A fish, a thesis and ibid: Teaching (academic) writing through drawings

Drawing in the EFL class is something many teachers do in order to explain something like a grammar point or to have some fun like getting your learners to make a picture composition. I usually draw when I am teaching young learners, and I also draw when I want to show my emotions. For example, I will draw a smiley face after the Homework tasks have been written on the board to show my students that I will be happy when they do all their work.

But what about English for academic purposes? Do you draw in your EAP classes? I do, especially when I am teaching writing. I thought I’d share two of my favourite EAP pics which are on the wall somewhere in almost all my EAP classes. Keep in mind that these drawings can be used in any context where thesis statements and sources are part of a writing class, so these drawings can go beyond the EAP classroom.

The fish, the thesis and the arguments

It is quite hard for international students who are learning EAP for the first time to understand what a thesis statement is. They come from different educational backgrounds and they are trying to do a post-graduate degree in an English-speaking (that’s my teaching contexts) country. They probably have never heard or written a thesis statement before. Add the term argumentative essay, and things become even more complicated. This applies to any student who is first introduced to terms thesis and argumentative essay. That’s when  the Picasso in me takes action. I draw a fish.

The fish

Why a fish? Well, it gives a good representation of the connection between the thesis and the arguments. The back bone of the fish is the thesis statement, and the arguments are the fish’s bones, all the bones are connected connected to the backbone. I often tell my learners that if a bone breaks, then the fish is in trouble, Just like their essays. I say, ”Your arguments need to be linked to your thesis statement and what you are trying to prove”.


Follow up task: When I am teaching writing and students have written a thesis statement and have a draft of the main body of the  essay, I ask them to go over the main body and write down the arguments (main ideas). I then tell them to look at their thesis and see if there is a connection and what that connection is. They can even draw their own fish if they want to!

The ‘referenced’ drawing

In-text citations are also quite hard for students. I find that my students get overwhelmed by the hard vocabulary in paraphrased sources or quotes (especially in academic texts) that they lose sight of the mechanics of referencing. Very often I show them how to do in-text citations by drawing. Below you can see two examples. One shows how I explain citing a secondary source and the other shows them what ibid means. So, after going through all the websites that are dedicated to referencing, I turn these concepts into visuals.

                      IBIDblack and Jackson

These pictures are all on my wall and help me explain in a very simple way some really hard things!

What do you use drawing for? Feel free to leave a comment below and share this post if you like it! Thanks for reading    🙂

Till next time…..



4 thoughts on “A fish, a thesis and ibid: Teaching (academic) writing through drawings

  1. I use drawing to summarise a reading text. They read a text and have to draw what they understand by it in a series of pictures. Then they use the pictures to explain the text to another student.
    Also for EAP drawing is good for describing processes. Half the class read a description of a process and draw it out, then swap with the other half and write the process from the drawing. They can then compare with the originals. You can also make it more fun by getting them to dare funny processes like finding a girlfriend and then describe it.


  2. Joanna,

    I have taken to using the Paper 53 app at the beginning of each week to illustrate what we will be covering in class. Students never bother to look at the topical outline, but they enjoy laughing at my attempts to draw. I post it on my LMS as an overview.

    Because I am teaching a group of future animation students, I’ve been open to receiving alternative forms of essay outlines – mind maps, tree diagrams, illustrations… enjoying the expression that comes out of these assignments. Thanks for your ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Anna,
      Thanks for stopping by. I love the idea of getting them to outlines and mind maps as outlines as well!! I will try it 🙂


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