Volume II - 1994
The Role of Art in Language Learning
by Catriona R. Moore, Judith A. Koller, and Maria Kreie Arago
Catriona Moore, Judith Koller, and Maria Kreie Arago recently finished the postbaccalaureate program in second languages and cultures education at the University of Minnesota. Catriona Moore teaches ESL at Hayden Heights Elementary School in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where she and her students continue to explore the role of art in ESL. Judy Koller substitute teaches in the Grand Rapids, Minnesota area. Maria Kreie Arago teaches Spanish FLES in Minnetonka Public Schools.
As teachers of ESL, French, and Spanish, we have become increasingly interested in the role that student-created images play in language learning. We have witnessed firsthand the excitement that art creation brings to our students. We have seen how such activities decrease inhibitions and improve the classroom atmosphere. We have learned through artwork about the individual personalities and experiences of our students. We have even watched art develop into language. Therefore, in a time in which learning and teaching theory is urging the integration of academic disciplines, we are especially drawn to the integration of language and art.
In this paper, we lay a theoretical foundation for the integration of artistically-inspired activities into the second language classroom, and then we demonstrate how art and language learning may be combined within a broader unit of study. Most of these activities are not art for art's sake, but rather art activities: we are not teaching about art, but rather with it and through it for the sake of second language learning. This taps into the affective domain, which we are seeking to activate. The activities are student-centered and student-initiated, and they involve a great deal of imagination and creativity. We will refer to them as student-created artwork, student-created visuals, or student-created images.
Why Use Student-Created Artwork?
Many education professionals (Bassano and Christison, 1982; Franklin, 1989; Richardson, 1990; Shier, 1990) advocate the need to fuse affective and cognitive domains of knowledge. The affective domain includes emotions, attitudes, feelings, and other intuitive ways of knowing; while the cognitive domain refers to intellectual, rational ways of thinking. Shier contends that in everyone's daily interactions there are always both affective and cognitive variables at work, and thus effective classroom instruction should automatically address both.
Christison (1993) believes that student-created images enhance language learning in three different ways. First, students are more involved, confident, and productive. Next, there is a positive change in the classroom environment that is uninhibiting and conducive to language learning. Finally, students are more able to perform cognitively demanding tasks, and the quality of their written and spoken language improves. Motivation also increases when they share artwork with classmates (Wright, 1989).
Shier maintains that art more actively engages students in their own learning processes on a personal, intellectual, and physical level. Bassano and Christison attribute this engagement to an emotional quality in art. Recognizing the ability of the arts and art activities to engage and motivate students, Allen (1990) believes the process of acquiring language comes naturally when students are involved in activities in which they can find meaning and purpose.
The improvement of the classroom dynamic suggests that when students have the opportunity to develop their skills in a number of areas, they feel more confident; and when they have the opportunity to share their creations with others and see that everyone's work has its own story, they tend to hold more respect for each other (Shier). Bassano and Christison comment that when students cooperate with each other to create visual images and tell their stories, the class develops a sense of group unity, and individual and cultural differences are accepted. Classrooms that observe, value, and respect differences are better learning environments, suggests Franklin (1989). Andrade (1990) writes that the arts and artwork can provide a context for conversation and an impetus for communication. Such conversation or student oral production is vital in the second language classroom. Art activities provided Bassano and Christison's students with cues for conversation as well as topics for narrative writings and journal work; the authors point out that input for language learning comes from aural, oral, and visual sources.
Student-created images can introduce new subject matter because they are more real, vivid, and meaningful to the students' lives (Richardson 1990). Similarly, Mann (1988) emphasizes that students' drawings provide a guide for verbal expression: she requires of her students that their writing not contradict their drawing; thus the writing is contextualized and personal.
