If you want to know how to improve your child’s creative writing skills, try letting them draw a while. There is an often-overlooked connection between drawing and writing.
We all accept the importance of writing in education, but unfortunately, many of us tend to view drawing as fun or frivolous; and thus we don’t encourage our children to pursue it or leverage its benefits. However, when they abandon drawing children leave behind a critical tool that has the power to help them organize and process their thoughts, prepare for writing, communicate with others, and remember information.
Just like writing is a form of communication, so too is drawing.
“Drawing is a writing skill,” insists Shoo Rayner, who describes writing as “the transmission of visualized thought.”
We begin the task of writing creatively with the goal to conjure up a picture in the minds of our readers. Already, many of us tend to think in pictures, so why do we automatically and almost exclusively turn to written words to organize and express our thoughts? Why not start with an image?
Research on the Relationship Between Drawing and Writing
In fact, research strongly supports the claim that drawing is a writing skill and can be used to enhance writing. In one study, for a six-week period students in an elementary school class were instructed to draw out their stories before writing them. At the end of the six weeks, the study found improvement in all students’ writing, regardless of their initial level. Children included between two and four additional ideas in each creative writing project after starting the writing process by drawing.
“All children’s work progressed to include more paragraphs, ideas and structure in their writing. Their sentences became longer and more ideas flowed,” according to the research.
In another study on the relationship between drawing and writing, researchers compared the writings of a group of third graders who drew before engaging in writing to a group who did not. The students who drew first not only wrote more words and sentences but also captured more ideas in their writing. Overall they scored higher than the group of students who went straight to the task of writing. This study also noted that the results were true for both boys and girls.
Literacy expert Misty Adoniou has also conducted research on what happens when children draw before writing. Her findings were consistent with the idea that drawing improves children’s writing skills. When it comes to the impact drawing has on writing, she says, “Children who draw before they tackle writing produce better writing – it’s longer, more syntactically sophisticated and has a greater variety of vocabulary.”
“Drawing is not the evolutionary inferior to writing, – writing and drawing are two distinct communication systems, and each deserves their place in the communicative repertoire of our children” she wrote on The Conversation.
How Drawing Can Improve Your Child’s Creative Writing
Adoniou suggests that drawing helps us focus on a topic and organize our thoughts before really having to commit to our ideas in full. It is easier to add to, erase, and redraw part of a sketch than to rewrite an entire paragraph.
Visualization is critical in creative writing, so starting with an image seems the natural thing to do. However, even in other types of writing, drawing, sketching, or visual notetaking can help to organize thoughts and better prepare for the task of putting those thoughts into words.
How to Improve Kids Writing Through Drawing
“The message to teachers is a simple one – instead of telling children they can draw a picture if they finish their writing, have them draw before writing,” Adoniou says.
Similarly, for parents, whether homeschooling or simply helping their child with a homework assignment, you can keep in mind the benefits of drawing before writing.
If your child is brainstorming for a writing assignment for school, encourage him or her to draw out his ideas first. You can then ask him or her a few questions about the drawing, giving him or her the opportunity to express those ideas verbally. Both of these will help solidify the ideas and prepare for the task of writing.
Drawing has also been used as a tool to aid in reading comprehension. Read and Draw activities where children draw out what they have read have gained some popularity, especially at the elementary level.
How to Encourage Your Child to Draw and Prepare Them for the Task of Writing
When your child is young, you can prepare them for writing by engaging in drawing, talking, and writing activities at home. Keep drawing supplies accessible, and encourage your child to draw. Talk with them about their drawings on a regular basis, and see if they can tell you a story about what they drew. Have a conversation about their drawings.
You can also see if your young child would like you to label some of the objects in their drawings sometimes so they can see the words with the pictures.
Try to keep your child engaged in drawing over the years, rather than letting them abandon this useful tool as they begin to learn to read and write. While very young children often feel proud of their drawings, they will lose confidence over the years if their drawing skills do not improve. You can avoid this by continuing to encourage your child to doodle and sketch, purchasing an instructional drawing book for children, or showing your child some YouTube videos on how to draw. You can also find plenty of step-by-step drawing tutorials for kids on Pinterest.
Also, follow my blog and connect with me on Pinterest for more resources on learning to draw and on the importance of drawing and creativity in our children’s education.