More on Teaching Writing (Letters) and Teaching Drawing

January 18, 2015

Robert learned to write printed letters with the help of Sensible Pencil Curriculum and with help and determined guidance of his teachers from Private School.  Later, he did almost all exercises from the first part and many from the second part of Write from the Start.     They helped him with eye-hand coordination and  understanding directions and patterns. That also helped Robert to learn later simplified cursive from Handwriting Without Tears.

With the exception of producing in cursive some of the capital letters, Robert has become quite a good writer.  This hasn’t been the case with drawing.

I believe that this is my fault as I mostly taught him to copy simple pictures.  Nothing wrong with copying as the first phase of teaching to draw.  But everything is wrong if there is no next step.

It had to be said that Robert had huge problems with drawing even simplest shapes like triangle or rectangle. Where there should be an angle, Robert always drew an arch. The reason for that was, that he couldn’t stop himself in the corner even for a fraction of the second to change the direction of the line from horizontal to vertical or oblique. At first, I tried to teach him stopping, but that was hard.  Then I asked him to first  draw points in the corners of a triangle or a rectangle and then connect them.  That made a huge difference.  Somehow Robert grasped (understood or felt) that he was connecting corner points. For a very long time he was using this strategy (without prompting) to draw shapes. Even today when asked to draw a five point star, he begins with drawing five well spaced points and then connecting in continuous movement of the pencil.

Robert can copy simple drawing. For more complex pictures, he relies on sequences of partial drawings demonstrating steps needed to complete the picture. This way, he can draw people, houses, animals, vehicles and many other things.


Until now, I have never asked Robert to recreate those same steps from his memory.

Just today, I realized what I neglected to do to take Robert to the next level in drawing.

Today, like many times before, Robert was presented with a task of drawing something by following four presented to him steps.  It was a duck floating on the water.  I asked Robert to tell me what he would draw first, what next, and what would be last.  He did just that and then completed the picture. He wiped it off. (He used erasable marker.) I covered the picture (All the steps that is), and Robert began, then stopped and waited.  I let him look at  the model again.  He looked then finished the drawing. I asked him to do it again.  This time he finished without peeking. However, when I closed the book, gave Robert paper and a pencil and asked him to draw a duck, Robert seemed confused. He drew the duck, as he used to do before. Very schematic if not primitive drawing. As if changing the circumstances in which the task was supposed to be completed erased previous lesson.   When I opened the book again and  let Robert take a quick look at the duck, he was quick to  draw the duck following all the steps from the original instruction.

However, I am not sure if he could draw the duck if I ask him now.  I think, it would take a few more trials before Robert memorizes and organizes all the steps in his mind.  I think, I will concentrate for a few more days on just drawing the same duck until Robert without help of the model would draw a pond full of ducks.

If I remember correctly, while learning to write, Robert was practicing one letter at a time. This is not what was going on with learning to draw pictures.  Maybe, simple shapes, but not pictures.  He copied one picture ones, then the other also one time, and so on. He has never had a chance to memorize all the elements needed for the drawing of any of the pictures he copied.  But memorizing is important, as it carries the picture from the page to the student’s mind.  Remembering all the elements of one picture would allow for understanding and reconstruction of its structure. More generally it might lead to increased ability to notice the structures of other pictures as well. 

I know that Robert has difficulties with short memory. Working on memorizing how to draw a particular picture would be a great exercise.  It would not only help Robert to draw better  but also to use his brain.  Despite knowing so much, Robert still doesn’t trust his own mind. Learning to use his memory might be one more way to teach him to depend on what he knows and not only on what he sees or hears around.

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