I Can't Draw!

5 Tips for Encouraging Reluctant Drawers - Did you ever have a student say, "I can't draw"? Well, then this blog post is for you!

Drawing is one of my favorite things to teach.  I love getting students to know that they CAN learn to draw!  Here are some tips that I find helpful.

1 - Break Drawings into Simple Shapes

Find "how to draw" pages that break the drawing down into simple shapes and parts.  This will not only make drawing easier for them, but it also teaches them how to deconstruct (or breakdown) anything that they see and want to draw into basic shapes.  This is a really good drawing strategy because it helps maintain correct proportions and will also help students achieve a better overall composition (or layout)  of their page by making their draw fill up the page without running off the page.  Remember drawing is a "skill" that can be taught.  With enough practice, anyone can learn how to draw.  

I was surprised how much my 5th graders loved drawing Squishy the Dragon.  Here is a set of drawing pages that feature Squishy the Dragon and Friends. He is really easy to draw and students dressed him up using different themes such as "Punk Squishy".  All of the pages break things down into very simple shapes. This leads to the next tip:

2 - Encourage Students to Express Themselves

Let students know that you don't have a specific finished drawing in mind; that you want them to add their own details and interpretation of the assignment.  This can be accomplished by giving students a simple how-to-draw sheet and then asking them to change the drawing somehow or put the drawing in a different setting.  Expressive Monkey has also created lots of drawing sheets that give students choices on how to make each feature or part of a drawing.  When all the drawings in the class are expected to look alike, students naturally compare themselves to others and even skillful drawers can get discouraged. When all the drawings in the class are expected to look the same, you are also sending the message that drawing is just a skill.  I encourage you to make drawing more than skill by placing greater importance on letting your students express their feelings, or tell a story through their drawings. 

3 - Make Mistakes Count

Embrace mistakes as not only part of learning but also something that makes their way of drawing unique.  Help students fix things that are frustrating to them, but also tell them, "it doesn't have to look this way". When helping them with their drawing, never work directly on their drawing.  Find a scrap piece of paper and show them your strategy for making the drawing.  Tell them what you are thinking as you draw.  I found that drawing "Wacky Birds" is such a great activity for "breaking the ice" with reluctant drawers.  The birds are designed to look silly and relieve the pressure of making something look perfect. 
Using Roll & Draw pages with a focus on Abstract Art is another way to have students draw without the expectation that the finished result looks a particular way.  Every student's work will look different yet students will practice copying lines and shapes and build hand & eye coordination.

4 - Make Drawing Fun

Make drawing fun!  Play a drawing game or choose a funny subject or how-to-draw page that is playful and not expected to look perfect.  Expressive Monkey's "Roll and Draw" pages are designed to be fun.  Students roll a dice to choose parts of their picture.  Students have fun with this because they can get unexpected results.  

5 - Give Positive Responses

Respond to their drawings in a way that is accepting and encouraging. Here are 5 examples of comments that will encourage your young drawers:
• Your drawing makes me smile because of the way you ____________.
• I  am enjoying the expression on the face of ________.
• I can really tell that the _______ in you drawing is ___________.
• I am fascinated by the  ___________, tell me more about what is happening.
• You drawing reminds me of _____________.

Try to avoid responses like, "I like it" and "that is really nice" (which is an easy habit to fall back to, in a hurry) because it implies that they should be trying to please you with their drawing.  If students ask you directly if you like their drawing, you can let them know what you like about it, but also be sure to ask them to tell you what they like most about their drawing.

Find more fun drawing pages on Expressive Monkey's Website.


  1. Wonderful post!! I just nominated you for the Liebster Award. :) http://www.mrsmiraclesmusicroom.com/2014/11/the-liebster-award.html


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