Drawing to Learn

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Drawing to Learn

How much do you value the act of drawing? Do you see it as the process of creating visual images to be admired, or not, or do you see it as engaging in ‘seeing’ the world around you and preserving or creating an image, representation, story, memory, interpretation, communication or discussion? If we pause to consider the process of drawing instead of the product we can understand how and why drawing should be a central process in our lives and why we should preserve the natural instincts of children to ‘draw to learn’.

We can support children to communicate through drawing ,if we understand how the act of drawing is not just the application of paint or ink on paper to create an image/representation. At Bold Park Community School we invited children from the age of three to translate and interpret what they see, hear, touch, feel or smell into a visual form for others and their own growth. Nothing new you might say! Well I think our process is one which is not a common one. Before we ask children to interpret a visual form we first explore the subject. We discuss the textures and colours, feel smell manipulate and explain. We ‘see’ and identify the parts of the whole and how they relate to each other. We come to ‘know’ the subject of the drawing or painting at a much deeper level so that our interpretations can combine to create a representation of the essence of the subject. For example when looking at watermelon we might notice the black seeds in the red flesh, but wait, some of the seeds are white and at the edge of the red flesh before the green skin the flesh is white. ‘Seeing” this, talking about it, mixing the colours for the painting or choosing the pens will always result in an amazing interpretation , and significantly translating what you have seen and observed into another medium, drawing, will result in gaining new knowledge.

Zentangling too encourages us to see the parts of a whole. Then you start to see the patterns that surround us and as you look deeper, you see how the parts connect with each other and maybe how we can work with the parts to create something new.


As our students get older we start to encourage children to draw their stories, their theory, their reflections. Writing about them then becomes a much smoother process. Misty Adoniou, Senior Lecturer in Language, Literacy and TESL at University of Canberra, reflects on the importance of drawing to the process of writing in her article in The Conversation ‘If you want to improve your kids writing, let them draw!

So next time you set out to draw reflect a little on how much you learn as you are engaged in the process. If you work with children, or are a parent/grandparent try drawing with your child then ask them what they learnt as they drew. You might be surprised!