Second language education goes beyond language itself to the study of culture and society, and here also the integration of art experiences has an important role to play. Shier suggests that art helps students to link the language they are learning to its culture. She observed her students developing awareness of the culture in which the target language is spoken through their participation in art experiences. This gave them a broader perspective for interpreting cultural materials they heard or read outside the classroom. Steiner (1986) advocates cultivating children's appreciation for the beauty of language by integrating art experiences with language learning in order to help them develop a sense of international and intercultural acceptance.
Through student-created images, the teacher can learn a great deal about the students' personalities, experiences, and interests (Franklin, 1989). Franklin explains that the teacher can study the content and style of the students' artwork in the same way that one would study a master work of art, which can lead to a teacher's greater respect and value for the students. It can also help the teacher learn about the students' literary and aesthetic preferences. Bassano and Christison describe how the teacher can become more aware of and sensitive to the attitudes, needs, interests and personalities of each student. This makes it easier to individualize instruction and to plan lessons and units. Student-created artwork also helps the students to discover more about themselves. Bassano and Christison contend that such self-discovery can help increase the students' self-esteem as they uncover their unique learning styles and resources and apply them to language learning. This happens in part because through drawings and other artwork, barriers are lowered, and the students feel a freedom from anxiety which makes them more apt to learn.
Integrating Artwork with Language
Theorists of art education have outlined four steps to integrating art content into the curriculum. Shier suggests that the first three--history, criticism, and aesthetics--provide subject study and discussion; while production, the fourth step, is a medium of instruction. Teachers must make a creative and deliberate effort to incorporate student-created art activities so that they are truly integrated rather than merely diversionary. Integrated visual work contributes to the contextualization of written work (Bergstrom, 1991), and encourages the development of critical thinking skills.
Franklin describes her experience with art integration in her second language classroom, with reference to Patricia Carini's process of "reflective observation" (cited in Franklin, p. 78). The process is specifically designed for ESL, and it provides the students and teachers with a means of getting to know one another. According to Franklin, the process involves three steps: student creation of visual or written work, teacher analysis of student work, and teacher tailoring of instruction to meet the students' needs as revealed by creation and analysis.
In Franklin's study, reflective observation was done with kindergarten ESL students whose native language was Spanish. The process involved looking at the conceptual similarities between student artwork and student language, presumably based on the premise that art and language concepts are deeply related, and develop in parallel, similar ways. Franklin found that observation of several aspects of children's artistic and verbal styles gave her valuable insights into the children's personalities.
The value of this type of diagnostic reflection is supported by research done in the area of children's aesthetic development. Franklin (p.78) cites King's (1987) contention that for children at this age, "the aesthetic mode is the primary mode of cognition"; children express themselves in a variety of ways including gesture, play, and artworks. Perhaps the underlying theme here is that language and art are forms of representation. When children begin to draw and write, they seek out similarities between a real object and the one they are depicting in their written or visual work (Golomb, 1988).
Finally, Andrade emphasizes the value of incorporating art and art activities in second language classrooms at the secondary and post-secondary levels, and recognizes the need to justify such activities at those levels. She cites increasing evidence that content-based instruction in secondary and post-secondary language classrooms is highly successful.
Connecting Art and Language
In establishing the link between language and art, one cannot ignore the similar elements that exist within both. Boyer (1985) points out how language and art were two of the first developments of early civilizations. With their nearly identical components, one wonders if the two naturally develop parallel to one another. Shier points out that expression of thoughts and feelings, as well as the spontaneity of the learner, are parts of both language and artwork. She also describes the importance of abstract thoughts, creativity, personal experiences and personal interests to both language and art. Finally, Shier claims that art and art activities provide a unique opportunity for teacher and students to focus in on specific aspects of oral language use, such as intonation and pronunciation, in a way that may not otherwise be possible.
Betty Edwards' two books on drawing instruction, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (1989) and Drawing on the Artist Within (1986) are written with the belief that the artist sees and thinks non-verbally in order to create art. Edwards (1989) calls this type of seeing a right-brain activity, one that requires different perceptual skills than those we use with language, which is connected with the left-brain.
