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August 2020 - Year 22 - Issue 4

ISSN 1755-9715

The Integration of Art in Foreign Language Teaching

Eleni Anastasiadou is a Music teacher in Primary Education. She is interested in the use of ICT in education and the interdisciplinary approach to teaching practices of music. Her current professional interests are Byzantine Music, Choral Music and Musical Analysis. E-mail:

Glikeria Selimi is a teacher of English in Primary and Secondary Education. She is interested in Literature, Art and New Technologies and their application for educational purposes. She is currently researching the deployment of picture books in teaching English to very young learners. E-mail:



This article addresses the issue of the integration of art in the EFL class as a means of developing students' creativity and investigates the extent to which the implementation of art provides the prerequisites for the learning process to become an aesthetic experience actively involving students in all phases.

Twenty five students of the sixth grade of primary school explored through the use of the English language poems representative of various literary movements and then composed their own poems in English by linking the content of the lesson to their personal experience and emotion. Based on their musical knowledge and experience they experimented with the composition of melodies creating their own songs.



The development of pupils' individual expression and creativity are key objectives of the educational process in elementary education (Ministry of Education, Lifelong Learning and Religious Affairs, 2016). The need to develop pupils' critical thinking and creativity is addressed through the application of the interdisciplinary approach in all courses, teaching methodologies and evaluation methods (Alahiotis & Karatzas-Stavliotis, 2006). The contribution of art is crucial as the arts emphasize the importance of the development of imagination and senses in the educational process and teach children that their personal opinion is of value (Eisner, 2002). In addition, the involvement of pupils in the educational process is greatly increased when they engage in art-related activities (Catterall, 2002; Efland, 2002; Rooney, 2004); students' interest in the educational process is activated when art is incorporated into the teaching of other subjects (Catterall, 2002; Jensen, 2001). In accordance with the principles of differentiated teaching, this project aspired to highlight the benefits of the integration of art in the foreign language learning process and provide a useful example of its application in class.


Theoretical background

Flow theory of the Hungarian psychologist M. Chikszentmihalyi lies at the centre of the theoretical framework of the action. Flow theory depicts happiness as a mental or psychological situation related to the individual’s focusing on a specific task; involvement in the successful completion of an action produces the effect of inspiration and pleasure which, in turn, contributes to the production of specific results or products (Chikszentmihalyi, 1990). Although this theory began from the scientific field of psychology, its application in the educational process as a theory of internal motivation for learning opens up a new research field for studying the aesthetic experience of learning as shaped by the dialectical relationship of art and other subjects, such as that of the foreign language, at the core of which is the motivation of the internally active student.

Understanding art contributes, according to Plato, to the understanding and interpretation of what is aesthetically good or beautiful in life. Music along with the other arts for Plato is the way to approach and appreciate the notion of "beauty" (Plato, 1980). Music is an experience of life, an intuitive pre-lingual experience of everyday life for all children, which intervenes directly in the practice of listening and certifies the possibility of long-term symbolic communication.

In accordance with Plato’s approach to the meaning and significance of art, modern pedagogical theories highlight the multiple linguistic and pedagogical benefits of using art in the process of teaching foreign languages (Gullatt, 2008; Wellman & Bey, 2015).

The theoretical background of the action is complemented by the theory of Multiple Intelligences by the American psychologist H. Gardner. M.I. theory identifies nine different types of intelligence that interact with each other and can, therefore, be developed in order to promote the creative capacity of the individual only through interaction (Gardner, 1993). All types of intelligence can be cultivated through experiences and experiences and all types of intelligence are indispensable for the complete development and maturation of the individual’s personality. As far as the implementation of Gardner's theory in education is concerned, active participation of students in interdisciplinary activities that promote the creative dimension of their intelligence is essential. The pedagogical use of this theory in the context of interdisciplinary teaching allows students of different types of intelligence (verbal, musical, visual, intra-personal, interpersonal) to actively participate.


Educational objectives

The objectives of the action were determined in reference to the reformed Bloom taxonomy (Bloom et al., 1956; Krathwohl, 2002) and the three domains of learning identified as cognitive, affective and psychomotor. The cognitive objectives of the course, which were formulated in accordance with the guidelines of the Council of Europe (2001) for B1 level language level ​​to which the students belonged, focused on developing the students’ ability to describe experiences and facts, dreams, hopes and aspirations, express opinions and refer to their plans. Teaching poetry rather than any other form of literary genre was decided on the basis of potential of the poetic text for emotional and personal expression and the musicality that distinguishes the poetic forms. With regard to the subject of music, the aim was to promote and practice the analysis and evaluation of poetic and musical creations of great representatives of art. Affective objectives focused on the development of communication and collaboration skills and psychomotor objectives were aimed at the development of the artistic expression, imagination and creativity of the learners.


