Lower Elementary

Action Drawings

As children transition from the preschematic stage to the schematic stage, they begin drawing people as heads with torsos and jointed limbs rather than as circles and sticks. Even after the child’s brain is ready to understand representing humans in a more realistic way, they might not know how to show anything other than a person standing still while looking forward. This lesson, adapted from Nancy Beal’s book The Art of Teaching Art to Children, helps students explore a variety of poses kinesthetically.

A second grader draws a successful free throw (work in progress)

Students first brainstormed three activities that they liked to do. Many answered basketball, football, and playing outside. They listed three activities on the back of their paper, then picked one to draw. Once that was done, they took 11 small strips of paper and arranged them on a 12 x 18 sheet into a pose showing the activity of their choice. The strips were then glued down and outlined, with details such as hands, feet, facial features, clothing, and backgrounds drawn in with pencil.

Demonstrating on the white board
The Demo Person was made out of paint swatches mounted on magnets so that I could demonstrate arranging the strips into different poses to the whole class easily.
Deeply contemplating a touchdown scene
Third graders hard at work on their action scenes. The students gluing down strips had been absent on the first day and were catching up with their peers, who were coloring on Day 2.
The student on the left is using one of the examples I had made as reference to draw her own ballerina.

While I think it would be ideal if students always tried to come up with ideas on their own rather than making duplicates of an example, I believe it’s also important to give students the choice to copy an image if they want to. Drawing especially can test people’s confidence, but allowing them to copy an example when trying something new can help them become comfortable enough with the general concepts to take a leap of faith and draw freely later on.

A student asked what figure skating looked like so I demonstrated. I wore clothing to mimic the composition of the Paper Strip Person so that students could see the parts of the limbs more easily as I moved about and did poses as requested.

Working on a soccer scene
At the end of Day 1
The scene completed on Day 2
Some students painted their scenes with tempera paint. While this second grader did not fully grasp the use of the paper strips, she nonetheless created a fascinating piece.
The most dynamic examples from the second graders’ work were put on display in the showcase in the Upper Elementary Common Area.

Wow, I can’t even draw like that now
—A fifth grader admiring the work in the showcase

A Michael Jordan fan enjoying a hoverboard ride in front of his house. Wooo!

Below is the other example (besides the ballerina) that I made to show students this type of drawing at different stages.

Walking the Dog

Besides helping students learn how to draw people in different poses, this lesson helped them spread out on the page–something small children often have trouble doing. The paper strips technique made for many fun, BOLD drawings!

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