Feel the fear, and draw anyway! Launching #drawingELT!

It is with great excitement that Clare Catchpole (of Express Yourself in English fame) and I launch the hashtag #drawingELT.

We are both firm believers in the power of drawing. It’s creative. It’s relaxing. It’s engaging. It’s supportive. It’s fun. It’s also great for checking understanding, aiding memory, supporting students to take notes and activating life skills such as critical thinking.

We know that there are many teachers out there who agree and who would like to develop their drawing skills. So we’d like to create a community of like-minded ELT professionals. All you need to do is use #drawingELT on Twitter or LinkedIn to share your lesson ideas, blogs, doodles, sketches and flashcards.

To inspire your drawings, we’ll post challenges. These will vary from ELT related topics, to vocabulary items to more complex concepts like grammar, metaphor or puzzlers such as how to draw inclusive pronouns or the difference between need and want. You can add your own suggestions here: https://www.menti.com/zp1ajaytg1

And before you say it, everyone CAN DRAW. Some of us are maybe just a bit rusty or haven’t had much practice. Drawing is a visual language, and as language teaching professionals we all know the best way to improve is regular practice. I have two mottos:

Feel the fear, and draw anyway!

It’s not art, it’s communication. 

As such, with #drawingELT, anything goes. You can share the most rudimentary stick person scribbled on the back of a napkin or a detailed illustration capable of making Da Vinci jealous. Mine will be closer to the former!

Here’s a fantastic little .gif that Clare made to get you in the mood!

I look forward to seeing your creations!

If you’d like to brush up on your drawing skills, why not join one of my online courses? You can find information here or join my mailing list to hear about the next dates. You could also follow me on Linkedin or Twitter: @E_Bryson

Why everyone can and should draw in their ELT Classroom

Recently I’ve become a bit obsessed with using drawings in the classroom. In this high-tech era, drawing is a back to basics approach and the perfect excuse to get away from a screen.  My drawings are quick and simple.  They are not attempting to be Takashi Murakami or Christine Clark.  They have at times drawn funny looks (pun totally intended) or initiated laughter, but that’s OK.  Students get the message and we have fun doing so. Plus, imperfect drawings teach students that it’s ok to be imperfect – and encourages them to confidently create their own imperfect drawings.

Using drawings in class is a brilliant multisensory way of adding some fun to your lessons, concept checking, get students thinking critically and as a tool for mediation. It’s also great for memory. The drawing effect refers to a 2016 study by Wammes, Meade and Fernandes which found that drawing can aid vocabulary retention. The study gave participants a list of simple words and asked them to either write the word repeatedly or draw it. The results showed that participants recalled twice as many drawn words as written.

The best bit is that drawing works well online and face to face. Hand-drawn visuals engage participants as they bring a piece of analogue into the digital world. You can prepare the visuals before class. In a live class you can point your webcam at a notebook or flipchart, treat yourself to a visualiser or use the annotate tools. Obviously your drawings won’t be as pretty using a mouse but isn’t that part of the fun? Again, it’s not about artistic magnificence, it’s about communication.

Using annotation tools with a visual template to navigate the digital swamp in a recent webinar.

There are lots of ways to use drawings and visuals in the classroom. You can check out my previous blogs posts, or this padlet where I have compiled some of my favourites from other ELT afficionados. Feel free to contact me with any others I should add.

Neil Cohn has some wonderful research into the use of drawings as a visual language. One of his papers discusses how most people lose their drawing ability in their teens, and with it their visual communication skills. He has found the use of drawings to be beneficial to interaction, motor skills, feedback, culture, motivation and emotions.

This research resonates with me. When I was about 12 or 13, I had to choose which courses to study at school. I swithered a lot between PE or Art but finally chose PE because at the time I wanted to be a personal trainer. When I broke the news to my art teacher, he looked genuinely dejected. I wish someone had told me that learning to draw is a communication skill for life while fitness comes and goes.

A quick diagram to compare my fitness and drawing skills since I was a teenager.

Many people believe that they can’t draw, and I have to admit that until I met Emer O’Leary I had started to believe this myth about myself. Her Secrets of Simple Graphics course put me back on the visual pathway and led me to signing up to go full Graphic Facilitator.

I’d love to support the ELT community to grow their visual vocabulary and add ‘visual’ to their list of lingua francas. I’m now running Online Courses to help you do this!

Why not join me and learn how to engage your learners with simple drawings? Follow this link to find out more: www.emilybrysonelt.com/online-courses/

Sign up to my mailing list, or follow me via this blog or on Twitter: @E_Bryson

Simple drawings to support life skills.

In previous blogs posts, I’ve talked about the benefits of using simple graphics in the classroom. Working visually is a great way to promote life skills, and drawings don’t need to be masterpieces – their purpose is simply to convey a message.

One fun activity is to create a five-year plan with students. Making plans for the future is a common tool for professionals wishing to enhance their careers, and clarify their goals and plans. In fact, tonight, I embark on Emer O’Leary’s Draw Out Your Future Course to do just that (and to have some fun with marker pens).

To support learners in this way, ask them to draw a simple road map or steps (see illustrations) in their notebooks, then add visual representations of their current situation and end goals at the beginning and end points. 

Using simple graphics with students is a great way to enhance their creativity and self-expression.  The icons don’t need to be works of art, but simply to communicate visually. When I’m stuck for ideas of how to draw something, I find that looking at images of ‘icons’ online can aid inspiration.

Once students have each drawn their road map or stairs and added their start and end points, they can then discuss how to achieve their goals in pairs or small groups. This can be done in a chatroom or breakout room online. Then ask them to add stages for working towards their goal on their map (attend university, take a course, etc.). Some students may need more than five years to achieve their goal ( e.g. if they want to study medicine or architecture). Allow these students to add additional years.

Display each student’s road map around the room, or ask them to share it using a collaborative tool such as padlet or whatsapp. Ask students to comment on each others’ plans. Encourage them to focus on how realistic each goal and stage is within the time frame, and to give motivational feedback and suggestions on other ways it may be achieved. This is a great way for them to practice giving and receiving constructive feedback.

While the aim of this activity may be to identify goals and current abilities, it also allows students to practise numerous life skills, such as communication, organisation, self-awareness, planning, giving and receiving feedback and making suggestions.

It’s a great way to review mixed tenses and different ways of expressing future. (E.g. Right now I’m a delivery driver but in the future, I want to own my own business. OR I’m planning to go to university next year.). It’s also perfect for feedback expressions, such as giving advice or making suggestions (e.g. You could also do an evening class. OR You should speak to my brother, he did something similar.).

If you liked this activity and would like more ideas for how to incorporate life skills into your curriculum, you will love my book. I wrote 50 Ways to Teach Life Skills as I realised just how important it was to incorporate life skills into any comprehensive curriculum.  It is a collection of practical tips and activities to enhance students’ social, academic, critical thinking, digital, and work skills to help students become their best selves.

This guide is simple, supports all levels of learners, and many of the activities require little or no preparation or special materials. Each activity assists students to improve their speaking, reading, writing, listening, grammar, vocabulary, or pronunciation skills while also practising their broader skills for life. It is available in print and digital from Wayzgoose Press. https://wayzgoosepress.com/emily-bryson/

Online Courses

Loved this? Want to learn more Graphic Facilitation techniques for your classroom? Join my Online Course! Follow this link to find out more: www.emilybrysonelt.com/online-courses/

Sign up to my mailing list, or follow me via this blog or on Twitter: @E_Bryson