Observational Drawing with Sixth Grade

Sixth graders drew succulent plants from observation. I emphasized drawing what they observed, not drawing from imagination or what they think the plant should look like. They should focus on shape.

Sixth graders made observational drawings of fresh cut succulents.

They used pencil and colored pencil on 6″x6″ squares of white paper.

After the students had a basic drawing, I asked them to look at the areas where the leaves overlapped. Each overlap creates the letter ‘Y’. I asked them to darken all the ‘Ys’, and then taper the pencil lines.

Darken the ‘Ys’ formed where the leaves overlap.

It was quiet in the art room as the sixth graders concentrated on their drawings. Most students enjoyed this activity, some loved it, and no one complained.

Earlier this fall we studied value and drawing and shading forms (thank you Pinterest!)  and I am happy to say that these exercises have increased student confidence: several students who have stated they ‘can’t draw’ are now turning out drawings with pride.

This is one of those times I wish I had more than 40 minutes a week to teach each class. I would love to start every class with a quick observational draw.

Regarding our plant cuttings:

We have many varieties of fleshy-leaved succulents here in Southern California. Succulents are similar to cactus, but do not have needles. Succulent cuttings are great for observational drawing: the cuttings do not need water and do not wilt. In fact, if your students do not pull off the leaves they will look great in a week, without any water or soil!

Succulents are super-easy to grow from cuttings. After class, I poked all the cuttings into the ground. They root in about three weeks.

All the succulents were fresh cut the day of class from our school garden and my  San Diego backyard.

Succulents in my San Diego backyard.



About Rina Vinetz

Hi there! I'm Rina. I teach K-6 art to 400 students at a public school near San Diego, California. I love teaching art and sharing with other art teachers. Thanks for visiting!

8 thoughts on “Observational Drawing with Sixth Grade

  1. I love doing this with kids – they never fail to impress me with the beautiful artwork they produce in their nature journals. Great lesson!

    • Rina

      I was most amazed by their concentration. I agree – nature journals are great!

  2. Great tip to use succulents for observational drawing. You’re lucky you have such an abundance of free (!) cuttings where you live! Your students did a great job with their drawings!

    • Rina

      Thanks Miss!

  3. RachelE

    What talented students you have!

    • Rina

      Hi Rach

      Indeed. I’m a lucky lady. What talented students YOU have as well. :)

  4. I love it! What a great way to get kids involved in succulents and cuttings.

    • Rina

      Hi Ryan
      I collect succulents. Most are from cuttings I collect while walking around my neighborhood. So easy to share. And great to draw – they stay nice and fresh for days without water.

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