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Here is one idea that may help. Go way back to the basics! Have
them look for the different values. Take the still life, if that is
what your working with one (a still life is what I find will best
illustrate this idea), and have the students really study it, asking
them to look for dark values and light values. Have them point out the
different values in the actual still life. (this gets them critically
looking for the light and dark values.) Ask them after pointing a few
out what they feel is the darkest value? What is the lightest value?
More difficult, the middle gray value? If they are having difficulty
with this I suggest taking a few black and white photographs of the
still life. This will show them the different values and it will become
easier for them to pick out the dark and light values. Then set them
off to do a drawing of that same still life. When they come to to you
with their drawings pull out a black and white photo that is similar to
their angle of view. Ask them where in the photo is the darkest value
and then refer in comparison to their drawing. This may help make the
concept more clear.