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Drawing: it's elementary!

One of the major goals of teaching drawing at the elementary level is to instruct the student how to "look" at the object to be drawn, and try to render those same curves, angles, and proportions on paper. This helps the student improve spatial organization. Students draw only what they see, not a preconceived idea of what the object looks like or should look like.

We began with a still life: a vase filled with real or artificial flowers, berries, and leaves for simple contrast and interest. Everyone was instructed to draw the same part of the still life at the same time. This extremely structured method of drawing has been quite successful at this level. The basics of learning how to see and transferring that image onto paper is necessary in order to develop the discipline involved in drawing. There is plenty of time for students to learn to draw more freely as they mature.

We played a game called "Telephone" to help the first graders while they worked on the different sections of the still life. I got on one imaginary telephone and chose a student to talk to me on another. I could not see the still life since I was far away on the other end of the line. The student would have to really "look" and use language that described the particular section of the still life. The student's task was to convey verbally what the poinsettia petals looked like. For example, the flower petals of the poinsettia were long, thin, and became pointed at the end. After several tries, everyone wanted to talk on the telephone and they became quite expressive in their language. After each phone call, time was allotted for everyone to draw the section previously described.

After the picture was completed, I gave a demonstration on darkening selected lines to create the feeling of shadow and to add variety to the drawing. Most students took to this idea quickly and confidently. We also talked about texture, pattern, and how decorative designs could be added for interest. Certain areas lent themselves to texture particularly well such as the leaves, tablecloth and vase.

Second and third graders did a variation of this lesson. Second graders added crayon over their simple pencil outlines, then watercolor to create a vibrant still life. Third graders concentrated on patterns using colored pencil as their medium for a delicate rendering.

These drawings were hung in the board of education building and in the school hall. The comments were extremely positive. Many adults mentioned that they wished they could draw as well as these artists. The students gained self-confidence in their verbal and drawing abilities and created a wonderful work of art. They are on their way to observing the world around them and rendering their unique perspectives on paper.

Bonnie Baber teaches art in Carroll County, Maryland, at the Education Center and Taneytown Elementary School.
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Author:Baber, Bonnie
Publication:School Arts
Date:Oct 1, 1991
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