Art/Thinking skills: Drawing on their ideas

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By John Dabellteacher, writer and Ofsted-trained inspector

Capture children’s thoughts in pictures to reveal the way they think

Drawing on children’s ideas can sometimes be difficult. We need children to tell us what they are thinking, to speak out and express themselves so that as teachers we can facilitate their learning. So, what can we do to help children make their ideas explicit? Tapping into children’s understanding can take a wide variety of forms and there are lots of effective formative assessment strategies at our disposal, none more powerful than drawings.

Making thinking visible

Drawing is often used with young children before they have gained skills in reading and writing, but is seldom used as often with older learners. This is undoubtedly a missed opportunity. Drawings make children’s thinking visible, allowing the teacher to see the depth and types of understanding a learner holds, and the level of sophistication they are working at. Drawings can serve as a window to a child’s concept knowledge and, in many cases, unearth misconceptions, problems and world views. These provide us with rich information to set up meaningful and relevant learning agendas to progress children’s understanding. As archaeological methods of assessment, drawings are direct and efficient talking points.

“Drawings can serve as a window to a child’s concept knowledge”

Most children find drawings fun to do because it is a natural language and there is little or no anxiety attached to them, even from children who say ‘I’m rubbish at drawing’. It’s important to point out, though, that when asking children to draw, they understand it’s not about the quality of the drawing but what it shows. The crucial point is that the drawing is valued.

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