Teaching kids to draw is a critical literacy skill. Children need to be able to draw detailed drawings that when anyone looks at them, they will know what the drawing is of. Learning to draw is important because it helps children develop fine motor skills, the same fine motor muscles used for writing. Additionally, it helps students tell detailed stories when they have detailed drawings. Drawing and storytelling are the foundational steps in being able to write stories. When children draw pictures with clear details, then they can add more details into their storytelling and eventually their writing. So, how should we be teaching kids to draw? This blog post shares the three steps that I use with my students.
Line Segments and Fine Motor Skills
Fine motor skills are critical for students to be able to draw detailed drawings. They have to be able to hold and use a pencil. Additionally, practicing drawing helps improve fine motor skills.
Start lessons on teaching kids to draw by helping them hold a pencil with the correct grip. I like to sing this song: “Thumb is bent, pointer points to the tip, middle finger uses its side. I tuck my last two fingers in and take them for a ride.” I can’t take credit for this song, I learned it from one of our occupational therapists, but I sing it every year now.
After teaching about holding a pencil, I give students different line segments to practice. This will help them be more successful with using the pencil correctly to write and draw.
Drawings Are Made Up of Shapes
After practicing drawing lots of lines, I have my students trace and draw lots and lots of shapes. This is also great practice for using their pencil and developing more fine motor muscles. As a class we talk about how everything in the world around us, and therefore everything we draw, is made up of shapes. We practice drawing things around us by looking first at what shapes make up the object and then drawing those shapes together. By teaching kids to draw shape by shape and breaking down what they are drawing into shapes, we can make it more concrete and less overwhelming for the students that struggle with drawing.
Need other help for teaching striving writers? Check out this blog post on how to teach writing sentences in small groups!
Adding Details and a Background
After students learn to break down drawings by thinking about their shapes, they are ready to start thinking about details and backgrounds to add to their pictures. Often if students are drawing about a time they used the swings, they only draw the swing and themselves. Ask them questions like, where were you? What else is there besides the swing? What color was the sky? The ground? Who was there with you? What were they doing? Eventually, these questions will help them add more details to their writing as well.
A fantastic book for teaching kids to draw and add in backgrounds and details is the book Alpert by LaNesha Tabb I also like to show my students the level of drawing that I am expecting from them with this visual rubric.
Teaching kids to draw is a critical skill to support their literacy development. It is a foundational skill that should not be skipped over. Students should break down their drawings into different shapes they know and then add in backgrounds and other details.
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