Drawings · Making Books with children · Making books with elementary students

Re-Framing a Lesson

Bookmaking with First Graders
Bookmaking with First Graders

OMG Have I got a teaching tip for anyone who has ever pulled their hair out trying encourage students to make their drawings bigger, to fill up the page. It’s only taken me like 25 years of working with students to figure this out. This is big.

Filling up a page with a drawing
Filling up a page with a drawing

There’s this variations of a bookmaking project that I do with mostly first and second graders that includes a drawing. The bigger and bolder the drawing is, the better it looks in the book. Needless to say, it’s such a struggle for this age of student to make their drawings big enough.


Usually I give the students the paper that their drawing goes on and do everything but beg them to draw bigger. Well, sometimes I beg. Then, yesterday  (Friday)  Carter, a 7 year-old in my first class of the day, suggested that, before they start their drawing, I  lay the paper inside the frame that will surround it. It had never occurred to me to do this, so I tried it out in my next class of the day.


Unbelievable. In my next class, after sliding the paper behind the frame before the drawing began, every single student filled up the paper with large bold drawings to go along with their stories.

Never has this happened before.

Maybe it was just a fluke, maybe this class had been bribed enough times to fill up the page that they now did it instinctively. I had one more class to go.


Next class, same thing happened. They filled up the space with big drawings.


Some students lifted the frame away after the first part of the drawing was done so that they could make their drawings even bigger. OMG I was so happy. My conclusion: if you want students to make a drawing to fill up a space, FRAME THE SPACE with a dark frame! I don’t know why it works, but far be it from me to ever think I can fathom what goes on in the mind of a 7 year-old.

Now here’s the part that gives me chills…I have to ask myself, why did Carter put forth his suggestion? I give credit to this: recently I was impressed by reading Malke Rosenfeld’s book about engaging students in whole body learning. While I teach different subject matter than Malke, I am deeply impressed by how she gives her students permission to explore the learning space before she begins her lessons. I took this to heart, and this week, for the first time, within certain boundaries, I encouraged students to fold and unfold, then explore and examine the materials that we were using together. In some way I think this sense of engagement with the materials led Carter to making a suggestion that was based on what would have worked better for him. I already know that my best teaching tips come from the single digit crowd, I just don’t always know how to tap into them.

So thank you Malke, thank you Carter, and OMG I am so happy.



Taking Time to Make Valentines and Enjoy Winter

One of the classroom teachers that I worked with today let me look through a stack of Valentines that her students had made. I found these to be so delightful that I took some photos to post here.

Winter outside my window - Paula Beardell Krieg

But first let me say that it’s a good thing that I love what I do, because looking out the window and seeing these trees covered with snow again does not inspire me to get up and go.  The words in the title of this post (“…and Enjoy Winter” ) do not currently apply to me. It’s getting harder every day to enjoy winter. But I enjoy drawings of winter, which is something that is also featured in this post. But first the Valentines.

Danielle, the classroom teacher, told her First Graders the she only required that the students use a doily and that they were to keep their designs symmetrical (I wonder if she used the word symmetrical with her first graders.  I’ll be she did.)

She put out a selection of materials and then stood back and watched.

Students came up with a wide variety of designs. Each one of different and lovely.

In the nest classroom over Karen’s class had wonderful winter drawings mounted on the walls in the hallways.

When my children were little the art of children as a whole didn’t interest me because it seemed to be ordinary and everywhere. But as my children got older I began to miss seeing the wonderfully expressive work that children do, and realized children’s art is a world that is hidden away from anyone who is not a teacher or parent of young children.

Now, whenever I somewhere that children’s work is on display, I stop and drink it in.

Notice how different the snowmen are: it’s pretty clear that the children were instructed to give the snowman a black hat, a charcoals smile, and stick arms. Even so, each snowman has his own look. And each child expresses a different sort of interaction with their snowman.

These drawings almost make me like winter again. Almost.
Now time to get to making my own valentines….while my husband shovels snow.