In some circumstances, Edwards contends, verbal language can be inappropriate and even hinder creative thinking. Furthermore, she reminds us that "drawings, like words, have meaning--often beyond the power of words to express, but nonetheless invaluable in making the chaos of our sensory perceptions comprehensible" (1986, p. xiii). For adolescent and adult students, applying techniques for tapping into different modes of thinking and perspective-taking can be valuable in second language learning (Andrade). Edwards applies the same belief in her approach to the teaching of drawing.
Christison refers to Edwards' book, Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain, with respect to the "right brain" capacity to see things from a different perspective. By utilizing the types of activities that require the "right brain", where non-verbal reasoning dominates, students are able to approach language and culture from a broadened perspective. Through the creation of images, students have the opportunity to use skills that may be stronger for them than more traditional academic skills, granting students a more balanced, holistic, cognitive and educational experience.
For Christison, there is clearly a visible advantage to creating and perceiving another kind of image. She finds that art activities help teachers and students to take perspectives other than their own. She suggests that we view the world so much from our own experience, that when we go beyond that, it really opens up the doors of communication. The activities used to open these doors include unfinished pictures, self-portraits, cooperative drawings, and cultural collages. Christison finds that all students, even those who are initially hesitant, participate eventually. In her book, Drawing Out (1982), Christison adds that art activities have become integral, almost second nature, to her teaching.
Gardner (1985) suggests that there are similarities between one's human development and the artistic process, and that the workings of the human mind can be better understood once the artistic process is studied as a form of intellect. Shier and Arnheim (1969) both consider art a way of knowing in its own right. It is one form of intelligence. Boyer (1985) suggests that children need to use this with other intelligences as tools for learning. Only by utilizing many kinds of knowledge can children reach the full potential of their mental abilities. When teachers integrate a variety of methods in their classrooms, their instruction is more apt to encompass and appeal to individual learning styles. Through this diversification of instructional content, a holistic "learning paradigm" is created (Shier, p. 314). Andrade maintains that consideration of multiple measures of intelligence can provide teachers with a wider assortment of effective instructional techniques and students with a more thorough learning experience.
In her rationale, Shier states that "the capacity of art to both connote and denote provides another way of knowing language" (p. 314). Franklin supports this idea in suggesting that writing and creating visual art enhance ESL children's learning about both verbal and artistic expression. Bassano and Christison state that the creation of visual artworks strengthens students' creativity and then helps students to develop vocabulary, improve comprehension, and think in the new language. Striker (1992) suggests a natural connection between art and language, and claims that artistic creation precedes and prepares linguistic development. She also stresses the need for teachers to become aware of the relationship between visual representation and verbal expression.
Tarr (1993) believes that affective, artistic activities are one way to achieve balance in education. Schooling, she believes, tends to be overly mechanistic and technical, and art is a necessary but missing element. According to Tarr, "Art speaks to the soul...it opens up people in mysterious ways." Art has the power to transform everything, and it is naturally an essential part of all life. Education without art is "dehydrated education, like a box of Lipton soup, lacking the spirit, authenticity, flavor and spice of grandma's homemade chicken soup."
Teachers have the duty to connect with the whole student: the body, the soul, and the intellect. Education speaks not only to the intellect: it also speaks to the soul. It is clear to Tarr that affective factors are natural and integral to second language learning and to human learning in general. Moreover, classrooms that fail to address this and respond to it creatively and professionally are incomplete at best.
Waldorf Education began in Stuttgart, Germany in 1919 when Emil Molt, the president of the Waldorf-Astorias Cigarette Factory, asked Rudolf Steiner to create a school for the children of the factory workers. Molt, who was considered a great humanitarian, asked Steiner to "design a curriculum to educate human beings who would be able to create a peaceful and just society " (Minnesota Waldorf School, 1992). With over 500 schools in more than thirty countries, Waldorf Schools represent the largest independent school system in the world. Setiner describes his educational philosophy in these words: "The heard of the Waldorf method is the conviction that education is an art--it must speak to the child's experience. To educate the whole child, his heart will and must be reached, as well as his mind" (Minnesota Waldorf School).
