Friday, October 4, 2013

Pre- Instruction High School Drawings and the Aftermath

My co- worker, a teacher with ten years of experience, rather exclusively uses Better Edwards' Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain the first half of the year with her Art One students. Admittedly, I don't think I had ever heard of the book before last year. But the teacher for whom I was covering (he was on a leave of absence turned resignation) also used a few of the exercises and I tried with little results. I didn't have time to read the book last year between my four hundred students and graduate work, but found time this summer. Plus, the book I mentioned in my last post, A Retired Art Teacher Tells All, speaks highly of Betty Edwards and even adapted some of her exercises. I decided that this year, I should really give it a try...

Let me tell you, it has made a world of difference.
Perhaps the exercises have nothing to do with the current state of my classroom, but I think the precedent was set by the series of pre-instruction drawings we did the first week, as suggested in both of these books.

After going through Art Room Rules, and goals, plus the grading policy, we used the remaining time to complete  a series of pre-instruction drawings. 

First I asked students to draw a hand with details. They were given about ten minutes.
Next, students were to draw an imaginary face from the shoulders up, in about fifteen minutes. 
Finally, with the remaining time, students were asked to draw a person sitting in a chair with four legs. 

These drawings were totally a challenge. Before we started, I reiterated that I wanted students to complete these drawings in order to see how much they will grow in a school year. Plus, in order for me to assess them this year, I needed to know where they were at, as their grade is not dependent upon what "star art student" accomplishes, but rather whether or not they have challenged themselves. I didn't want them to purposely do poorly so that they look awesome at the end of the school year. 

I, as the teacher, have benefited greatly from these drawings. For one, I now know from where all my students are starting. But also, from the get go, students have realized that art at the high school level is serious business. My largest class, at 27, is relatively quiet, each and every day, as students are focused on the task at hand. That rarely happened last year. Maybe my students are more serious this year. Maybe the smaller class size has helped or maybe, just maybe between the pre-instruction drawings, and a part time year of high school art under my belt, I am more confident and students are responding well to my mentality and the exercises and activities.
Either way, I will take it and very much look forward to where the rest of the school year takes us. 


  1. One of my favorite books - I actually own 2 copies, the second one a revised edition. For decades, been using what I learned from this book, both with kids, and with adults, too! Obviously I never had time to totally follow the program outlined in the book, but it has helped me enormously, giving me a REASON for my approach to teaching drawing. Thanks for mentioning it.

    1. Thanks for reading! I have the workbook too and continue to incorporate the exercises into our studies.

  2. I love this book! I use the exercises before our second still-life drawing. The kids are always amazed at the pre and post instruction works. In fact, I'll be out all next week (still recovering from surgery!) and I planned on picking out a few activities from the book for the kids to do until I return. Great timing with this post!