Are you a doodler?
For some people, drawing comes second nature. They have talent from the youngest of ages and can make beautiful pictures in any number of mediums. Then there are people whose drawing skills are at least entertaining if not accurate. I’m one such person. My greatest drawing accomplishment was figuring out how to draw a stick figure cow! But even though I may not have talent, I still find pleasure in putting ideas to paper via images. You have students in class like that, too. In fact, your ESL students might prefer drawing over writing at times since drawing bypasses the language center of the brain. That means they can communicate through pictures without struggling through English grammar. But drawing is good for more than putting your students at ease or letting them express themselves without words. Drawing is a great starting point for many language activities. If you have students who like to draw, try some of these language activities that get them putting lines on paper while they improve their language skills.
5 Fun Language Games for Students Who Like to Draw
Draw What You Hear
One of the simplest ways to combine drawing and language is to have students draw what they hear, that is follow verbal instruction to draw a specific picture. You can say things as simple as draw a square then put a triangle on top of the square. Voila! The simplest of houses. But you can get a little more detailed than that when you give your students drawing instruction. You might give the instructions to your entire class at one time, or you might have your students give each other instructions so they can get in some speaking practice, too. If you have your students give the instructions, match them up with a partner and have them sit back to back while one person describes a picture in front of him and the other person recreates that picture from her partner’s instructions. Switch pictures and roles for round two.
Pictionary is one of my go-to games for ESL classes. It is fast paced, great for practicing and testing vocabulary, and fun. To play, put several words on small slips of paper. These can be everyday objects or words you have covered in a vocabulary unit or short phrases such as brush your teeth. Divide your class into two teams and have one person come to the front board from the first team. He chooses a word or phrase from the hat and has between one and three minutes (the less time they have the more difficult it is to get the answer) to draw whatever he can to get his team to guess what the phrase is. The rest of his team can all out their guesses the whole time he draws. If they guess correctly, the team scores one point. If his team is unable to guess the phrase during the allotted time, the other team gets one guess at what it is. If they get it right, they score a point. Then the other team has a chance to go following the same rules. Play until everyone has had a chance to draw or you are out of phrases. Whichever team has the most points at the end of the game wins.
Picklebums has a free printable that you can use for student inspiration in your ESL class. She calls these drawing challenge cards. On each card is a phrase to inspire a simple drawing such as “draw a crazy garden” or “design an amazing roller coaster.” To do this activity as a class, simply print the set (she has eighteen drawing prompts and eight blank cards so you can create your own prompts) and have each student choose one card from the stack. You can give each person a different card or let each student choose from the entire deck and chance duplicates. Spend some time letting your students draw their picture on a blank piece of paper. And while the cards themselves are enough, you can take things a step further in the language learning department. Ask students to use the picture they have drawn as inspiration for a short story. When the stories are finished, have students put their pictures and the stories that go with them into a classroom book. Keep the book in your classroom library so your students can see each other’s pictures and read the stories inspired by them.
You Da Man
You’ll really stretch your students’ creativity with this super simple game that requires no prep. Have students make five dots on a piece of paper. After they have drawn their dots, tell them that these dots will be part of a drawing of a person. The dots will be where the arms, legs, and head must go. Students must then draw a person in such a position that their limbs and head line up with the dots on the page. Once students have finished, put them in groups of three and have each person explain their drawing to their group members. They should say what the person is doing in the picture.
Read a picture book to your class, but do not show them the pictures. It’s best to choose a book with at least as many pages as you have students in class as well as books that do not have a ton of writing on each page. Type up the text on each page, each page on its own piece of paper. Then give each person in class the text from one page of the book and ask them to illustrate on that page. Once the pictures are done, give students a copy of their page in the book and ask them to work with a partner to find differences and similarities between their page and the original illustration. Compile the illustrated pages together to make a class book and put it on display next to the original book.
Draw Something App
If you haven’t played before, take a look at Draw Something, a fun and free app for Android and IPhone. It can encourage your students to play with their friends or in class to increase their vocabulary knowledge. The first player is given a choice of words to draw. He draws a picture to illustrate that word. The other player can then view the video of that drawing as if she were watching it live. On her screen will be blanks where she can spell out the word her partner is drawing. Players earn points for successful guesses. This game will not only entertain your students but give them an out of class activity that also increases their vocabulary knowledge.
Drawing is great for ESL students.
It’s a way to get their bodies involved while learning language – something your kinesthetic learners will love. So tell your class to get their pencils out and draw to their hearts’ content knowing that as they do, they’ll be learning English, too.