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In this ESL lesson, students create drawings based on descriptions in a novel


Art, Language Arts  


9, 10, 11, 12  

Title – Using Drawings for Saving The World
By – Ruben Rangel
Primary Subject – Language Arts
Secondary Subjects – Art
Grade Level – 9-12 Remedial or ESL


    Incorporating art in an ESL Reading Course


      Students will create drawings based on descriptions in Chapter VI of the novel,

Saving The World

    by Julia Alvarez.


    Getting into the text by visualizing scenes


    Students should have read previous chapters in the novel.


    Pen, pencil, paper. A reproduction of a Goya etching from Los Caprichos.

Introductory Activity:

      Ask students for examples of folk wisdom such as: a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Discuss how culture is expressed in these sayings. Many sayings have visual elements, such as dogs or birds. Point out to students that it is often helpful to understanding a text to be able to get a mental picture of a scene. It is one way to enjoy literature.
    Show students a reproduction of a Francisco de Goya drawing and explain that the artist wrote unusual titles for these sketches. Ask them to write a one-minute response to the drawing and encourage them to invent a title and/or a folk saying. After they have shared their responses, let them know the actual title of the reproduction.

Step 1:

    Read aloud or introduce the first page of Chapter VI, which indicates that Goya’s prints of Los Caprichos serve the main character, Isabel, as inspiration to create in her journal a series of “postcards” or “scenes” which describe the elements of the smallpox expedition. Use the first description in Chapter VI to draw a quick sketch on the blackboard, taking suggestions from the students as to what elements should be depicted; what should be prominent, what should be in the foreground or background.

Step 2:

    Ask the students to do one-minute sketches of the other descriptions of Goya’s work as indicated in Chapter VI. Encourage them to use an entire sheet of paper for each drawing. Have students label the drawings with the titles mentioned in the novel.

Step 3:

    Assign students random scenes described in Isabel’s journal (from pages 246, 247, 250, 253, 256-257, 260, 262, 265 and 266-267). In a large class, several students might be assigned the same scene. Have the students write a quick list of descriptive vocabulary found in the scene described in the novel. These notes will serve as a guide to their drawing. Assist students individually with understanding the vocabulary and deciding on how to depict the scene.

Step 4:

    Have students share their drawings in class, post them online, or publish them in a classroom or school newsletter.


    In their journals, students may describe and/or reflect on how visualizations assisted in the reading process and their understanding of the text.

Extension Activities:

    Offer students the option of “summarizing” one of the chapters in the novel by a drawing, or series of drawings, instead of a written summary.

E-Mail Ruben Rangel !

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