The Waldorf philosophy stresses the incorporation of artistic experiences in all subject areas (Harwood, 1967). With respect to the study of a second language, Steiner (1986) suggests that the development of a sense of the aesthetic is particularly important to language development. He believes that language is essentially logical, but that on a deeper level, it is creative. For him, learning a foreign language goes beyond grammar: the student must also be encouraged to develop an appreciation for the artistry of language. This may be thought of as one element of Steiner's rationale for the integration of art experiences with language learning.
Halverson and Olson (1993), foreign language teachers at the Minnesota Waldorf School in Roseville, confirm the importance of art. According to the Waldorf philosophy, art is seen as the spiritual element of human life, too often ignored in a materialistic society such as ours. Participation in art creation, according to Halverson, has a way of connecting us to certain parts of ourselves that often remain untapped. In the Waldorf School, this artistic or spiritual element is tapped as students and teachers together create art and color, exercising their imagination.
At the Waldorf School, reading is taught through visual images. Halverson believes that this connection has been made because of the historical pictographic development of letters and alphabets. She says that as the students go through the curriculum in a Waldorf School, they experience a type of "evolution of human consciousness." Thus, in learning to read and write, the students go back in time or consciousness to a level where letters and words have "more tangible reality for them." For example, the children will hear a story of "the swan swimming on the sea" and their illustrations of that story will gradually be abstracted to the letter "s". In that way, "s" holds more meaning for the children and is not a foreign symbol. In the second language classes, students are taught orally for three years before learning to read or write. Halverson comments that this results in fourth graders who can read and write German and French at a high level of difficulty from the outset.
The children at Waldorf create their own textbooks throughout the school year and that activity contributes to their language learning. In the beginning, the students may copy some writings from the board about a story they have dictated to their teacher. Then they make illustrations for their story and form their own books. Later on these books become good references for what the students have learned throughout the year.
Olson advises always having a visual element of what the teacher is trying to express, otherwise the story makes little sense to the students. This can be especially effective if students create their own characters and props. Thus, the students take ownership and show pride and interest in the language. This visual component is very important for younger learners. The children's interest is often lost if the teacher does not do something to "create surprise or tickle them." Students are curious about teacher-created images, and they enjoy imitating the illustrations and narratives that go along with them. Both teachers believe that visuals are a valuable way of communicating in the target language without having to translate to the native language. Olson described how she tells a story, draws it out, and moves visual elements of the story to illustrate action. The story is told completely in the second language! In discussing their artistic activities in the language classes, Olson and Halverson point out that the projects are successful in that they connect well to other work in other subjects. This integration of content at the Waldorf School is often missing in other schools' curricula. One way, then, to see more evidence of the enhancement of language through art is to integrate art throughout the entire school's curriculum. Art not only benefits language learning, it benefits mathematics, science, social studies, and every other subject area that draws the students' interest.
Judith A. Koller designed a unit on French Impressionism with several goals in mind. Linguistic goals focused on the development and enhancement of students' speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills. Cultural goals included the exploration and understanding of a significant artistic, cultural, and social movement. Humanistic goals centered on the development of a sense of community, cooperation, and teamwork. But the unit was written with one additional goal in mind: to explore the role of artistically-inspired learning activities in the secondary-level second language classroom. Through the implementation of this unit, Koller sought to answer two questions. The first concerned how students of this age group would respond to being given an opportunity to create art in their language class. The second was whether or not such an opportunity would enhance their language-learning experience.
Because at the secondary level, the existing research on the art/language relationship seemed to be most sparse, this part of the research specifically targets high school students. High school language programs tend to neglect or, at best, de-emphasize the incorporation of nonverbal forms of expression into the language classroom. Such de-emphasis may be especially true of the visual arts, including drawing, coloring, and painting.
