Craft for the artistically challenged teacher

I chose this topic for the IATEFL Young Learners & Teens web conference which took place 24-26 February 2017, mainly because I’m so bad at art and we do so much of it in the YL classroom.

Reasons we use art & craft in the YL classroom include:

  • to illustrate new vocabulary
  • to keep a record of learning
  • to show the parents
  • to decorate the room
  • To remind the children what they have learnt
  • For a change of pace
  • To encourage creativity
  • Because it’s fun

No matter how much of a challenge this may be for you (and also your students) there are some ways to get the most out of craft and enjoy using it to improve learning.


An image on the board can be a great way to direct attention and encourage curiosity when students come in to the classroom:


This can be very easy:


simply beam an image onto the board, then draw round it before the students to come in!

As you can see, my real drawing skills leave a lot more to be desired!


However you can see that you don’t need to be able to draw perfectly for students to be able to see what you were trying to show, just find the important detail such as a cow’s rectangular head and body shape, a lion’s mane, etc.

For example you can easily draw a pig by singing this song:

Two little circles and a big one,

two little circles and a big one,

half a circle, half a circle and a big one,

W, W, eeeeee!




Whether it’s by mounting work onto coloured paper to present it, or by using coloured pens for writing work. If there’s one thing I could have in my stock cupboard that would make the most difference, it would be coloured paper.

It’s so much tidier than colouring in (and takes less time)…


I find it particularly effective for presenting writing…


especially as young learners don’t often have much writing to show, just a line or two..


You may have seen our vocab tree before, I’m very proud of it! It’s basically made of brown paper, each branch is a vocabulary topic, and students write a word on post it leaves and then put them on the right branch. It’s a great way of recycling vocabulary, and if during the year they come across another word in a theme they can add it.



Often art and craft seems scary because  we feel we have to create everything, but this isn’t the case. using what we already have and adding just a few personal touches…


As you can see, we used “real” cutlery in our picnic,


…and rather than try and reproduce animals we used plastic ones and the children used their own creativity and problem solving skills to decide which barriers and enclosures different animals needed in the zoo (great practice of can & must!).

I love shoe boxes too, we’re in the middle of building our own house with shoe boxes & matchboxes which I’ll share with you when we have finished, here’s another idea of how to use them:


Our secret box is actually…


a story-stage!


And there are many different forms of production to illustrate what has been learnt, dancing, singing (I think I’m worse at singing than drawing though!), poetry etc.

A Haiku

I know many teachers think poetry is for older students, those who can write etc. but it’s quite possible to do simple but wonderful poetry with younger students too.

When we studied fruit and veg I explained the number of syllables to learners and wrote a table on the board, students then came up with their flashcards and stuck each one onto the correct column according to the number of syllables.

I then explained that a haiku was made of three lines , with five syllables in the first and last line, seven in the middle. Students then came up with their own haikus using just the flashcards.

Here’s the final class version:

carrot, broccoli,

Courgette, cauliflower, pea

I like vegetables


This is based on an idea that Charles Hadfield shared in a webinar a few years ago, it’s short and simple but very powerful.

Line 1- Where?

Line 2 – A (adjective) person

Line 3 – What are they doing?

Line 4 – What are they thinking?

Here’s the one I wrote during that webinar:

My Saturday

Slouched on her bed,

A tired teacher with holiday hair,

Watching a webinar,

Planning her class.

To conclude:

Keep it simple – you don’t have to draw it all

use what is already there -especially coloured paper

Art isn’t just drawing – it can be film, mime, poetry, etc.

I’d be really interested in reading about all your craft tips in the comments below!