~ by Amanda Smith
As a substitute teacher I often walk into an emergency, with lesson plans drawn up quickly by someone whose mind was in a much more urgent place. On one such a day, the art teacher left me, in her words, “sketchy plans” – most of which involved students finishing current projects followed by open studio. Now, I’m all for open studio and free draw, but first grade had no projects to finish first. That meant 45 minutes of free draw: The definition of chaos.
Thankfully, I had a planning period. And an ally in the school librarian. After thinking for a second or two, she pulled Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion off her shelf.
“You know,” she said, “kids love dogs. And they always enjoy Harry’s adventures.”
Together we studied Margaret Bloy Graham’s illustrations, and a lesson plan was born.
Fast forward to the first-grade class. I read the book. The kids were delighted. Then I held up Harry the Dirty Dog. “We are going to draw Harry,” I said.
Shock and mayhem.
“We can’t draw like that!”
I turned a deaf ear to the protests as I handed out a sheet of paper with a rectangle already drawn on it. I explained that we would have to work together to draw Harry, as it is a step by step process. Then the students and I drew Harry using the parameters of a rectangle.
As their dog drawings took shape, their joy was contagious. And here’s the thing: even though they all followed my instructions, not one of the dogs looked the same. We had skinny, long nosed dachshunds, and pudgy, round nosed puppies. We had droopy eared dogs and shaggy tailed dogs. Boy Harrys with spiky collars and girl Harrys with pink bows. Every student loved their own Harry, and was amazed that they could indeed draw like that.
Here’s what I learned by drawing Harry, and how it pertains to writing:
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