ART FOR THE KNOWLEDGE SAKE: WORKS OF PAINTING, SCULPTURE AND PHOTOGRAPHY AS TOOLS FOR LANGUAGE LEARNING
The paper deals with the international project Material Development for English Language Teachers: American Culture through the Visual Arts, which has been carried out within the framework of International Visitor Leadership Program on the initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities, a grant-making agency of the United States. The initial part of the Picturing America project sponsored by NEH (2008) was aimed at bringing masterpieces of American arts such as painting, sculptor, photography and others into schools and libraries. It was based on Picturing America Sets that imply forty reproductions of great works by American artists and a Teacher Resource book (http://picturingamerica.reh.gov.).
The Picturing America project for Russia was implemented with participation of ten university teachers from different regions of the country (Moscow, Kazan, Kaliningrad, Samara, Khanty-Mansiysk, Syktyvkar, Krasnodar, Ivanovo, Irkutsk and Stavropol), supervised by the English Language Fellow Natasha Isadora Frank and consisted in creating the Picturing America DVD-Rom textbook. The DVD-Rom contains materials focused on the given works of art, selected for their beauty and range of media to explore themes, which are of importance to American history. The 24 x 26-inch images reproduce such aspects of American history as freedom and equality, courage, leadership, democracy, landscapes, creativity and ingenuity. These works were selected as appropriate for students of all grade levels.
The DVD-Rom consists of forty lesson plans, each of them being devoted to a certain artwork. Every lesson plan contains a glossary connected with the artwork which in turn determines the theme under study. The assignments and exercises suggested are quite different, beginning with questions as a kind of warming-up activity and varying from matching to role-playing. The main objective of the chosen types of activity and assignments is to enlarge students’ vocabulary, master the main language skills – writing, speaking, listening and reading and enrich their knowledge of history and arts, which contributes to mutual understanding of peoples and nations.
The Picturing America DVD-Rom contains a great number of references to different internet resources, such as Wikipedia articles, documentaries, video-films, speeches of famous politicians, and songs performed by well-known artists. It is to motivate students to find new information on a given topic using internet resources and evoke their interest in arts, history and culture.