The curriculum unit was implemented with five sections of high school French students at three levels: third year, fourth year advanced placement, and fifth year. The unit combined language skills development with the study of art history and the study of works of art. It required students to complete several writing projects and an original work of art. Students in all five classes were given class time in which to create their art work and to write. Thus the language classroom was transformed into a studio of sorts, and the students became, for a while at least, artists. The use of class time for the creation of artworks permitted Koller to observe and to speculate not only on the work the students produced, but also on the artistic process and the atmosphere of the classroom-turned-studio.
Approximately fifteen students chose to submit their work to Koller for the purposes of this research. Each contributed two pieces of work. The first was an art work done in crayon, colored pencil, chalk, or paint, and emulated Impressionist style and technique. The second was a French-language essay in which the students described and reflected upon their art work. The students' visual and written works were varied and personal, each reflective of the individual student's style of self-expression. Observations and reflections were made without regard to individual differences in artistic talent or to personal aesthetic preferences. The findings resulting from the implementation of the unit are summarized on the following pages.
Student Response to Art-Inspired Learning
The students in the five classes in which this curriculum unit was implemented knew from the beginning of the unit that they would eventually have the opportunity to try their hands at Impressionist artistic technique. The student-created images in this way provided a long-term goal for the students to anticipate and work toward as they explored French culture, history, artists, and art. The students seemed to look forward to creating their own works of art. When the day arrived for them to begin their artwork, though, some anxiety surfaced. This anxiety centered upon evaluation: some students voiced an understandable concern that their artwork would be graded according to its "quality." Their definition of "quality" was based on a particular concept of what is "good" art: that which is perceived as worthy of being framed, sold, and displayed. To alleviate their anxiety, two steps were taken. First, students were assured that the evaluation of their artwork, in which they would have a part (a self-evaluation is included in the unit), would be based entirely upon their efforts to apply what they had learned about the unique aspects of Impressionist painting. Second, students were encouraged to recall the fundamental belief underlying the Impressionist movement--that personal impressions, or interpretations, are paramount. Such personal works as the students created would not be judged on the basis of any predetermined notions of what is "good" art or what makes an artist "talented." Once the nature of the evaluation had been established, the students became clearly more relaxed, and displayed a good deal of interest and engagement in the artistic experience. In getting started on their artwork, the students were asked to recall what an Impressionist artist such as Monet or Morisot might choose as his or her subject: for example, a nature scene or an ordinary person. Next, they discussed what the unit activities had taught them about Impressionist style and technique, such as imprecise forms, broad strokes of the brush, the effects of light on an object, and the use of pastel colors. The students then took their knowledge and applied it to their own artworks. They succeeded admirably; that is, they chose subjects and colors appropriate to Impressionist style, and rendered them in techniques reminiscent of Impressionism. The subjects of the students' images included an eclipse of the sun, a pair of ballet slippers, a picnic scene, a bridge over a stream, oceanside cliffs, hills dotted with flowers, sailboats, a chapel at dusk, and sunsets over water.1 Sunsets were the most popular theme, recurring in several works; this is probably because the students had learned of the Impressionist artists' passion for the effects of sunlight on objects. The popularity of this theme and other outdoor scenes--the image of the ballet slippers was one of the few not incorporating the outdoors suggests the students' internalization of the essence of Impressionism. Thus, the artworks serve as a vehicle for assessing student learning as a result of the curriculum unit.
