Recently I attended a primary school open house, where teachers displayed their classrooms to eager children and parents examined the art projects, reading assignments and math concepts on display.

I overheard one mother ask the teacher about the illustration rubric hung on one wall of the room. It consisted of a large poster divided into four parts. The first square contained the number one and a very basic, monochromatic drawing of a house. Boring! The last square contained the number four and a house, a sun, some flowers and blue sky. A complete picture!

The teacher explained that some children start primary school with limited vocabulary and constantly choose one color when drawing. By encouraging more detail with their art, the teacher can then ask the children more detailed questions. Of course, it gives a framework for “excellence,” but more importantly it presents an opportunity for students to grow their vocabulary and methods of expression.

How often do we as adult language students reach for the same safe expressions? Why do we always choose the same crayon?

BecaDSCN4141-001use they are familiar to us. Because we know we won’t make a mistake.

How can you add greater interest and detail to the pictures you paint with your English?

  • Be aware of your written and spoken language. On Friday afternoon or another set time, look over your English emails from the week. Note repetitive phrases or verbs. Can you find a synonym for these? Keep this list at hand. Try to use these different words and make them your own.
  • Has your vocabulary become a bit boring? Watch a film or TV show in English. For five to ten minutes only, write down the vocabulary you don’t know or find interesting. Find their definitions and attempt to use them at least once in the next week.

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