Drawing out language

Asking students to draw and then share their images through the webcam has become a staple activity of the Hands Up Project’s online sessions. In the video below we can see how Palestinian teacher of English, We’am Hamdan, one of the latest volunteers to join us, expertly uses student drawings with her group of Syrian children in Zaatari. They are used as both a springboard to personalise learning and to practice and activate a range of areas of vocabulary and grammar.


Here’s the sequence of activities that We’am sets up. It’s great to see that despite the fact that there are no materials whatsoever (except paper and pens) the students are engaged and motivated throughout, and there’s lots of language being drawn out and activated.

  1. The students are asked to individually draw pictures of something that they want to have, or a place that they want to go to.
  2. One by one, students come up to the webcam and describe their pictures to We’am. We’am draws what they describe, asking questions to check understanding. Teacher and student then show their pictures to each other and they discuss differences. We’am asks further questions to activate more language.
  3. We’am reads out a sentence (Eg.Β In this picture there are two tables) and the class have to say which student’s picture it refers to. They do this as a competition between two halves of the class.
  4. Now students are asked to write down five sentences that they can say about each picture. One person from each team then comes up to the webcam and reads out their sentences to We’am. We’am scaffolds and corrects what they say.
  5. We’am describes two thieves to the class and the students draw them based on her descriptions.
  6. Students take it in turns to come up to the webcam with their pictures and We’am asks questions to check understanding and reactivate the language. (Which thief is tall?Β Which thief has big ears? etc)
  7. Now the roles are reversed and the students take it in turns come up and ask questions to the teacher about the pictures (Who’s got round eyes? Who’s got long arms? etc)

Do you ever ask students to draw in your language classes? If so how do you use their drawings to develop activities which practice and activate language. Please share your ideas in the comments below.

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