Although the students who requested help getting started represented a minority, their concern implies the importance of building context into artistic experiences in the language classroom. Striker stresses that just as a teacher would not give students a writing assignment without some guidance, students should not be expected to just spontaneously create art. This seems an especially important point with respect to the language classroom, which is for many students a stressful environment. Related to the importance of providing students with a context to guide their artistic creations is the notion of cognitive challenge. Because this curriculum unit focused on a particular artistic genre, the students were required to do more than simply draw a picture. They were expected to demonstrate their knowledge of Impressionist style and technique by applying elements of the genre in their own artwork. All students remained within the established parameters of Impressionist style and technique, yet no two images were alike or even very similar. For example, there were many unique variations on the sunset theme: suns ranged in color from pale yellow to bright pink, setting over water, in forests, or behind cliffs. Similarly, two students diverged from the quintessential Impressionist technique of broad brush strokes and used, instead, the tiny dots of Pointillism. An offshoot of Impressionism, Pointillism was also studied over the course of the unit. Students seemed to feel security in the parameters of subject, color, and technique, while at the same time taking pride in the uniqueness of their artistic creations.
That the students cared about their artwork was clear not only from their artworks themselves, but from the artistic process as well. Many students took extra time in choosing their paper. Different sizes and textures were provided to assist students in personalizing their artwork. Most were also highly selective of their medium; crayons and colored chalk were provided, but some students chose to supply their own colored pencils and watercolor paints. The students were equally selective of colors: all used pastels, shades which constitute a hallmark of Impressionist-style art, but in unique combinations. For example, one sunset was done all in pale gray and pale brown, while another was a veritable festival of color: vibrant pink, yellow, blue, green, and chartreuse. The time thus spent in planning the images they would create is certain evidence that the students cared about the project they were undertaking.
This positive attitude on the students' part toward their artistic process and products carried over to the general classroom atmosphere. It would be an understatement to say that the students were "on-task" during this part of the curriculum unit. Most were certainly engaged in the process of creating a work of art. But even more, the experience of working side-by-side lent an air of cooperation, sharing, and community to the classroom. For instance, some colors in crayons and chalk were limited in number; to facilitate the sharing of resources, several students moved their desks to form small work tables on which they piled crayons or chalk within the reach of everyone at the table. The students did this on their own initiative.
Even more inspiring, some students shared their unfinished images with classmates, and traded opinions or advice. Such behavior was rare for these students, who had not frequently been observed spontaneously sharing opinions on other types of expressive or communicative work, such as essays or oral presentations. The artistic experience thus seemed to encourage a greater sharing of work and ideas. Similarly, some students were openly admiring of the work of their classmates: on more than one occasion, one student called the teacher over to admire the artwork of another. This enthusiasm, admiration, and praise for the work of classmates is a phenomenon seldom before observed in these classes when the task was a verbal one.
To summarize, the key factors in the success of the experience include the following: a clearly articulated and non-judgmental evaluation procedure; a cognitively challenging artistic project; an established context and guidelines; and a positive attitude and supportive classroom atmosphere.
Second Language Enhancement
Turning now to the question of second language use, the students' essays provide a vehicle for examining their use of French in response to the artistic experience. While developing their Impressionist-style images, the students were asked to reflect on their work: especially, to consider what inspired them to select a particular subject and particular colors and techniques. The students would, upon completion of their artwork, record their thoughts in a descriptive/reflective essay in French. In anticipation of this essay, the students had earlier written descriptive essays about famous Impressionist paintings. While no quantitative measure was done to compare the two essays written by each student, observations on the second essays prove insightful regarding the artistic experience and its relation to second language acquisition and use.
Many of the reflective essays were quite lengthy, even those of the less proficient students for whom writing long compositions posed a particularly significant challenge. Several of these essays were noticeably longer than the preceding essays, in which the students described works of well-known Impressionist artists. The increase in the amount written is partly attributable to the nature of the assignment: while the first essay was intended to be mostly descriptive, the second was to be both descriptive and reflective. But the increased length may also be a function of the students' caring about the task. The artworks they created with their own imagination and their own hands became a part of the students' personal experience; it is reasonable to believe that they had many ideas they wished to express about their own works. Whatever the reason, the ultimate benefit to students was increased French writing experience.
