English for art & design: Exhibition trip (1998)

R.J. Preece (EFL)
Creative Business & Entrepreneurship | 24 August 2010
This educational project brief was previously published with the title "Tripping the art fantastic" in Peter Master & Donna Brinton (Eds.), New Ways in English for Specific Purposes (pp. 136-8) (1998). Alexandria, VA, USA: TESOL. Click to see the English for Art and Design overview page.
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EFL Language Level
Intermediate +

> Experience and learn
from the local arts

Class Time
> 30 minutes (planning)
> 1-1 1/2 hours (visiting the

Preparation Time

> Newspaper reviews of
art shows

> Handout (provided

> List of current art and
design exhibitions

> Museum education
department outreach
materials (optional)

For teachers: Incorporating tours into the syllabus for a language of art and design class gives the students and teacher an opportunity to take learning outside the classroom and into the local arts environment. The following activity offers one such opportunity.


1. Bring in a few copies of a local paper or magazine that lists exhibitions in your local area. Ask the students to select a few shows of interest and determine which are easily accessible and which are not.

2. After deciding upon a show, schedule a day to go to it, make arrangements to get there, and find out about group admission costs and registration requirements (if any). Find out whether the students can attend exhibitions at a discounted cost or free of charge with a student ID card.

3. Contact the site and inquire about educational outreach and publicity material.

4. Introduce the trip objectives by handing out and discussing a list of questions and topics similar to those in the Appendix.

5. Visit the exhibition with the students. After they get a general feeling for it, ask them to address the questions on the handout in small groups and take notes. Gather any postcards, promotional literature, or catalogues that are available to use for post-tour activities.

6. In class after the tour, ask a reporter from each group to respond to the questions on the handout.

7. Have the students select a topic from the handout to write about.

Caveats and options

1. If you are teaching in-service art and design students, at the beginning of the semester ask their visual arts teachers about any upcoming shows or design exhibitions.

2. To gather information about the site and the art that is on view, visit the exhibition, if possible, before you go with the students.

3. Try to go to the site when it is not too crowded.The students may be hesitant to talk about the work and environment in a crowded space.

4. In class, tell the students that they cannot touch the works of art and that they should remain at least an arm’s length away from the works. Also, warn them not to use a pen or pencil to point at the picture; the guards (if any) may ask them not to do this.

5. Allow the students to focus on particular aspects of the exhibition outlined in the Appendix.

6. Ask the students to bring postcards of works in museums and exhibitions to class for posttour activities. Remember, however, that these can be limited in scope.

References and further reading

> R. J. Preece (1996/1997). “Visual arts learning opportunities for study abroad students in American ESL programs: Focus on tours”. Hong Kong Polytechnic University: Working Papers in English Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics, 2(1), pp. 115-129.

> R. J. Preece & Glenn Tomlinson. (1995). Philadelphia Museum of Art ESL activity (Instructor and student eds.). Philadelphia: Temple University, Intensive English Language Program. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 394 339).

Appendix: Trip to an art exhibition

In small groups, discuss and take notes on the following aspects of the exhibition:

The Work on Display and the Exhibition: Talk about a specific work or two. [If possible, try to get a color image of the work(s).]
1A. Why did you choose this work over all of the others?
1B. What do you think about this work? (Subject matter, use of visual elements and principles of design, media and technique, other comments
2. Talk about the exhibition: Is this a good show? Do you like it? Is it well organized? Would you recommend this show to a friend?

Interior Design: Talk about the space in which the art is displayed.

3. Describe the space.
4. Is this space good for displaying art? What characteristics should an art exhibition area have? Give examples to support your ideas.
5. How could the interior design be improved?

Graphic Design: Talk about the graphic design (e.g., postcards, posters, advertisements) for the exhibition. (If possible, get examples of the designs.)

6. Is this good or bad design? Explain.
7. Is there a slogan for the exhibition?
8. What impression or feeling does the graphic designer want to create?