Drawing "puzzles" (this is an activity I always have available to have students work on if they finish projects early.) I take pictures and cut them into squares. Number the pieces, then mix them up. They re-create the picture by drawing it piece by piece, they won't know what the picture is until they get their "puzzle" put together by drawing all the boxes. This idea I took from the book "Learning to Draw Lifeline Portraits from Photographs" by Lee Hammond. It taught ME so much when I did the activity in her book that I modified it for my students. It works at every grade level, just make pictures more difficult, cut it into more pieces, etc.
Another I do is for when we do portrait drawing. I have students draw a "generic" face from memory. Then a "real person" from memory, and finally, draw a real person from either a picture or by looking at them. They are amazed when they notice how important it is to look at what you are drawing. We do a lot of discussion on how different the "generic" person looks from the final "real" person. And how there really isn't a specific shape that works for any part of the human face, you have to observe how each element is different on the particular person you are drawing.
Also, drawing a picture upside down is always good to develop observation skills. You can't just draw upside down from memory, you have to look at it carefully.
Brookings Middle School
From: Chantal Pinnow [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday, September 11, 2008 12:47 AM
To: TeacherArtExchange Discussion Group
Subject: [teacherartexchange] Teaching to Observe
Does anyone have a good example to teach kids to draw what they ACTUALLY see, not just what they think they know it looks like? My class was doing an observation painting of their open lockers. I got very frustrated with kids who after a couple of days, didn't even have their locker open or wouldn't rearrange their books the same way as they drew it on the first day. Their answer was always "I know what it looks like." My question is "How do you do an observation drawing if you aren't observing anything?" I understand that some artwork is from memory or imagination, but we are doing observation paintings.
I would like a way to show them that you may THINK you know what something looks like, but when you actually take time to observe you may notice things are quite different. Sorry for the rant. That class just left and I was a bit frustrated with them.