Sunday, 21 June 2015

Teaching Children to Draw

Hello friends,

So today I thought I might try to de-mystify one aspect of art teaching that, on the surface, may appear to be a mystery to most of us teachers. Particularly for those of us who find the skill of drawing accurately to be a personal challenge too.

Here is what I do with my classes.
Step 1 is to have a shared understanding and acceptance that we are each unique, therefor our drawing style will be personal and unique too. It won't look like that of others. As long as we have attended to our work with care, it is of value because it is something we created. This does not preclude us from liking and appreciating another person's drawing style. Students also need to be taught how to constructively comment on the artwork of their peers (more about this in another post).

I also stay away from the idea of 'talent' with young children. All young children start off thinking that they can draw well and love the experience. Its only when they start noticing that other people have opinions too (and that these might differ from their own) that they start to question their abilities. If not managed, very soon they can be using their "lack of talent" as an excuse to quit practising and improving. One's ego can be very closely linked to what one produces.

Instead, I focus on observational drawing. While we equally value imaginative drawing, something I call 'drawing from ideas in your head", in order to improve our accuracy, we need to spend time "drawing with our eyes".

Year 6 student - observational drawing
A great way to prove this to your students is to have them complete a drawing / sketch of an item from ideas in their head. Below are 3 examples:
Next, I give out images or run a drawing tutorial - modeling my observations and thinking aloud as I draw on the whiteboard.

The second set of examples shows this result. Each image is a before and after by the same student.

Year 6 student - Poppies

Year 3 student - Dragonflies

Year 3 student - Panga / Fern Tree
When students see the increase of accuracy in their own work, you have created a teachable moment that gives them back their confidence to keep practising.

For their artistic work, I then take them to the next step where they combine their creative ideas with their  accurate drawing in order to make something unique from everyone else around them.
One technique we might use for this is S.C.A.M.P.E.R. (see

Year 3 students - Truffula trees
I hope you try these ideas the next time you have a drawing lesson with your class and let me know how you got on.

With love, as always

Thank you for visiting,


  1. 'One's ego can be very closely linked to what one produces' - sums it up beautifully!

  2. Oh yes ! Something I painfully discovered during my many studio crit sessions as an Architectural undergraduate student (a few moons ago now :) We each need to come to the understanding that creativity is your individual journey and not a competition against others. There will always be someone out there that doesn't like what you do, just as there are things that you don't like either :) This is what drives us to grow and improve. Thank you for your comment Mrs Mac :)