Related to the amount of writing students accomplished in their reflective essays are considerations of grammatical accuracy. No quantitative measure of accuracy, such as counting errors, was done, but general observations were made regarding the students' use of French in their writing. Almost without exception, the students drew extensively on new vocabulary learned over the course of the unit. Even where grammatical errors were present, the new vocabulary was consistently used appropriately; that is, it appeared in a context in which it made sense.
In terms of grammatical accuracy, then, the students succeeded in communicating in written French their reflections on their artwork. But more telling than how they communicated is what they communicated. The students all included a description of their work: the subject, the colors, the medium, the artistic techniques used. But more challenging to them was to reflect on their artwork: to explain, for example, why they chose a given subject or why their image was an example of Impressionist art. Many of the students met and exceeded this challenge.
From their written reflections, four principal themes emerge: interpretation of the symbolism in their artworks; expressions of liking for their artworks; expressions of positive feelings toward the artistic experience; and the identification of self as artist. Each of these themes will now be discussed in turn. First, some students wrote interesting interpretations of their work, finding in their images not just a subject rendered in pastels, but symbolism. For example, one student used chalk to create his impression of a boat manned by a lone sailor, moving rapidly in the wind; the artist wrote that "Plus important que le sujet, c'est l'‚motion." (More important than the subject is the feeling.)2 Another student described her image of ballet slippers as having "l'aire gracieuse et ‚quilibre," (grace and poise). A third student who also chose to create an image of a solitary person on a sailboat wrote, "Il va chez lui aprŠs une longue journ‚e. Tout se calme." (He is going home after a long day. Everything is calming down.) These personal interpretations suggest that the students genuinely cared about their artwork and had put a good deal of thought into it. The artwork seems to have motivated the students to express their thoughts in writing as well, with the result that they challenged themselves to stretch their use of written French beyond mere objective description.
The second theme is appreciation for their own artwork. In one example, the student expressed the conviction that her painting was a good example of French Impressionism. Another wrote that he liked his picture, although he wished to work on it even more. A third student was particularly enthusiastic; she wrote: "J'adore peindre! J'adore les fleurs et la nature, ainsi, je les ai peintes...j'aime cette composition assez bien." (I love to paint! I love flowers and nature, thus I painted them...I like this work quite well.) Third, other students expressed in their writing positive feelings toward the artistic experience as a whole and to the genre of art they were producing. Several students expressed their love of nature, of pastel colors, and of Impressionist art. Such comments refer to essential elements of the Impressionist genre, and may thus be taken as indications that the students had learned as a result of the unit, and had applied this knowledge in their own artwork. In addition, the positive nature of their comments suggests that the students enjoyed the assignment to create an Impressionist-style work. Ultimately, both the knowledge and the enjoyment gave the students something more to write about.
Finally, some students identified themselves in their essays as artists, or compared themselves with famous Impressionists. One student, for example, stated that "Comme Monet, je pr‚fŠre les sujets de la nature comme les marines et les paysages." (Like Monet, I prefer subjects that come from nature, like seascapes and countrysides.) Another opened his essay with the statement, "Cette peinture a ‚t‚ faite par l'artiste DuPont...Les sujets pr‚f‚r‚s de DuPont sont du dehors." (This painting was done by the artist Dupont...The favorite subjects of Dupont are those that come from the outdoors.)3 This student went on to comment that the style of his image is "trŠs impressionniste" (very impressionist). Regardless of whether or not these students viewed themselves as artists prior to the curriculum unit, the art creation seemed to help them to get in touch with their artistic side. Ultimately, this provided increased engagement in the artistic experience as well as in the writing.
To summarize, it is reasonable to conclude that the experience of creating a work of art was a positive one for these secondary students of French. Almost all of the students responded positively to the opportunity to create their own artwork: they devoted substantial time and effort to the artistic process, and created truly unique and personal images in Impressionist-inspired style. Moreover, the students' positive response to the creation of artworks had implications for the classroom, which became a community of artists sharing ideas and support. Finally, this positive attitude carried over into the students' written self-expression in French. In their essays students not only communicated effectively using new vocabulary, they also went beyond description to provide interesting insights into their artwork.
