Communication and thinking through drawing

What if you looked at the drawing from a completely different angle?

“In the drawing, is it only important to have the result, the beautiful picture as a product, or can drawing as a process be seen as an activity that supports development, improves thinking and communication skills?”

This was the question that Maria Papandreou, an associate professor of primary education in Greece, asked.

Papandreou introduces the idea, published by Gardner in 1973, that drawing should be seen as a sign system and studied in this way. Various authors point out that drawing is one of the languages ​​that children use with others and with themselves to show how they perceive the world. Children make lines and shapes and notice that they become recognizable objects. They receive a signal that they are able to create images of their thoughts that others can understand, which leads to communication through drawings.

Therefore, drawing as a means of communication and thinking should be studied already in kindergarten. New methods should be introduced in teacher training to make future teachers understand the true nature of drawing in order to use it more boldly and consciously.

To illustrate the theoretical part, the article also introduces drawing episodes based on Maria Papandreou’s previous observations in educational institutions. I will bring them out cos they highlight so well the importance of drawing in learning:

Case 1
Fairy tales were read to children aged 4–6. The children had to help one character by drawing in pairs. Here came the collaboration, how the children decided together what and how to draw. They constructed symbols and their respective meanings and used drawing as a problem-solving strategy. It is pointed out that drawing also helps children to observe their surroundings. It does not simply make their thinking visible but gives them the opportunity to play with ideas and develop them.

Case 2
Here, the author highlights an experiment researched and published in 2009 in which children had to solve mathematical problems using drawing. The tasks were read aloud as fairy tales, repeating the problem separately with a second reading. Later, when talking to the children about their work, a very clear connection between thinking and drawing came out. The children used different strategies — from pictograms to more conventional arithmetic symbols. One girl took part in the experiment with the thought that she could not draw animals. However, she decided to show the animals in symbols (not drawing 5 hedgehogs but 5 thorns, not 2 squirrels but 2 tails, etc.) and did the task. The girl said very proudly about herself: “HOW CLEVER!”

Case 3
Spontaneous drawing of children in the home environment was studied. The experiment showed that the child not only draws in pictures and symbols but also creates movement. For example, when a child draws a cough, he also draws air movement lines there. Children make dynamic representations and use drawing as a tool to generate, process, and communicate complex ideas.

My son Samuel drawing at home

So, in my opinion, it tells us clearly that using drawing as a tool for cooperation, self-confidence, and meaning-making is vital! What are your thoughts, dear reader?

Papandreou, M. (2014). Communicating and thinking through drawing activity in early childhood. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 28(1), 85–100.