Drawing to Learn: A Classroom Case Study

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As early childhood educators of young children, we recognize that children draw what they know from cultural transmissions, moving through many developmental transitions with drawing. As children’s skills developed, a PreK/Kindergarten teacher in a university laboratory school classroom with 27 children was interested in studying ways children can use drawing to enhance their learning of critical concepts within the curriculum. This paper explores her teacher research, a case study using an action research approach guided by these questions: (1) How do young children use drawing during short and long-term projects? (2) What can teachers learn from close attention to children’s representation drawing? A Drawing to Learn protocol was developed to study children’s drawings of curriculum topics like the wind, affording opportunities to use drawing to express their understanding of motion and their theories of how something works. The teacher research was organized around the Cycle of Inquiry process typically used for curriculum planning in the classroom. The curriculum planning data (observation, interpretation, questions, reflections) informed teachers’ understanding of the meaning of children’s drawings and guided teachers as to how to proceed to inquire more deeply into meaning and discovery with children. The findings of this two-semester study indicate multiple purposes and strategies for using drawings in the learning process (predict, study functions of objects, revisit and reflect, and plan).