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Lesson Plans

"Visiting author" drawing lesson, gr 1-3

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Doug DuBosque (dd)
Fri, 29 May 1998 10:22:25 -0400 (EDT)

My "substituting" comes as a result of being invited to visit a school as
author/illustrator. This is what I usually do with classroom-size groups of
younger kids (gr 1-3). It requires a lot of energy to complete a big
drawing in the time the kids complete a small one - and supervise the class
at the same time. But after 45 minutes with a group of kids I've never met
before, I often end up with an "instant hallway display." And since I'm
generally observed, this also serves my "secret agenda" of inspiring
classroom teachers to become more artistically active.
Materials: crayons, 12"x19" paper (approx). I use a larger sheet, 2'x3' or
larger. I explain that before we're finished, their entire paper must have
color on it. Which is kind of weasely, but keeps the 3-minute "I'm doners"
going -- and can be fun ("ah! I see a white spot!").

Students choose two colors (not black), and draw along in one as I
demonstrate a dinosaur - start out lightly, etc. (Instructions from "Draw

Once we've drawn the basic shapes, they create their own pattern and "fill
in" the two colors. (Discussion: what colors are dinosaurs? What kinds of
patterns occur in animals, and what kind did dinosaurs have? How do/could
we know? Why couldn't a dinosaur be orange with green stripes...?)

To encourage individuality, I like to ask what kind of a friend the
dinosaur might have (bird? baby dinosaur?) - add that to your picture.

Meanwhile, I'm drawing like crazy. I'll ask if anyone knows how to make a
tree look like it's behind the dinosaur (overlapping)-come up and show me.
I demonstrate a couple of ways to draw leaves, scribbles (in more than one
color!) for grass, a volcano in the background, and more mountains (more
overlapping, lava (contrast: look at the difference between a streak of
orange on white vs. adding black around it. And sky (gotta fill the whole
paper, though clouds can be an exception).

As I complete my (deliberately garish) two color pattern, I start talking
to myself (amazing how quiet a noisy room gets when the teacher suddenly
starts talking to himself!!): "Orange and green is OK, but I wonder what
this would look like if I covered the whole thing with purple...?" I turn
to them, "What do you think?" This leads to a "cool vs. yucky" vote, and
then I add the third color, usually to an enthusiastic chorus of "cool!"
and "yuck!" as they try to "vote" again by repeating their vote.

In fact, cool usually wins out. If not, there's always enough surprise in
the overlaid colors for them to get the idea: "Maybe you can pick a better
third color than I did. Want to try?" Some do, some don't.

The variety that emerges is inevitably startling, especially for a lesson
that sounds rather canned. I like to point out to them the diverse results,
though everyone had the same instructions. Before leaving, I ask them to
wander around for a minute or two looking at everybody else's - and see if
they can pick up ideas or colors they might want to try in their next

The key in this type of guided drawing lesson is developing a basic, easy
framework, and then dropping in lots of open-ended possibilities. The goal
of filling the paper with color sounds pedestrian, but the unexpected
results can be quite wonderful. And in 45 minutes, we've managed to
include basic drawing techniques (often including contour and cast
shadows), overlapping to create depth, pattern, texture, color contrast,
color blending, plus reflections on previous nature observations. And
generally have enough completed pictures to make a pretty impressive

Doug DuBosque
Draw Dinosaurs, Draw Cars, Learn to Draw 3-D, etc...