Language teaching with art: Ideas from yesterday’s YUAG visit

Yesterday’s CLS Brown Bag series visit to the Yale University Art Gallery was a real eye-opener for me–it was my first visit to this highly touted space after more than three months here in New Haven. And, from the looks of it, Assistant Curator of Academic Affairs David Odo’s guidance to the twenty or so language lectors, graduate students and CLS staff who attended was an eye-opener as well. Our quick tour of the gallery together allowed us to brainstorm many language teaching tips and activity ideas that the rich art collection there can make possible. Below I’ll try to list as many of these as I can remember; if you were there, too, or if you happen to have other ideas about this, please add your comments below.


  • Start with time to observe art; give students ample time for this before any productive activity
  • Initial activities that involve simple description or response work well. Save advanced interpretation and critique for later
  • The gallery website database of art objects offers much that Google searches don’t

Activity ideas

  • Basic description and vocabulary exercises based upon
  • Narration activities: Students tell or write the/a story shown in the painting or other piece of art they observed (afterwards), or are observing (real time) .
  • Role plays: Students assume the role of different figures depicted
  • Museum scavenger/treasure hunt with list of items, elements, figures, or other characteristics given beforehand. Alternatively, students collaborate in creating treasure hunt for others
  • Students create audio, video and/or written audio tour of museum or specific exhibit
  • Students create image galleries, blogs, etc. with their own collections following a class theme, research topic, etc., and present on this in class

These are very partial lists. I’ll try to update as I remember more. Again, your comments are very welcome.

And, once again, thank you again for your tour and wisdom, David!

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