ELA & Writing

the truth about drawing for improved writing

Drawing or coloring are often seen as fun activities that should be limited to pre-school and kindergarten. As students move up in grades, we tend to overlook the power of illustration. Writing time can be seen as a time where students must exclusively write words on paper, nothing more, nothing less. But, what is the purpose of writing if not to communicate? Words are not the only form of communication. Messages are conveyed through many different mediums. How often have we been moved by the music in a song, by dance movements, by facial expressions or a hug? There are multiple ways to communicate and convey a message. Drawing is one of those ways.

1. Drawing as a prediction tool

How often do teachers have students go on a “picture walk” prior to reading a text? What is the purpose of a picture walk? A picture walk informs the reader of the main idea and details of the story. It provides clues and allows the reader to make connections that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to gather from the text. The same happens when a student draws prior to writing. Details are scribbled across a page, providing a plethora of information for both the person seeing the picture as well as the student that is illustrating. Drawing allows for a student to look back at their work and see a prediction of what their writing should be. It informs the student how to move forward with their writing because their words must match the message in the picture. 

2. Drawing to start conversation

Some students can instantly share their thoughts and feelings without much prompting, while others need support in order to express the thoughts in their mind. Because some students struggle with verbal expression, it can be a little more challenging to discover all that they do know.

Speaking and listening standards can be easily overlooked because we are mainly focused on the core areas of ELA and Math, but speaking and listening can and should always be part of the content we teach. Discussions aide our students in mental processing. When students illustrate the thoughts in their mind, it can be a bridge for them to get those thoughts from their mind, onto paper, and through their spoken words. It is a great opportunity for teachers to ask probing questions and gather more information from students.

3. Drawing to tell a story

What can we see in this picture? This small piece of paper has a lot of information, but not a word is written. In this picture, the student has identified the setting, characters, character emotions, details of what happened and how they left the park. The drawing is in sequential order to show what happened from beginning to end.

Translated in words: 

Take out some pencil and crayons and go to town!

Let them color! Drawing is a means of expression. We have many artistic children in our classroom and we can sometimes stifle their creativity. In an age where testing is so prevalent and expectations are increasingly challenging, there are some activities that should be safely guarded. Drawing is one of them.

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