT Classes.

Intercultural Communication Competency in ELT Classes

Hidden challenges of English language teaching

In the spectrum of reasons why people want to become CELTA qualified there is for sure the desire to travel around the world and discover new cultures while earning a living by teaching English.
It sounds like the perfect life-professional plan! However, quite often even the most experienced teachers encounter challenges when they interact with learners of English as a second language.
Whether experienced or newly qualified, you need to consider how students of different cultural backgrounds communicate differently and how that can impact on the classroom.

Three key challenges

When we English teachers move to a different country, we have to take into consideration three key challenges:

● culture shock when interacting out and about with locals
● the difficulties in understanding and reading the culture of the students inside the classroom
● your local language knowledge may be lacking and you’ll use a very different non-verbal communication style to your learners.

To give you an idea of the extent of the challenge, it is common practice among families belonging to several Asian cultures (such as the Chinese and the Japanese) to teach young students to look down and to never stare directly into the eyes of the teacher. Parents also teach children not to address the teacher directly. In situations like this, the teaching style will need to be adjusted and re-assessed.
The good news is these problems can be overcome! Researchers in the field of Intercultural Communication have been studying socio-linguistic aspects as well as cultural factors that may interfere and complicate interactions in the EFL classroom. They highlight the need for teachers to develop and consequently to teach students Intercultural Communication Competency.

But first, what is Intercultural Communication Competency?

Deardorff (one of the most prominent researchers in Intercultural Communication) explains that Intercultural Competence is "the ability to develop specific knowledge, skills and attitudes that lead to visible behaviour and communication that are both effective and appropriate in intercultural interactions". EFL teachers can be very competent in linguistic communication, however, they may not be aware of the intercultural dimension of the language. This impacts on the performance of communication and interaction.

Culture is a factor in language learning

To be competent in intercultural communication means to be able to recognise the impact of our own cultural values, norms and conceptions on the way we express ourselves and on how we communicate with others. This applies to verbal and non-verbal communication: if you are from countries like the USA, Western Europe and Central or Latin America, chances are that you shake your head up and down to say “yes” and move it side to side to say “no”. Surprisingly, this isn’t universal. In some Eastern European countries such as Albania and Bulgaria they do the opposite: a head shake side to side means “yes” while nodding means “no.” Saudi Arabia citizens shake their head to say “yes” and move the head back to say “no”, while Indian citizens shake their head to some degrees to say either “yes or no”.
A lack of intercultural competence leads to problems for students. Students initially feel the need to translate and interpret all new language. They try to find an equivalent word or expression in their first language. However, it is through the comparison among languages that we discover that some expressions or words may have no clear existing translation (search for the concept of saudade from Portuguese in English language).
Cultural conceptualization of the learner of English means that the cultural background of the learner may influence his English language learning experience. It leads to the usage of the language in ways that isn’t always understood by the teacher due to translation and use words that have a link to their cultural background (for example, the concept of face – mianzi - in the Chinese culture, that is very different to the western counterpart). This has to do with the cognitive impact of culture in learning a language. It is indeed down to individual cultural style, the meanings assigned to objects, events, relationships and all must be taken into consideration when teaching English.
It’s our jobs as EFL teachers to offer our learners tools to discover the uniqueness of their own language and the acceptance of English language as a new skill and resource.

So what tools can help us gain intercultural competency?

Give your learners time to reflect on their own cultural background and present them with new perspectives. Allow them to dive into other cultures ways on which and give them time to reflect and discuss the existence of other ways to do things that are neither right nor wrong, simply different.
Provide learners a chance to reflect on their own multi-cultural identities. Think together about how humans construct identities and renegotiate them according to different contexts (i.e. how may we use dialect when with family members and less colloquialisms with a professor at university).

To do so, we can introduce specific tasks into our teaching routines that help learners develop cultural awareness components. To give you some ideas, they may be:
● Role play or simulations
● Present what they think distinguishes their own culture from others
● Present their own city/country to their fellow students through making use of different skills such as writing, speaking, presentations, mingles or games
● Discuss gestures in class that have different meanings in different cultures.

As EFL teachers we should always be aware of the motivations behind why students are learning English. In the majority of the cases the language will be used as a means of communication with others who don’t speak English as a first language: a Lingua Franca in an international context. In this case, our main goal is to teach learners not only language and the knowledge attached to it, but to communicate internationally with people with different cultural identities.

A Fun Grammar Refresher in Preparation for the CELTA Course

Will Revising Grammar Help Me Apply for the CELTA Course?

When I applied for the CELTA course, I distinctly remember being told that I was a weak applicant on account of my language awareness.  I was a little surprised to be honest, I’d always considered myself to be fairly solid when it came to English.

What I hadn’t understood was this: it's one thing to be articulate and a good communicator in English and quite another to determine how bits of language hang together, how meaning is made and how to communicate that effectively to a learner.

I had the typical experience of learning grammar or a foreign language at school that included translations, little meaningful use of the target language and incredibly boring and easily forgettable grammar lessons. What is exciting about the CELTA course is seeing just how meaningful, creative, enjoyable and effective language teaching can be, when done well.

