Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Power of Visuals in Language Education

Someone recently shared this gem of a website  containing several images that are ideal for foreign language instruction.  I have been using images to encourage conversations and to be used as springboards in writing in my French class.  Often, I have turned to Flickr for photos, providing students with question prompts to help them focus in their responses to the images.

Visuals can evoke different reactions in students, ranging from confusion to laughter.  What I have loved most about using visuals is that they solicit a multitude of responses from students!  This experience always reminds me of the importance of appreciating that there are several interpretations of one image and that there isn't one response that is the only correct answer.

The images in the website "Visuals for Foreign Language Instruction" remind me of comic books, a favorite among my students.  They invite children to write dialogue on them and to consider what events might be unfolding in the visuals provided.  I have several boys in my classroom who will likely enjoy using these visuals in their creative writing experiences.

Another important aspect of language education is oral language development.  Often there is an emphasis on grammar, spelling, and reading comprehension in foreign language instruction.  While they all have importance in the curriculum, it is so important to also pay close attention to oral skills development.  I have encountered a fair number of language learners who lack the confidence to speak in a language they have learned, despite having extensive knowledge of other components of the target language.  Visuals invite students to communicate their ideas in spoken word and relating their personal life experiences to what they see.  The potential to acquire and use learned vocabulary in the target language is immense.  Visuals are powerful in that they can help students focus more on expressing their ideas instead of striving to be perfectionists in their word choices.  Best of all, an image is appropriate for any level of a language learner, making it possible for an advanced level learner to interact with it as engagingly as a beginner.

I am looking forward to using my new find in the classroom.  Bonne journée!