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Tips for Teaching the Arts

Basic Drawing in the Classroom

Marcia McEachron




As a first drawing lesson, I present two simple concepts. Basic Shapes and Lines. I draw a simple “visual vocabulary” on the board for each concept:

Basic Shapes:


Basic Lines:


With these shapes and lines in mind we look around the room and find them all—on the walls, chairs, clothes, hair—the shapes of things around us. We then draw one or two of these things that look like or contain the basic shapes and lines.





It begins to look easy to the students. They begin to see the world in the language of shapes and lines. They begin to understand that they can draw
by using this vocabulary of shapes.

I ask them then to use these lines and shapes and combine them into images:

• Which shapes and lines combined can be used to describe a bird? A person? A dog?

•How can we use our imaginations with these lines and shapes to embellish these images?

• Can we introduce color?



This is elementary drawing that people from kindergarten to adults can comprehend. Those who have a natural visualizing talent will blossom with this information, and those who need to develop visualizing skills will struggle and succeed with practice.

Drawing engages the imagination of children and makes them pay attention to details. Encouraging children to draw will heighten their awareness of the Earth.

Drawing engages children in the language of seeing. There is unspoken information in an object we look at to draw. Drawing furthers right brain development, imagination, problem solving and creative thinking skills.

Our imaginative interpretation of the world around us through an art medium makes life interesting. We need to teach art not to create artists, but to enhance the quality of people’s lives through creative connection to the imagination.

I suggest that teachers acquaint themselves with the basic concepts of drawing and be able to present this simple lesson. You do not need to teach kids to draw; you need to teach them the simple concepts above and then coach. Kids respond to this information and perform beyond what they (and maybe you) think is their ability . It is exciting to see them empowered by drawing.

You do not need to be an artist to present this introduction to drawing. Practice this lesson yourself in order to present it to kids.

To assess, look for comprehension of how to use shapes and lines in image making. Each student has a distinctive style; they will interpret these basics differently.

There is no one way to draw a circle or a square. It is uniqueness that we reward in art, not sameness. This is a place where kids can express themselves.

They can all draw the same thing, but it is each unique vision that will be evident. Respect that. Coach to encourage seeing shapes and describing details with lines. That is all you have to do to help them improve visualizing skills.

If you as a teacher can get them excited about practicing the ability to describe on paper what they see, they will surprise you with a wealth of expression.

You can learn much about how a student thinks by seeing their drawings: the details, the images tell you how they think and what they care about and comprehend.

Drawing is not competition. Art-making is discovery and experimentation in the language of shapes and lines. We compete only with ourselves.