Being able to draw is a skill. Like any other area of the curriculum children need time to develop and practice basic skills. We wouldn’t expect children’s writing to get any better without them having any experiences of writing and drawing is exactly the same.
Here are ten simple drawing activities that can be used in the classroom to support and develop children’s drawing skills.
- Quick one minute sketch.
Place the object in front of the children. Give them 1 minute only to draw it; time this strictly. All need to start and finish at the same time. Some children will say they have finished before the time – encourage them to look further at the item and begin to look at shading, texture and any other added details. These drawings are always a useful starting point and I recommend using this, along with exercise 2 and 3 as warm ups to drawing. Often with this drawing the children will draw what they think they can see. Their brain will fill in the gaps of what they ‘know’ the object looks like.
- Swap hands.
This frees up the ‘I can’t draw’ attitude and forces concentration and control. This works best again with a strict time frame. This could be a minute or longer. I would not recommend doing this for a sustained time. It is about freeing up the flow of drawing. Also some children will get frustrated by the fact it won’t look ‘perfect’. However, if you model this with the children and they all see the drawings look different, it can be quite good fun. The children might need to slow down their drawing in order to have greater control.
- Look, look again… just keep looking.
One of my favourite drawing activities to do with a class, but one of the most challenging as it takes a great deal of self-control and discipline. This again is best as a warm up activity and works well with a time limit. For this the children are forced to look at the object they are drawing. This makes them see it for what it really looks like as they are not allowed to look at their paper other than to place their pencil (or whatever) on their page. They are only to look at the object. Some children will desperately want to look down at their page as it’s a natural reaction but again its great fun. This does take practice as you will get some children who in a bid not to be caught looking at their page will stare you out in a ‘look I am not looking at my page way’ rather than looking at the object.
- Mix it up.
Children need to learn that different drawing materials will produce a different kind of line. They will not be able to control the materials in the same way so will have to alter the way that they draw in order to produce the desired effect. It is interesting to give the children a range of drawing materials and ask them to draw the same object (again forcing them to look) and get them to draw it but using different materials. Materials I would suggest are pencil, biro, fine liner, charcoal and a graphite stick. They should soon realise that the biro will behave in a similar way to a pencil and you can build up areas of light and dark. They should realise that they will have to up the size of their drawing with the graphite and that the fine liner felt tip will produce a very flat solid line.
- Nature’s tools
Who says that the children have to draw with something that is found in the art cupboard purchased from YPO (other suppliers are also available)? Why not take the children outside and get them to collect a variety of sticks, you want a variety of lengths and thicknesses. These can be dipped in Indian ink and used to create some really interesting and beautiful drawings.
- Make it big.
Many children really find drawing on a large scale quite a challenge. We have all seen those tiny drawings in the centre of a page which need a magnifying glass to see the details. This activity will encourage the children to experiment and push the boundaries of scale. You will need large paper for this; the best way to do this is to join large A2 sheets together with masking tape. Tie a graphite stick to a stick and then get them to stand and draw on the paper holding the stick at length. The paper could be pinned to a wall or on the floor (shoes off). This activity would be best carried out in smaller groups than the whole class.
- Working in negative.
This activity makes the children realise that every line, every mark needs to be considered. It needs to have thought and purpose. For this the children will draw on white paper with a candle or a white oil pastel. They will complete their drawings without being able to see the finished result. Once they are happy they and have considered shape, form, texture and tone the drawings are painted with a colour wash – this could be tea, thinned down paint, watercolour or even inks. This can produce some very beautiful effects especially when a wash of tea is combined with drips of ink.
- Make your mark
This is about experimenting with different types of line and how they can create texture and tone. Like activity number 4 a range of materials are needed. However, rather than drawing an object the children experiment with making different marks on the page and working out what you can do with the materials – e.g. cross hatching, turning the graphite on its side, holding the pencil in different places etc.
- Grid it
This activity is about composition and understanding space. We have all seen sketchbooks or pieces of paper where there is one small drawing right in the centre of the page and then they turn over and do the same on the next page. For this the children are to create different sections to draw in on their page using making tape. Some areas might be larger or smaller than others or even different shapes. The only stipulation is that their drawings fill each section. This helps them to see how a series of drawings can work together on one page and how best to arrange/compose a series of drawings.
- Change the surface
Who said that drawings have to be done on white paper? If anything drawing on a piece of perfect white paper is rather scary. Why not experiment with drawing on different papers and different surfaces. Cartridge paper is different to draw on than photocopier paper and will react to the drawing materials differently. Try drawing on newspaper, pages out of an old book, envelopes (the blue patterned inside is especially lovely), wall paper (anaglypta , lining paper), sandpaper, brown parcel paper and hand-made paper. The children could even bring in materials that they would like to try drawing on.
These are all very simple ideas which need very limited resourcing and are relatively easy to set up. So go on, have a go. Get your drawing on.