Skip to content

Visual Arts and Language Learning: Emma Louise Pratt Artist in Residence at IATEFL 2018

  • by
Artist in Residence IATEFL 2018

Visual Arts and Language Learning Workshop and Conference Residency

2018 Visual Artist in Residence: 9 - 13 April, Brighton Centre, Brighton UK

This year I've been invited to be the Artist in Residence during the IATEFL annual conference to highlight the topic visual arts and language learning and broaden the discussion around it. IATEFL (International Association for Teaching English as a Foreign Language) has been around for 50 years with over 4,000 members from 6 continents. Each year in spring, they hold the annual conference, with attendees from all over the world. It's an opportunity for many of us to meet with our colleagues, stretched far and wide and be inspired by what they are doing.

Day 1:

A pre-conference workshop with the Global Issues Special Interest Group (GISIG). During their one day event, I will facilitate the creation a collaborative piece of visual art on the theme of Social Justice.

I'll be running a workshop specifically for the Global Issues Special Interest Group (GISIG). A lot of other activities and workshops will be taking place during Emma Louise Pratt Workshop IATEFL 2018this day long pre-conference event looking at the theme of Social Justice.  The day is also being facilitated by the Visual Arts Circle.

"The Visual Arts Circle is a community of practice founded by writer, editor, trainer and video producer, Anna Whitcher, and teacher, trainer, award-winning writer and international conference speaker, Kieran Donaghy, made up of language teaching professionals, teachers, teacher trainers, writers, editors, researchers, designers, illustrators, artists, photographers, and filmmakers, all with a shared belief in the value of visual arts – drawing, painting, sculpture, design, crafts, photography, video, and filmmaking – in language education."

Visual Arts Circle statement .

The Visual Arts Circle in Collaboration with the GISIG Pre-Conference Day Event

Visual Arts and Language Learning Workshop Objectives

  1. Demonstrating artmaking as a process
    GISIG PCE Workshop: visual arts and language learning looking at social justice

    PDF Overview of Workshop

  2. Investigating participative creation and its process with particular reflection on language learning
  3. The visual work created

Teachers who haven’t had an arts background often lack confidence. There is this idea that "being arty" is innate. Just as we all learn languages, we can learn new language forms and the techniques that go with producing them. To me, art making is just another language. The difference is that, just like a musician, I’ve had to practice and rehearse it over many decades to navigate the art making process with skill.

Simple Art Making Materials

There are many artists that use the simplest of materials. Materials will be paper, water colour, water soluble pencils, graphite pencils, erasers. Reducing the choice available of media and colour also challenges the user to be creative. giving someone all the colours of the rainbow to work with can result in the user being overwhelmed. On the other hand, giving the user three colours only helps reduce "noise". They can focus on form and texture or meaningful, considered use of colour.

Research in Action

The scary thing about workshops and collaborative art making is that you cannot control everything that will happen. This isn't a lesson plan I can orchestrate to the last detail. Added to that, is the objective of looking at how visual arts and language learning interact. I have planned the stages of the workshop, but what actually happens in those stages is entirely reliant on how people choose to engage. This is what I would like to capture and I will be recording what takes place.

Day 2-5:

Resident Artist for the Duration of IATEFL, Brighton,


The artist residency is an exciting opportunity to explore a variety of areas of interest from multimodal literacy, the visual arts and language learning to play in learning. Each morning (Tuesday 10-13 April), you'll see me down the back of the plenary speaker room at the Hilton, listening to the plenary presentation and taking visual notes. I've been given the challenge to respond visually to the content of the plenaries. Let's see where this goes!

Throughout the rest of the conference I will be in the Multi Media area of the Brighton Centre (mornings predominantly, as I would like to attend a few talks too!). I'll be creating work there and chatting to people about the project. Come by!

Further Reading and Links

The Image in English Language Teaching

Downloadable open access book edited by Kieran Donaghy and Daniel Xerri. This is a great publication to get to grips with the conversations that are happening around language learning now.

Visual Arts Circle Article: Why my grandmother didn’t want me to be an artist: Art as text, caves and flickering.

ELTCampus Article: Homo Ludens? Learning and Play in the Language Classroom

IH Journal Issue 43 November 2017:  An Artist in the Language Classroom: To What Extent Do We Consciously Blend Our Arts and Teaching Practices?

IATEFL 2018 Artist Emma Louise Pratt Activities Booklet


IATEFL 2018 Artist Emma Louise Pratt Activities Booklet


A Toolkit of Ideas for Using Visual Art in Language Learning.

Find here the takeaway booklet of suggested activities for teachers and learners taht I complied for the conference.

visual arts and language learning activities and ideas for the classroom ELTCampus

PDF Toolkit of Activities and Ideas

IATEFL 2018 Artist Emma Louise Pratt Activities Booklet