Compus de: Prof.Lb.Engleza COVACI GABRIELAPublicat: 12/01/2024Resursele Profesorului

Teaching the English language through visual aids is important in the sense that it captures students' attention, increases motivation, and encourages students to use their imagination and especially points out that learning is educational and enjoyable at the same time. By using visual stimuli teaching and learning process is more creative and successful. Visuals help students to grasp the concept and to enhance their thinking and analytical skills. Furthermore, visuals help to retrieve and to remember information and therefore make the learning more effective. Nowadays, there is a rapid advance of technology and media. The society is based on visual stimuli. Students are visually stimulated by a various types of media such as computers, smart phones, and iPads. The rapid rise of the digital era has an impact on the traditional ways of learning. Teaching and the English language learning was perceived in a different way in the past. Based on this psychological knowledge, there is an assumption that students will learn better by using visuals than without them. Therefore it is very important to identify the best conditions for young people to learn and to be creative. There are different types of learning which are more beneficial for students. Teaching the English language creatively is very important because language learning is a process, which has to motivate and inspire students. Learning experience is not only about the content, but also about the way in which it is presented. There are various ways to cover the essential knowledge. Visuals make the learning more interesting and facilitate explaining concepts. Especially, for visual learners it is significant to see new information in order to learn it. Visuals incorporated in the classroom are a tool of creative discovery for students. Various means can be used as stimuli, for example images or videos that are effective in teaching vocabulary or grammar. One thing that cannot be denied is that visual materials are very important in the teaching.

There are many benefits, which are related to the use of visual aids. To illustrate: 

1. Visual learning helps students to clarify their thoughts Students visualize the ideas and connection between them. With visual learning, new concepts are more thoroughly and easily understood when they are linked to prior knowledge. 

2. Visual learning helps students organize and analyse information Students can use diagrams and plots to display large amounts of information in ways that are easy to understand and help reveal relationships and patterns. 

3. Visual learning helps students integrate new knowledge According to research, students remember information better when it is represented and learned both visually and verbally. 

4. Visual learning helps students think critically. Linked verbal and visual information helps students make connections, understand relationships and recall related details. 

In the classroom it is preferable to use materials, which are effective for all three types of learners, then it creates "the place where quality learning is possible" (p. 34). 15 Additionally, there is also another division, which can be regarded as an option. Kaye Thorne in her book, Essential Creativity in the Classroom (2006) divides students according to various intelligences.

 1. Linguistic intelligence: "the intelligence of words". Students like to read and write, and play word games. 

2. Logical-mathematical: "the intelligence of logic and numbers". Students learn by creating and solving problems. 

3. Musical: "the intelligence of rhythm, music". Students learn by using music and rhymes. 

4. Spatial: "the intelligence of mental pictures and images". Students think and remember in pictures, they use symbols, diagrams and mind maps in order to learn.

5. Bodily kinaesthetic: "the intelligence of expression through physical activities". Students learn through doing, taking action.

6.Interpersonal intelligence: "the intelligence of communicating with others". Students learn from others and they prefer learning in teams.

7. Intrapersonal intelligence: "the intelligence of self- discovery". Students prefer to work alone and they learn by setting personal goals. (Thorne, 2000, 33-34)

In relation to benefits, which are brought by visuals, visual aids integrated into the lesson also support the creativity of students. "Using techniques such as visualization and storytelling, the skilled teacher can transport learners out of the most uninspiring environments to unlock their imaginations and creativity" (Thorne, 2006, p. 51). 

Creativity is significant in the classroom and is important in language teaching for these reasons: it is a key part of the child's development, is enriching for the individual and for society children can be creative with the new language, and by playing they can make it their own  (Wright, 1997, p. 4) 

Moreover, a creative approach should be promoted in the education because it is important to realize that "education is prone to experimentation"  (Thorne, 2006, p. 1). 

Students have to be inspired by teaching material so that they can be more passionate about learning and they can enjoy it. "The classroom activities must provide sufficient motivation and scope for practicing the language"  (Ediger, 2010, p. 11). 

When students are motivated, they perform well and are able to remember more. In other words, "one effective way is to fire pupils' imaginations with the help of visual aids, such as pictures, models, flash cards, a few gestures, a quick black board sketch, a bit of mimicry or dramatization which will not only enliven the otherwise dry text but also enable the pupils to understand it better than any amount of explanation" (Ediger, 2010, p. 3).

Furthermore, regarding benefits of creativity in learning process, one of its important aspects is fluency and as Wright (1989) comments "some learners need to experience a rich flow of the language in order to feel the character of each word" (p. 4). 

Fluency has 18 a crucial role in language learning, as it is one aspect of the language proficiency. For instance, Wright suggests, that it is believed "that the development of the general skill of speaking and writing - fluency, is more important than knowing the grammatical rules accuracy. (Wright, 1989, p. 20).  Therefore, visual aids facilitate the learning process by unlocking creativity and supporting fluency.

There is a range of types of visuals. They include stories, pictures, presentations, films, photos, graphic organizers, charts, flashcards, illustrated reading, multimedia, puzzles, comics, whiteboard games and many others.

Therefore, there is a huge variety of visuals to be used in the classroom. Each of these visuals has its own benefits and it highlights a different aspect of the teaching material. For example, "people have amazingly sticky memories for well-told stories, particularly ones that arouse emotions" 26 (Dirksen, 2011, p. 47). 

Looking at charts, when they are "build from youthful experiences, they do have the advantage of meaningful content because they are prepared as a creative activity and are based on familiar concepts and vocabulary" (DeVerl Willey, 1954, p. 278).

Graphics are effective because they increase the level of retention as "important elements are focused on via placement, layout and colour", which increases retention process and it diminishes the overwhelming amount of text (Sosnowski,n.d.). 

Another example of the visuals is images, as they "help illustrate language concepts. Illustrations help students learning to use English, understand content and offer foreign language students opportunities set in places where the target language is spoken to discuss, describe, and speculate about what they see" (Roblyer, 1997, p. 304).

One of the popular tools is a virtual mind map, or a modern dictionary, called The Visual Thesaurus. "It is an interactive dictionary and thesaurus which creates word maps that blossom with meanings and branch to related words" ("What is the Visual Thesaurus", n.d.).This dictionary is an innovative help for learning process. It displays the language in a completely new way, by creating mind maps of meaning of the word, its forms and associations. 

Therefore, it symbolizes the natural process of our brain. It helps to better understand the English language, especially to expand the vocabulary of students and to be able to create connections between the meanings of the words. Despite all the advantages of visual materials, it is necessary to be aware that visuals can be also disadvantageous. One of the main problems is technical problems and technical failure. There are many things that can go wrong with the presentation, videos or online games. Slides on the presentation may show up differently and sound might not play and there can be no Internet connection. Another problem is students' distraction. 

Sometimes visual aids can be more distracting, for example special effects, lights, too many slides or too much information can cause that students don't pay full attention and lose focus. Moreover, using visual materials requires projectors, computers and other electronic devices. Some schools may not be fully equipped and providing each classroom with quality technical equipment is expensive. Also, preparing visual materials takes a considerable amount of time. In addition, the wrong use of pictures and information may impede the understanding of study material instead of clarifying the message it is supposed to convey. Besides, classroom management may become difficult and students may pay more attention to the used graphics and pictures than to content (Liberty, n.d.).  Therefore, it is important to weigh all the pros and cons when considering how to use visual materials in the classroom.