Review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2018

Drawn to Discover

How-to-draw videos build motor skills and cross-curricular connections

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Arts
  • English Language Arts
  • Math
  • Social Studies

Skills
N/A
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
K–5
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Pros: Clear, thorough instructions make it easy to re-create meaningful drawings.

Cons: Lessons need more room for creativity, and closed-captioning.

Bottom Line: This novel drawing curriculum is a cool idea and well-structured, but it could better support students' own creative exploration.

Drawn to Discover offers extensive, sequenced courses that would ideally be followed by individual students at their own pace during a class period. Barring this more formal implementation, Drawn to Discover could work in bits and pieces as a whole-class activity, where teachers project a video and students follow along at their desks or tables. Alternatively, it could be set up as a station for students to visit during classroom down time. Note that teachers will need to provide the printed worksheets (downloaded from the Drawn to Discover site), pencils, and a variety of crayon colors; thankfully, each Drawn to Discover lesson is well-designed and highlights these required materials. Importantly, each lesson requires a specific worksheet, so for the station-based activity, teachers will either need to do on-demand printing or have some printables pre-created and ready to go. If teachers have students share one account, they'll also need a way to track students' progress outside of the website (since it'll only track by account).

Since some people find drawing and coloring to be quite calming, Drawn to Discover lessons could also be used to quiet and calm anxious or high-strung students. Some drawings, such as the famous quotes, can be great prompts for launching more in-depth learning. The math drawings can provide an alternative way to approach learning about fractions, numbers, and geometry. Students who need some help with their handwriting may benefit from the extra practice and explicit instructions in the cursive course. When students demonstrate decent mastery of their pencil and crayon skills, have them create their own drawings to accompany a story they write themselves or represent graphically any number of topics covered in class.

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Drawn to Discover is a website featuring a paid curriculum of instructional drawing and handwriting videos. Notably, these videos use drawing and handwriting as a platform for engaging in all kinds of different topics, from math to science to social studies. Video lessons allow students to follow along (using their own printed worksheets) as a children's book illustrator creates drawings and narrates what she's doing. Courses are grouped in blocks, which are further broken down into lessons. These are well-sequenced, progressing from simplistic to ever more complex drawings. Students start by learning how to hold a pencil, how to apply different pressure with crayons for varying intensity in color, and other basics. Then they follow the directions for making drawings that demonstrate cursive handwriting, and/or math, science, or social studies. For instance, students may learn to create a drawing of a famous quote with a drawing of the person or metaphor the quote represents and a cursive version of the quotation. While there are printable sheets for each lesson, teachers must provide the pencils and a full 64-color set of crayons. There's a seven-day free trial and then a subscription.

Drawn to Discover brings the coloring book -- and video-based learning -- craze to the classroom. But far from riding the trend, Drawn to Discover adapts for the web a long-running curriculum by children's book illustrator Wendy Anderson Halperin. Her pedagogical model relies on using drawing not just to fine-tune motor control and handwriting, but to get students developing cognition and learning about math, social studies, science, engineering, peace, and more. This particular video-based interpretation has students watching Wendy, re-creating her drawings and cursive letters. Along the way, students get lots of practice moving a pencil (or crayon) across the paper and may improve their handwriting because of it. However, the connection to bigger learning topics -- while a nice, cross-curricular touch -- is likely more about engagement than deep learning. Sure, students will gain familiarity with fractions as they create their math drawings, but without significant scaffolding and input from a teacher, it's unlikely kids will learn much about many of the more complicated topics. In this way, Drawn to Discover offers a nice supplemental jumping-off point for deeper learning, but on its own won't necessarily satisfy subject area learning outcomes. There's one other downside that's more fundamental. The entire curriculum involves students copying what the illustrator/narrator is doing on video. While this can be compelling, and does help with fine-motor control, it also leaves little room for creative expression. It'd be nice to see more of a balance between the copy-based approach and extensions or lessons that get students interpreting and creating. 

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Drawings are whimsical, appealing, and kid-friendly. But it may be hard for some students to stay engaged during the fairly dry videos.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Videos provide clear step-by-step instructions. There's a solid interdisciplinary foundation to lessons, and they usefully build motor skills. But projects could focus a bit more on original -- versus copied -- creations.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

It's easy to navigate, though the organization of the lessons is less clear. Teachers can track progress. There are some handy getting started videos. While videos feature easily understandable language, they need closed-captioning.


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