It’s a new school year.
Are you tossing around the idea of incorporating drawing into your curriculum? Wondering how you should start?
Consider the approach taken by Harry Weekes in Drawing Students Out: Using Sketching Exercises to Hone Observation Skills. Instead of treating drawing activities as special projects, Weekes treats drawing as an act no different than breathing or looking across the room at the chalkboard. Drawing (excuse me, observing) is simply an expectation he has of all his students. He establishes the drawing culture in his classroom by calling “drawing exercises”, “observation exercises” (Weekes, 2005) and by reminding the students in his 9th grade biology class that observing and recording are what biologists do.
Drawing is a priority in Weekes’ class for the following reasons:
- Drawing improves observation skills.
- Drawing requires students to sit still and look.
- He wants students to stop thinking they are “nonartists” (Weekes, 2005).
- He wants to slow students down as they “navigate the social river that is adolescence on a current of hormones” (Weekes, 2005).
Because Weekes’ objective is to make “better observers” not “better drawers” (Weekes, 2005), he uses drawing as a learning tool whenever he can throughout the school year, regardless of the subject matter. Doing so not only reinforces the drawing culture he creates in his classroom, it also satisfies Standards.
The way he assesses the visual journal required of students contributes to its success as a learning tool and helps to downplay the “art” students are asked to create. Since students’ sketchbooks are used as tools for collecting observations, it is the quality of the observations recorded that is graded, not the quality of the artwork. Weekes (2005) states he is always surprised by the quality of student observations and the illustrations they produce.
By making students “better observers” (Weekes, 2005), Weekes is making better biologists and, as a result, scientifically literate citizens.
This article is available for purchase online for 99¢. See link below.
Weekes, Harry. 2005. Drawing students out: using sketching exercises to hone observation skills. The Science Teacher. January. Web. <http://learningcenter.nsta.org/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/4/tst05_072_01_34>. [accessed 25 August 2011]
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