Grammar knowledge and wider language awareness

A very important thing to understand right from the beginning when you think about teaching English to speakers of other languages is that grammar is just one area of language you’ll be teaching, not the whole thing. It’s like taking one species out of an ecosystem and trying to make analyse it alone without its habitat.

What should I be thinking about as I go into CELTA training? What are tutors looking for as I do my pre-CELTA tasks?

Below is a video from our ELTCampus Grammar Refresher Course that looks at the areas we consider when we look at language and what needs to be taught t our students.

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Test Your Knowledge

A good understanding of core grammar is one of the building blocks of teaching. Later on, you can start looking at teaching methods and approaches where grammar takes a back seat, but in order to do that, you need to have a clear understanding of the fundamentals as well as ideas for clear, simple (and possibly visual) ways to help students understand what bits of language mean.

The ELTCampus Grammar Refresher is focused on exactly what you need to be aware of going into the CELTA. No more no less. The aim is not for you to be an expert, but to have solid entry-level understanding. Expertise develops over time and through teaching practice itself. This is the best and most memorable way of gaining in-depth grammar knowledge and language awareness.

Try out this typical pre-CELTA task question:

Can you answer these questions confidently? These are taken from a Pre CELTA task that forms part of the CELTA Application.

1.      Look at the sentence below and label the 15 parts of speech using the parts of speech given. You will need to use some of them more than once.

Sentence: A really good teacher thinks hard about likely errors and then he/she plans the lesson carefully.

Parts of speech: noun (n.) verb (v.) adjective (adj.) adverb (adv.) pronoun (pron.) article (art.) conjunction (conj.) preposition (prep.)

How did you go? Could you identify them?

2.      Look at the sentences below and make notes about the meaning/use and form of the language, including any terminology that you already know. You can use your own existing knowledge, as well as an appropriate language reference resource.

a) When we arrived, Pronoun was jumping into the river.

b) When we arrived, Pronoun had jumped into the river.

c) When we arrived, Pronoun jumped into the river.

Now check out this video from the ELTCampus Grammar Refresher Course and see if you would change anything about how you explain these time structures.

Improve Your CELTA Course Work

The very important thing to realise when applying for the CELTA is that you’re not expected to know everything! The tasks are designed to make you think about important features of language and teaching, so if they’re new to you, that’s all part of the learning process. But if you want to do some research for the tasks, that’s great – it’s not cheating! Any preparation you can do, e.g. to make yourself more comfortable with grammar, will be very useful.

The major challenge of the CELTA as a course, is the amount of new information and concepts you are expected to absorb and incorporate into your thinking, planning and teaching in a short period of time. Preparation is key. The Grammar Refresher from ELTCampus forms part of a super Pre-CELTA Preparation Bundle that covers what you need to know. When you come to do your CELTA course, you’ll hit the ground running.

Teaching New Language: When Should We Pre-Teach New Language and Why Should We Recycle Language?


The other day a student who was completing the Introduction to TEFL/TESOL: English Language Teaching Concepts on ELTCampus got in contact with me. They’re busy gearing up with their CELTA and asked a good question. In each of the modules we take an opportunity to go in and see a classroom in action. In this case it was a receptive skills lesson – that means the learners needed to listen to something and do something in response to what they heard.

The question from my online student was:

“Hi, I noticed that in the class observation video, the teacher didn’t pre-teach the ADJECTIVES of the task. I reckon the students already knew those. If they hadn’t, should she have taught them first? “

My answer:

You’re right. There could be different reasons why she didn’t present the adjectives first as new language to focus on:

  1. She hasn’t thought her lesson through and didn’t organise a way to present this new language – bad reason.
  2. She could safely assume at this language level the learners would’ve been exposed to these adjectives before – this is using common sense: If they already know it, don’t teach it.
  3. She knows for a fact that they have been exposed to these adjectives in either a previous activity within the lesson, or an activity or lesson a few days ago. So, she is consciously recycling the language

Teaching new language: should we be pre-teaching vocabulary before an activity?

Pre-teaching vocabulary is a classic CELTA Method. It is also taught in other pre-service TEFL certificates. I’ve done it and I confess in my early days as a teacher that I have tried to cover all the language possible to cover the task. It wasn't a good look.

Victim of pre-teaching all possible new language prior to a langauge task.

2 Very good reasons not to do it:

  1. The Creeping Death: Doing it this way can turn your lesson into a form of torture, both for yourself and the students. You lose rhythm, focus and motivation -and that’s just you, the teacher.
  2. Learner Autonomy: It doesn’t train learners to handle real-life situations with this new language. How will they learn those really important survival techniques to deal with unknown language without us holding their hand,  if we are busy giving them all the answers and cushioning them al the time?

If you want to pre-teach some language, do it carefully and moderately. Use basic good design principles and you’ll be sweet:

Good design Principle: For something to function, what is the minimum essential requirement? No more, no less.

ELT Equivalent: To do the task effectively, what is the minimum they need to know? What can be guessed from context?

Teaching new language: what is Recycling Language? And Why Should We Do It?

