By classroom drawing I mean the teacher and/or learners drawing quick, simple, not necessarily “good” or realistic doodles to illustrate activities of all kinds, and which are going to help us to convey or explain language or concepts, and which can also be used in activities that will generate lots of use and practice of language.
I repeat: and/or learners — because classroom drawing shouldn't just be about what the teacher does; nothing in a classroom should just be that! You'll see that most of the drawing activities previously proposed here on this blog have in fact been that: things that the learner, not the teacher, draws.
Success with classroom drawing
To succeed with classroom drawing (perhaps we should really call it classroom doodling), we need to be clear about what (a) what is required and (b) what our objectives are.
Required for classroom drawing: practice, which gives confidence, which gives success. Not required, talent
Objectives: #1, explaining and generating language. NOT an objective: realism
Once we have those things clear in our minds, then we're already on the road to success. Once we and/or our learners have pens in our hands and we plug them into our imagination, we have a super-powerful, multi-purpose tool that offers us infinite possibilities in language teaching and learning.
After that, once you’ve set your sights artistically low but linguistically high, the following tips will take you a long way further down the road.
- Get yourself a set of cheap drawing pens with different nibs (I like 0.3, 0.5, 0.7 and something thicker), and use them appropriately (e.g. 0.3 or smaller for eyes, 0.7 for a very dark beard or hair, for example
- If you want to do flashcards, however, visible from the back of the classroom, grab paper from the recycle bin (ideally A3 size) and go for a nice thick board marker
- With each object you draw, know what your best possible starting point is, and build the rest of the drawing up from there
- Build up a repertoire of things you have practised and can confidently reproduce as and when required, including a set of standard “people” in different poses (like stick figures), animals, vehicles, places (beaches, forests, dentists' waiting rooms, dentists’ chairs…). Keep your eye out — everywhere! — for illustrations you can copy and use
- But never be afraid to have a go at something totally new, even in front of a class, or be scared of messing up or embarrassing yourself (if you never draw a space rocket or submarine, you won’t 😉 !) or of having people laugh at your drawings… People laughed? Hey! You want laughter in a classroom!
- If necessary, go back home and find out (the Internet is a wonderful place — at times!) how you really draw (say) a crocodile, and then practise that
- Adding "clipart" to your search will give you lots of copiable illustrations – eg “clipart dog”; pick the simplest and if necessary, simplify those further
- Keep adding to your repertoire (if you think “The only thing I can draw is an elephant”, or whatever, you need to get yourself some practice doing other stuff!)
- At my Conference session back in February, I gave away some desk-top, page-a-day diaries that our sponsors were kind enough to let me have. A doodle a day, five minutes a day, is a brilliant way to improve your drawing skills
- Putting your work on a blog or Instagram (even if you share it with only a few people) is something that will make a huge difference as it will motivate you to reach higher
Practice is the key. Practice leads to improvement — as these amazing examples on Bored Panda demonstrate.
And it's vital to understand this:
It's not a question of having the ability to draw anything. Rather, it's a question of giving yourself the practice to have the courage to try to draw things that might convey and clarify meaning; convey ideas; add interest, generate language, etc.
Here you have ideas for activities that use classroom drawing and we have further activities (content in Spanish) on our Spanish teacher training blog.