Art in Icebreakers

by @KUUNSTKUULTUR , at Flickr, Creative Commons

After an exciting and reinvigorating presentation of my co-workers in our 10th CTJ TEFL Seminar in which they inspired teachers to use art in different ways to foster communication and critical thinking, as well as to develop visual literacy, I felt inspired to start my semester using a simple, but effective icebreaker with my adult group.

I showed my students some images  of famous painters (feel free to use the slideshow and remix it) and asked them to answer the following question, “If you were a piece of art, which painting would you be? Why?” I prompted them to answer with the following structure “I am like a _______ painting. I am ________ and ______. ” By doing that, the students could tell a bit more about themselves and also think of different adjectives to describe themselves. Plus, there was the fun element of saying, “I´m just like a Van Gogh painting, introspective and not very colorful.”

With teens, I´d adapt the activity by using graffiti and different types of songs for them to describe themselves.

Art in the classroom adds the surprise element to our teaching and help us learn about our students interests and preferences in a very unique way. Can you think of other ways you´d use art to make learning more personal?

Carla Arena

Carla Arena is a social entrepreneur, educator by choice. She left a promising career in the public service to become an English teacher and got the chance to take roles she could have never imagined, such as site content manager at the Binational Center she worked for, Casa Thomas Jefferson. There, she was also the Supervisor of Educational Technology, and more recently Coordinator of Innovation and Technologies. Carla is a Google Innovator and educational technology consultant. Currently she innovates in her own business, AMPLIFICA (

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