Recycling target language is important for language learning. Take a language learning app like Duolingo for example.  Apps like these use algorithms to apply this technique of exposing you to new language and testing you on it, again and again, in different ways.

When the programme sees that you are getting it and using it correctly most of the time, it will cause this language to show up less frequently. It continues to until the point when you get it right 100% of the time. Then it drops presenting this language to you almost completely. It safely assumes that the language learning has stuck.

Why does Repetition Work in Language Learning?

We know this is effective based on what we know of the brain and short and long-term memory. Repetition is needed to move new knowledge from the short-term memory across to the more stable long-term memory. However, the quality of that repetition does play a part.

Disengaged, decontextualized or robotic repetition will not be as effective engaged, mindful and contextualised repetition and recycling.  More on mindful repetition

What Effects Our Memory, Handling of New Concepts and Language Production

What learning apps can’t always deal with is the fact that humans aren’t binary beings. It’s not always a case that a piece of language has been learned in the programming sense:

Learned= true or false

If true, then true = forever

Else, try again.

Some days we get stuff, we can produce the language, other days for unfathomable or endlessly varied reasons, we can’t. Many factors, such as stress, tiredness and confidence affect our language learning and production. It’s something only teachers can pick up and react to sensitively…for now.


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Grammar Refresher Course with ELTCampus

Grammar Refresher and English Language Awareness

Grammar Refresher Course: What do we need to know when we learn new language?

Most of us, when we decide we want to become English language teachers, want to find out about grammar. We've either forgotten it all or never had a good understanding of English and it's parts in the first place. English teaching requires that we have a grounding in grammar and an understanding of language.

Teaching English isn't All About Grammar.

In this short video, which forms part of the currently free Grammar Refresher Course on ELTCampus, Emma introduces us to what we need to think about when we teach new words in English. The Grammar Refresher Course aims to raise your language awareness, covering the basics of grammar and introducing other aspects of language you'll need to think about.


Storytelling and Young Learners: Writing and Performing Plays Together

Language Learning and Storytelling: Creating Short Dramas From the Lives of Our Learners

Jeremy Harmer and I have chatted about this - the fact that practice, rehearsal and performance is important in music. Performance and getting ready for it forms part of what helps us learn and become good at playing an instrument. Through practice and rehearsal, we build up muscle memory and automatize chunks or phrases of music. We get to a point where we pick up a guitar and play a riff without even thinking about it. Our fingers just move automatically. Our language production uses similar techniques.

Thornbury suggests that we should look back into second language learning history and consider again the work of people such as Harold Palmer who advocated The Oral Method. In the 1920s Palmer was talking about how we need to build a store of memorized phrases and expressions to help our fluency.

In the 1990s usage-based theories and ideas such as the Lexical Approach (Lewis) argue that language shouldn’t be viewed "as independent systems of grammar and vocabulary but more a spectrum of meaningful units…with lexis occupying a central role" (Thornbury 2017). Learning isolated lists of words and having syllabi focused on grammar misrepresents language.

That’s where storytelling forms such an important role in presenting language in a meaningful context. The Hands Up Project ( is an example of storytelling where real engagement between storytellers and audience take place. The storyteller is sometimes the proficient English speaker, telling their story to the class via zoom or skype from their home, where ever they are in the world. At other times, this storyteller becomes the listener. It is the learners themselves who create and perform the story to the “teacher”. Think of the possibilities that we have with internet to be able to connect our learners with people around the world and share stories together.


Artists in Schools Project: Visual Arts and Language

What is the Artists in Schools Project?

Many years ago, I worked on a programme to encourage schools to invite artists into the classroom. They would to either do workshops with children, make work on site, or have a longer stint as artist in residence. I believe children learn a lot from simply being around adults who are working on projects. These adults are comfortable with children being present, picking up tools and getting involved, or watching, observing and learning. It's an informal space, an informal way of learning and a very old one too.

I asked a local school if I could make a new body of work at the school in a temporary studio.

The objective is twofold. First, to make the work (I am an artist). The visual work I am making is a response to the landscape around us in our local area.  And second, to make it in an environment where children can come and see me informally. They are free to sit with me, pick up a pen and draw beside me, or chat about the work with me as it develops. They may even want to help. They may want to create their own visual response as a result. The key for me is that it isn't a formal class setting. They get enough of that.

I have no idea how it will go. I have no idea how my work will develop, but I trust the process. I believe that if I approach the work, the shcool, teachers and the children quietly, slowly and with patience, like a good slow cooked meal the results will be delicious.

Notes from day one

These notes will be more of a #workaloud.

Teachers are popping in to see me. Curious. But I can see I'll have to write material to help teachers know what to do with me. They are so used to people being in the school to "teach", but don't know what to do with an artist being at the school just to be themselves and do what they do. I tried to explain to a friend that it would be like him setting up his lab and doing his research on fly brains with the lab being open for kids to pop in. This is how children have learned for millennia. Being and playing in and around adults getting on with their work.

emma louise pratt

Emma L Pratt - Eltcampus Director and a visual artist too 🙂