Implications for the Classroom
The theoretical and practical evidence presented in this paper makes a strong case for the integration of art-inspired learning experiences, specifically student-created visuals, into the second language classroom. Such experiences can benefit the total language learning experience. The use of art activities can help build an atmosphere of cooperation and community in the language classroom. In addition, it can increase student motivation and enthusiasm for language-oriented activities. Of paramount importance, art experiences can also lower the anxiety felt by many second language learners. This last point is an especially crucial one, because unchecked anxiety may interfere with students' motivation and even their learning. The integration of student-created visuals with language learning helps to focus students on the activity, allowing language to grow within the safety of a non-verbal task.
It may be argued that self-expression through art is also potentially threatening, since it leaves a lasting product vulnerable to criticism. But if students are assured in advance that the evaluation of their artwork will encompass neither "quality," "talent," nor personal aesthetic preferences, they will approach the artistic experience as Koller's students did, with zeal and confidence. It is also fair to argue that the Impressionist genre lends itself to a more relaxed approach to artistic creation, since this genre is by definition a highly personal form of artistic expression. But any artistic genre or movement can have the same positive effects on student motivation and classroom atmosphere. It is up to the teacher to help students realize that within any genre, no two artists produce identical interpretations of a given subject. Artistic expression is always personal, and it should be stressed to students that therein lies the value of art-inspired learning opportunities. For young second language learners, art activities are generally accepted as appropriate. Beyond the elementary school, however, there is much more skepticism toward the use of art-inspired activities in the curriculum. Once basic verbal literacy has been established, the artistic element is left to wither. Yet artistic experiences can provide cognitively challenging content for secondary-level language learners. Koller's curriculum unit provides an example of how student-created visuals may be effectively combined with a broader unit of study. The unit's focus on the Impressionist genre provided built-in guidelines for the students' own artistic creations. By adding an element of cognitive challenge, the guidelines rendered the art activity appropriate to the age of the learners.
Likewise, Catriona R. Moore implemented a secondary ESL curriculum unit called "A Nation of Immigrants" while student-teaching at Como Park Senior High in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The circular process of writing, illustrating, responding, and revising resulted in a book, The Call of Freedom (1993). Sandra Hall, ESL mentor-teacher at Como Park, has been publishing similar collections of student writing in this manner for over ten years. The quality of work from this carefully planned, integrated approach to writing is always excellent. Used with careful consideration for the age, language proficiency level, needs, interests, and experiences of the students, art-inspired learning experiences can play an invaluable role in the second language classroom. Educators who recognize this can incorporate art activities into their instruction to enliven and enhance language learning. In doing so, they can mobilize the language student's whole learning potential, rather than over-using the verbal thinking strategies upon which most education focuses so one-sidedly. Educators must respond to the fact that human beings express themselves both verbally and non-verbally, and that there is no clear line that separates these domains in real language or real life or real learning.
Teachers of language may do well to ask themselves just what it is about the artistic experience that fosters the development of language as well as the development of positive attitudes toward the language learning experience. Once teachers begin to tap into those factors, they will be able to enhance students' learning in all aspects of self-expression, the verbal as well as the nonverbal and artistic. It is hoped that this paper will results in future research in that direction.
We firmly believe that art and language are inextricably connected symbolic systems. The words of Boyer (1985, pp.8-9) convey the essence of this connection: "The visual arts are languages that reach all people at their deepest and most essential human level. Thus, aesthetic literacy is as basic as linguistic literacy...art is expression that words can't convey."
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1 Unfortunately, it was a condition of this research that no student works, either artistic or written, be included in the paper in either original or reproduced form.
2 Where necessary, minor grammatical corrections have been made in the French-language quotations drawn from student essays.
3 Students who submitted work for the purposes of this research were assured that their identity would be kept confidential; therefore, a pseudonym has been substituted for this student's name.
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