Drawing + Word Work

I think it was five or six years ago that I went out to San Francisco to visit my BFF Mimi. Her daughter, Fifi, attended an arts based charter school and her kindergarten teacher welcomed me into his classroom for the day.

As the children arrived, they would draw the picture and word he had drawn on the chalkboard. I was amazed at the children’s ability to reproduce his images. It was a simple task but I saw so many rich and wonderful processes at work. First, and perhaps most obvious, was the eye-hand coordination. There was the visual perceptual development and spatial perceptions. But what truly captured me was the incredible power of image and word dancing together. What would it be like to do this day after day – new words, word family words, theme based words all linked with a picture symbol.

Five years later, I am hooked.  I begin this process mid-year as their fine motor skills have developed a bit further.

My drawing on the white board with the word written below. There is no instructions given.  The children just look up on the board – draw and write the word at the level they can do it.
A sampling of the children’s work:
I love the little details the children will add like the tree in the background.
Another student adding details.

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  1. Camille says:

    Sally, Wow! This is fascinating. Is there an order or method for choosing words? Is there a source for ideas for simple drawings? I have a K/1 combo and start with work on the students desks as I take attendance and deal with the details of the day. I like the idea of having students begin with a drawing instead!
    An Open Door

    • I start with CVC words like cat, hat, dog, rug, etc and then move into more complicated word families like snake, cake, frog, log, etc.

  2. Sandra says:

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE this idea!!! Do you have a list of drawings that you do? I have these “how-to-draw” books that would be great for this daily work!! 🙂

    ? Sandra
    Sweet Times in First

    • I highly recommend starting with simple CVC words and then move into word families. It helps to use words they can sound out.

  3. luckeyfrog says:

    I love this for a few reasons, even for my 2nd graders! I think it would really help their confidence, fine motor skills, vocabulary for ELLs especially, and they would think it was so fun! I probably won’t use it every day, but it would be great for introducing a theme!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Luckeyfrog’s Lilypad

  4. TammySF. says:

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  5. This is a really great idea – while I generally shy away from giving kids a model for art, this is more about developing skills around basic, recognized symbols, which is very useful. (just a few years ago I learned how to draw bubbles convincingly on Blue’s Clues!).

  6. Barbara says:

    Love this! Sometimes simple is best.
    Grade ONEderful

  7. I am so impressed. Your children’s drawings and writing is amazing. (I like your elephant, too!) This is definitely something I am going to try with my two young grandsons and share the idea with my former preschool teaching partner. Do you have suggestions for beginning pictures/words? Thanks, Renee

    • I think it is important to start with simple words like cat, hat, dog, bee, bug, rug — cvc words work well. These are words many children will remember and can sound out.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Do you draw freehand–or do you have a source for the drawings–I love it!

    • I freehand. I have had art training so I can draw about anything. There are lots of sources for simple drawings. Check pinterest as well.

  9. Sara says:

    Thanks for this idea! I used it in my classroom during an animal unit, and my students loved it. I think it would be a great thing to implement all year long. I wrote about using it on my blog, with a link back to your page.

    Thanks again!


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