Directed Drawings

IMG_7288This is my first year as the school librarian, and prior to this role I had not worked with students younger than third-grade. So, to say the least, I was (and still am) very inexperienced when it comes to working with kindergarten students. I was completely clueless to what a student in kindergarten could do as far as reading, writing, drawing, coloring and following directions. After a few visits, I finally fell into a rhythm that seems to work well. Each week I visit with my kindergarten students on Fridays. They are housed at a separate campus this year so I start my day with them until about 11:00. I see four classes one week and the other four classes the next week. The class period is 30 minutes, during which I do a picture book read-aloud (we talk about the parts of a book, fiction vs. nonfiction, and book care during this time too), lead students in a directed drawing that accompanies the book, and allow time for students to select a new book to take back to their classroom before leaving. Directed drawings are great for so many reasons: learning shapes, following directions, practicing hand-eye coordination, developing spatial and size awareness, fine-tuning those fine-motor skills, building vocabulary (I say things like parallel lines and intersect), and building confidence as budding artists. I’ve actually done directed drawings with students in grades three, four and five, and it tackles all the same skills for older students too. They start to realize that they can draw, and that drawing is just putting together simple, basic shapes. Typically I use books like Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book of Faces, Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book of Animals or Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book of Weirdos which are great for showing even amateur artist how to assemble an image out of basic shapes.

Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 5.03.56 PMThis month, we are reading about famous women for Women’s History Month and then drawing their portraits. Typically I can search Google for “Directed Drawing of Polar Bear” or “Directed Drawing of Penguin” but nothing existed for “Directed Drawing of Frida Khalo” or “Directed Drawing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg” so I decided to attempt it on my own. I typically show students how to draw step by step. That is, I draw a circle, then they draw a circle. I’ll give directions like, “Let’s add an ear which is the shape of the letter C, and then a backwards C on the other side.” I found it was important to also have a completed, fully colored drawing hanging up next to the one I complete with them so they have a sense of what the final product will look like. It also gives them some sense about how big the shapes should be on their paper since I’m drawing a much larger version on chart paper. I have to say, I am always pleasantly surprised with how they turn out. Now, not every student is completely successful, and some perfectionists go through about four sheets of paper, the majority of students end up with a pretty good representation of what or who we were drawing. There’s a real sense of accomplishment and pride when students see their work on display. Happy drawing.

4 thoughts on “Directed Drawings

  1. Hi Mike, when you do the directed drawing, do you put up the picture with the directions for them to do independently or wait for all the other students. I’m thinking that it might take a while that way.


    1. I do step one, then they do step one. Now there are kids who are perfectionists who want to start over if it’s not perfect but I keep going. I start by saying that kids can’t shout out, “I’m not ready” or “wait!” You’ll find the majority of kids keep up. I also say if you fall behind, the best thing to do is just watch and then draw it when we are finished.


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