Drawing, Doodles, and Sketches

Most of the activities and assignments in our classrooms revolve around writing and reading, but having students draw, sketch, or doodle can give them news ways to express and connect their thoughts, ideas, and concerns. Below are five ways to help students embrace their visual skills.

You can ask your students to draw:

Themselves as writers or as readers, scholars, thinkers, and so on.  Once completed, sharing the sketches with their peers leads to lively discussions about the topic they’ve drawn. 

What they’ve read. Asking students to reflect on a reading either in class or on their own can help them articulate their reactions, concerns, and confusions when they’re having difficulty understanding a text. 

What others have written. In  situations such as peer review where students read each other’s writing, ask students to draw a response or a description that appears in the draft. This is one of the few times that students can actually see the effects of their words and works especially well in description heavy assignments. 

What they can’t see. Have students sit in pairs facing away from each other. Give one student a simple image and have them give verbal instructions to the second student to replicate the image. This can lead to discussions about language, clarity, and interpretation.

Relationships between ideas. This could take the form of a mind map or flow chart, or you can leave it up to the students to create their own representations of how ideas connect. The class as a whole can brainstorm ideas for a topic before they each illustrate the way they see the connections, and small group discussions afterwards can reveal the different ways we see and connect ideas. 

When engaging students in these activities, remember to stress that they don’t need to create a masterpiece. Whether it’s a realistic portrait or a lonely stick figure, an abstract doodle or smudges of color, what’s important is that students find a way to comfortably express their thoughts. Pairing each of these activities with a brief reflective component will help students translate those thoughts into words.





Feature image by https://unsplash.com/@bradneathery
Teaching Assistant at University of Illinois at Chicago |

Hannah Green is a PhD student in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. While a creative writer by nature, she’s a teacher at heart and enjoys teaching writing in all its forms including composition, professional, technical, and creative writing. Her research interests include the place of the asylum in narratives of mental illness, the literature of Southern Africa, and oral storytelling. Her creative writing appears both in print and online in places such as The Rumpus, PANK, and McSweeney's. Hannah is also the Editor-in-Chief of During Office Hours.


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