I am not an artsy person. I am not creative in that way. I don’t enjoy crafts. I am really not happy on the days the paint comes out of the cabinet. BUT I LOVE DIRECTED DRAWING! Maybe it’s because it makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something that I am typically not good at. Or maybe it’s the light in my students eyes when they realize what they have drawn. Either way, if you haven’t tried it, you should!

What is Directed Drawing?

Directed drawing is a step-by-step process through which students draw something. The teacher guides or directs students through each step, showing them exactly where and how to make the next line or mark on their drawing. You can easily search the internet for “directed drawing” and loads of ideas and examples will come up. You can also search for specific items that will fit in with your current unit or theme. The possibilities are endless and ideas abound on the internet.

How Does Directed Drawing Benefit Students?

We know that the arts are a very important part of school years for students. Art introduces students to an avenue for self expression. It also allows students to use the creative side of their brain. For some students, it is through the arts that they discover their learning style and their strengths. It has also been shown that students that learn through the arts learn to be creative problem solvers. There are many more benefits to including arts in our schools. However, when it is crunch time and something has to be cut, it is often the art programs. All the more reason to include directed drawing in your classroom! It’s quick and easy and it doesn’t require any prep. Here are some of the specific benefits that students can gain from directed drawing:


Directed drawing is a great way to boost students’ confidence. Many students would approach a drawing assignment with anticipated disappointment or failure. However, when students complete directed drawing, they are consistently amazed at how their drawing turned out.

Listening and Following Directions

This activity provides some serious motivation for listening to and following directions. Students will quickly find out after the first directed drawing that if you don’t follow directions, the drawing will not look anything like it is supposed to. So it provides the motivation for following directions and listening. Then students are able to actually practice following directions and their listening comprehension skills through these drawing activities. I think it is safe to say that all students can use some extra practice in listening and following directions these days.

Unique artists

Although there is a prescribed method for a directed drawing and the finished product is a drawing of the same person or animal for everyone, you will be amazed at how different they actually turn out. Especially when students add color and make it their own, each drawing takes on a special, quirky personality that is so fun to see.


I am a firm believer in the fact that kids still need to have fun in school. I know our standards are more and more demanding and rigorous each year, but we must keep some of the things students love to help them continue to love school. In others words, when it comes to academics, I believe that more is not always more. Art can be a great way to take a brain break. This can serve as a reset for brains so they are ready to take in more academic information. Teachers who say, “I just don’t have time to take these breaks for art or exercise”, are truly missing out on maximizing what their students can retain.

How to Use Directed Drawing with Your Students

Writing Prompt

I always feel like students do better with creative writing when the picture comes first, rather than writing the story then illustrating it. Of course, this will vary from student to student. But I find it very fun to find an interesting or unusual directed drawing idea online and complete it with students first, and then give them a writing prompt based on the picture they’ve drawn. It provides students with a great deal of inspiration.

Following Directions

Directed drawing can also simply be an activity to practice following directions. Maybe if your students are struggling with listening and following directions, pull out a directed drawing to do for practice in this area or to illustrate the importance of listening to and following directions.

Connect it to your theme or unit of study

Use directed drawing to bring your most recent unit of study to life. We draw a bat at the end of our bat unit. We draw MLK Jr. at the end of our MLK Jr. unit. These ideas are not limited to younger students either. There are directed drawings for a wide variety of skill levels and topics.

Lay the foundation for little (or not so little) artists

One of the most important aspects of directed drawing is that you are laying a foundation for artists to emerge as they gain confidence and learn new techniques. Students will learn those techniques from drawings they have done with you and implement them when doing their own drawings. Who knows? The next Van Gogh or Monet could be sitting in your class just waiting for a little direction!