|7th grade 1-pt. perspective hallway "narrative"|
However, it is getting to be teeth-gritting difficult to teach my 6th graders how to use a vanishing point ... many of them come to my class having had little to no art instruction in elementary school. We lost the art unit at the largest one of our 3 feeder elementary schools several years ago, and I have sadly watched the quality of my 6th graders' artwork decline since. This is not the fault of the other two wonderful elementary art teachers we are blessed to have in our town - the 6th grade elective classes were also cut in half a few years ago. I now have 6th graders for only 30 minutes per day and I don't think I've quite adjusted to it.
I think another part of the problem might possibly be that the kids think they can draw anything they please because "It's just art, right? You can express yourself, right? There is no bad art, etc."
However, the technique of linear perspective is one of the things that is quite simply N O T subjective in art.
How do you break this system down into simple parts so that young students can understand it?
The following is how I have learned to do it (by trial and error) - if you have any suggestions, please let me know! I am always on the lookout for better ways to scaffold instruction and apparently my methods are not quite working this year .........
**For more resources on teaching perspective, click here: Linear Perspective, Part II, Teaming Up
To start with, I attempt to motivate the kids by showing some finished student drawings (so they can see what the eventual product might look like). Also, some years we look at comic book examples or famous drawings by M.C. Escher or British sidewalk chalk artist Julian Beever. Below is a 6th grade "Fantasy Room" drawing. The assignment is to draw a "Dream Room," where they can have anything they can possibly think of. Some kids will draw swimming pools, skate ramps, doorways into restaurants, etc.:
The 7th grade finished product is an interpretive drawing of the school hallway drawn from observation:
The 8th graders learn 2-point perspective, observing and drawing the exterior of the school (we get to go outside, y'all!). Both 7th and 8th graders are given the assignment of filling their "empty stage" with characters, colors, designs, etc. and then writing a creative short story by using this drawing as one "scene" from the story:
I start the lessons for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade at the same basic level - drawing cubes with a vanishing point and horizon. To the right is an example of what I draw on the board, step-by-step:
I explain everything in detail, holding up a cardboard box as a visual aid. Almost all of the 7th and 8th grade students seem to catch on quickly, even if they never had art before.
There are many of the 6th graders, however, who seem to be clueless. Here are some examples of their interpretations of my drawing on the board:
Even though I showed them slowly, repeating the demonstration multiple times, some students had no horizon line and many were not even using the vanishing point or drawing lines with the ruler. Why couldn't they draw the figures after watching me?
Here is exactly how I teach linear perspective on the first day or so of the unit ...
BASIC SKILL - vocabulary knowledge:
BASIC SKILL - vocabulary knowledge:
Do the kids know what the words, "horizontal" and "vertical" mean? I ask the whole class to:
- Step 1: hold your ruler (or arm) up and show me a horizontal line with your ruler
- Step 2: show me a vertical line with your ruler
Also, I will (with a sparkle in my eye and my tongue-in-cheek) have my students take the "Ruler Oath," where they repeat after me that, "I promise I will not use this ruler as a sword. I will not use it as a drumstick. I will not use it as a saw. I will not spin it on my pencil, I will not bend or break the ruler, I promise I will not whack any other student with the ruler, etc. I will use this ruler in the manner in which it is intended - to draw straight lines." This usually gets the kids laughing and makes the rest of the class a lot more fun.
BASIC SKILLS - using a ruler to draw a straight line and drawing very light lines that are easily erased
The students use a scratch sheet of paper to:
- Step 3: practice using the ruler to draw 10 vertical lines very, very lightly
- Step 4: practice using the ruler to draw 10 horizontal lines very, very lightly.
- Step 5: They then get a new sheet of paper and lightly draw a horizon line, from edge to edge. It should be somewhere in the middle for this practice drawing.
- Step 6: The students then make a vanishing point, "the magic dot" somewhere on the horizon, this represents where the viewer's gaze ends on the horizon, almost like a laser-beam shooting "out yer eyeball."
- Step 7: Then, they will draw 4 squares - one above and to the left of the vanishing point/horizon line, one below and to the left, one above and to the right, and one below the horizon and to the right.
- Step 8: I will instruct them to, "Let the edge of your ruler touch 2 places: the corner of a square and the vanishing point, then draw a light line that goes from the corner of the square to the vanishing point. The ruler doesn't just touch the side of the square - it touches the corner. The edge of the ruler doesn't cover up the vanishing point, it just barely touches it."
- Step 9: I explain that every line has a "twin:" "What is the twin for a horizontal line? Another horizontal line, of course! What is the twin for a vertical line? Another vertical line! These lines you drew to the vanishing point would not really go back that far; the horizon is between 2 and 3 miles away! So, you've got to "chop off" the lines somewhere, and to do that you draw twins. They look just like the letter "L," sometimes upside down, sometimes backwards. Be careful not to let your horizontal and vertical lines become diagonal!"
As a matter of course, one would assume that having seen the teacher draw (and describe) the figures slowly, repeatedly, on the board, the students would understand how to do such figures. Is their difficulty developmental? Is it immaturity? Is it motivation or lack thereof? Is it the students' need for attention, their need to have the teacher explain it to him or her individually at the table? Hmmmmm.......
How in the world can I make things simpler? What are your suggestions?
article by Mrs. Anna Nichols