Implementation of the project

During the first phase of the project, students studied poems and musical creations centered on the thematic axes of friendship, memory, freedom, nature and emotions. Students analyzed the works of significant poets, such as Langston Hughes, E.E. Cummings, Christina Rossetti Jorge Luis Borges and Shel Silverstein, in terms of vocabulary, style and the richness of the meanings and concepts that the poetic language integrates. They, also, elaborated on the style and compositional structure of the Madrigal and classical music, as well as more modern musical genres such as rock and funk music. Through the reading and listening sessions students posed and discussed questions of structure, rhyming, chord writing and composing.

In the context of the project, the class organized a musical event with the participation of the rock band DILEMMA who performed live for the students. The experience of seeing, listening and, eventually, getting a real feel of the electric guitar and the saxophone had an immense aesthetic impact on the students and stimulated a sparkling conversation with the performers.

During the next stage of the project, students worked in groups under the guidance of their teachers in order to produce their own verses and compose their own music. Students made use of the material they had analyzed in the first phase of the project and turned to past knowledge and experiences as a source of inspiration for the production of word and rhythm. Although artistic creation is often considered a lonely process, the students pondered, experimented and created their works in collaboration.

The participants in the project, students and teachers included, were very interested in communicating the products of their work and sharing the stimuli that inspired them with the rest of the school community. Therefore, the third phase of the project involved the presentation and dissemination of the results of the action; concerts and poetry reading performances throughout the school year constituted fundamental aspects of the action.


Discussion and conclusions

Following the completion of the activities, an open discussion was held among the participants in the project which gave everyone the opportunity to talk about their experience and receive other people’s feedback regarding the results of the project. The variety and versatility of the material of poetic and musical texts on which the students elaborated as well as the collaborative methods adopted towards the production of their own songs emerged as the key factors for the success of the project.

The implementation of the action highlighted the positive effect of art when it is utilized and integrated into the educational process. Linking creative activities such as poetry reading and writing and musical composition to the process of learning a foreign language positively influenced the development of students' self-confidence and enthusiasm for their active participation in the EFL class. In addition, the learning process assumed the characteristics of an aesthetic experience as emphasis was placed on students' ability for observation, analysis and creative elaboration of the educational material. As such, the project underlines the importance of adopting more creative approaches to the implementation and assessment of curricula while at the same time it pinpoints the need for further research into the multiple roles and effects of the arts in education.



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Catterall, J. S. (2002). The arts and the transfer of learning. In R. Deasy (Ed.), Critical links: Learning in the arts and student academic and social development, 151-157. Washington, DC: Arts Education Partnership.

Chikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper and Row.

Council of Europe, (2001). A Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. Cambridge University Press.

Efland, A. (2002). Art and cognition: Integrating the visual arts in the curriculum. New York, NY: Teachers College Press & Reston, VA: National Art Education.

Eisner, E. (2002). The arts and the creation of mind. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.

Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple intelligences:The theory in practice. New York: BasicBooks.

Gullatt, D. E. (2008). Enhancing Student Learning Through Arts Integration: Implications for the Profession. The High School Journal, 91(4), 12-25.

Jensen, E. (2001). Arts with the brain in mind. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Krathwohl, D. R. (2002). A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy: An Overview. Theory Into Practice, 41(4), 212-18.

Ministry of Education for Lifelong Learning and Religious Affairs (2016). Ministerial Decision 141417 / D2. Unified Program of Foreign Language Studies in Primary and Secondary Schools. Government Gazette 2871 t.w. Athens: National Printing House.

Plato, "State", (1980). J. Grarparis (trans.). Athens: I. Zacharopoulos..

Rooney, R. (2004). Arts-based teaching and learning. Review of the literature. Washington, DC: VSA Arts, and Rockville, MD: Westat.

Wellman, S., & Bey, S. (2015). Refugee children and art teacher training: Promoting language, self-advocacy, and cultural preservation. Art Education, 68(6), 36-44.


Please check the Creative Methodology for the Classroom course at Pilgrims website.

Please check the How to Motivate Your Students course at Pilgrims website.

Tagged  Creativity Group 
  • The Integration of Art in Foreign Language Teaching
    Glikeria Selimi, Greece;Eleni Anastasiadou, Greece