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Drawing Tips: Encouraging Reluctant Drawers

drawing tips - 5 tips for encouraging reluctant drawers - image of a boy with his arms crossed and a stubborn look on his face

Drawing is one of my favorite things to teach.  I love teaching students that they CAN learn to draw!  Here are some helpful drawing tips for beginner drawers.

Drawing Tips:


1 – Break Drawings into Simple Shapes

Find “how to draw” pages that break the drawing down into simple shapes and parts. Seeing a drawing broken down into steps makes drawing more manageable for them, and it also teaches them how to deconstruct (or break down) anything they see and want to draw into basic shapes. Starting with basic shapes will help students maintain correct proportions and 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. 


Reproducing a drawing will teach students the skill of drawing. With enough practice, anyone can learn how to draw something they see. (Eventually, however, the goal is to move beyond just reproducing a picture.)


“Directed drawing” works well for teaching the skill of drawing. Directed drawing is when the teacher demonstrates, and the students draw along. Doing a directed drawing as a warm-up or first drawing can give the students confidence to try another drawing independently. The other benefit of a directed drawing is that you can say out loud what you think as you draw. For example, when you tell students how to figure out which lines to draw first and where to put them on the page, you teach them a drawing strategy that they can use later.


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 simple to draw, and my students dressed him up using different themes such as “Punk Squishy.” All of the pages in this set break things down into basic shapes. 

Punking out Squishy 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; you want them to add their details and interpretation of the assignment. You can accomplish this by giving students a simple how-to-draw sheet and then asking them to change the drawing somehow or put it in a different setting.

If you do a directed drawing with students, you can tell students to finish the picture in their own way.

Expressive Monkey has also created lots of drawing activities that give students choices on making each feature or part of a drawing. Students naturally compare themselves to others when all drawings look the same, and even skillful drawers can get discouraged. I encourage you to make drawing more than skill by emphasizing letting your students express their feelings or tell a story through their drawings.

Here are a few lessons that will help you get started:


3 – Make Mistakes Count

This drawing tip is more about mindset. Embrace mistakes as not only part of learning but also something that makes their way of drawing unique. Help students fix frustrating things, but also tell them, “it doesn’t have to look a certain way.” 

When helping them with their drawing, never work directly on their picture. Instead, find a scrap piece of paper and show students your strategy for making the drawing. Then, tell them what you think as you draw. 

I discovered that drawing “Wacky Birds” is such a great activity for “breaking the ice” with reluctant drawers (and it’s free). So I designed the birds 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 – Find Fun Drawing Ideas

Make drawing fun! Play drawing games kids love or choose a fun drawing for kids or a how-to-draw page that is playful and not expected to look perfect. I designed Expressive Monkey’s “Roll and Draw” pages to be fun. Roll a dice to choose parts of their picture. Each roll adds something different to the drawing. Students have fun because they get unexpected results and feel less pressure to make their drawings look a certain way. The Troll Roll & Draw is free and a fun way to try out the Roll & Draw pages.



5 – Give Positive Comments

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 enjoy the expression on the face of your ________.
• I can really tell that the _______ in you drawing is ___________.
• Wow, 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. Instead, if students ask you directly if you like their drawing, let them know what you like about it, but also be sure to ask them to tell you what they like most about their picture.

In Summary


I hope these drawing tips give you some ideas for working with students who are just beginning to draw. Finding some fun, low-pressure drawings to do at the beginning of the year will help them gain some confidence try something more challenging later. Don’t feel bad about doing a directed drawing or two to get them started – maybe in their sketchbooks or as a drawing warm-up.  Find out some drawing topics that students love.  Encourage them to make some creative changes to the directed drawing.  As you give them feedback, give specific comments that encourage students to add their own ideas to their drawings and not feel back about making mistakes.


You might also be interested in my blog posts about The 3 Rules to Break to Encourage Reluctant Drawers and The Benefits of Drawing.

mannequin standing next to a white frame with the 3 rules to break inside the frame
Click on the image to get your free download of this infographic!

This infographic is a good reminder that kids, especially reluctant drawers, are in a special place that requires nurturing from their art teachers to cultivate confidence and a love of drawing. This is the perfect time to celebrate their ideas more than their technique and reward their efforts more than their finished product.

You can read more about 3 Rules to Break to Encourage Reluctant Drawers in this blog post.

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Stacey Peters

I create engaging drawing resources that help students build confidence and express themselves through art. I'm a former elementary art teacher of 25 years turned business owner. Giving you the tools you need to bring more drawing into your classroom brings me joy.

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I create engaging drawing resources that help students build confidence and express themselves through art.


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