A Window Into Your Child's Mind


Children’s drawings are under-utilised when it comes to lesson planning. A good lesson plan is one that connects with children’s interests and needs — and a drawing can be used to understand a child better. After all, a drawing is a window into a child’s mind and provides insights to a child’s prior knowledge and experiences, his conceptions and misconceptions of people, things and events.

This framework is designed to guide teachers to interpret children’s drawings from a developmental perspective by looking into thinking processes and knowledge types. The aim is to detect patterns of thinking, not for diagnostic purposes in terms of placement or identifying special needs.
Table 1. Children’s Drawings Evaluation Framework: Bloom’s six cognitive processes
Four types of Knowledge
Six Cognitive Processes and Descriptive Indicators
Level 1: Remember
·  Identify and label things
Level 2: Understand
·  Interpret by giving examples
·  Classify by organising and categorising
·   Infer by concluding/ predicting, comparing and explaining causal-effect
Level 3: Apply
·   Execute by drawing a procedure to determine what/ where/ how/ when/ why
Level 4: Analyse
·   Differentiating
·   Attributing
·   Organising people/ events
Level 5: Evaluate
·   Checking based on criteria or standards
·   Critique by judging and detecting inconsistencies
Level 6: Create
·   Generate by coming up with different ideas
·   Plan by designing a procedure to carry out an activity in the drawing
·   Produce by constructing or inventing in drawing a new model or product

When applying the framework to interpret children’s drawings, it is important to take into account the child’s verbal descriptions to understand the reasoning behind the drawing before applying the descriptive indicators.


Example 1: “Wild animals” drawing by a six-year-old boy


Child’s verbal descriptions:

1. “The hippo swimming around; people sit on the hippo.”
2. “The lion wants to chase the tiger.”
3. “The lion wants to chase this lion becos this lion loves this lion becos is cute.”
4. “Bat wants to eat leaf scare to cross to the tree becos later eagle eat up the bat; so he fly fly.”
5. “Eagle got plaster; the bee sting; got bee hive.”
6. “Squirrel crawl up the tree; they eat nuts.”

In this section, the framework is applied to interpret a spontaneous drawing done in class by a six-year-old boy on the topic of wild animals. The child demonstrated that he could:


  • Remember – by identifying and labelling nine animals

  • Understand – by classifying land animals, with the tiger, lion and hippo placed on a baseline. He also gave examples to clarify and represent how animals function or associate with something else (such as the tree and nuts) e.g. “Orang-utan climb tree; squirrel climb tree to eat nuts.” Flying animals were categorised on the upper plane at almost same level with the rainbow and sun.

  • Analyse – by organising animals in in groups relevant to the thematic idea of “wild animals”, which shows that he understands predator-prey relationships. He also differentiated a bat from an eagle; a tiger from a lion; an orang-utan from a squirrel to tell a pictorial story of wild animals, and also made inferences by comparing, explaining, predicting, concluding the causal-effect of the lion, bat and eagle behaviours.

  • Evaluate – by choosing carefully what animals represent “wild” (as compared to “farm”). The child’s creative invention of a new hybrid of snakes was proudly identified as “tiger-snake; rhino-snake-tiger” a synthesis of two to three unique features distinctive of the snake (a fork-tongue); tiger (orange stripes) and rhino (two grey horns).
As you can see, this framework provides a rich resource of information to inform curriculum planning that builds on children’s interests. This lets teachers identify many fresh and exciting new topics, for example:


  • “Plaster on the eagle’s body” – relate this to veterinary practices/injured animals.

  • The child’s new hybrid creations can lead to a session of making models of other hybrid animals.

  • A possible class discussion on how animals love or care for each other (inspired by the child’s idea of cute lions that love and chase each other).

Dr Rebecca Chan is an adjunct lecturer with the SEED Institute in Early Childhood Education and in Art Education with the National Institute of Education / Nanyang Technological University (NIE/NTU), Visual and Performing Arts department. She is a consultant and practitioner of a childcare centre who works closely with teachers, children and parents. She also presents conferences, talks and workshops in Singapore and the United Kingdom.
Dr Chan is currently working with a publisher to print a step-by-step manual on using the framework to interpret children’s drawings to extend thinking and learning for curriculum planning.

Anderson, L.W., & Krathwohl, D.R., Airasian, P.W., Cruikshank, K.A., Mayer, R.E., Pintrich, P. R., Raths, J., Wittrock, M.C., (2001) (eds) A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives Complete Edition. Addison Wesley. Longman.
Newton, D.P. (2012) Teaching for understanding: what it is and how to do it (2nd Ed.) Routledge, New York, NY 10017
Chan, R.K.C (2013) Can Information in Children’s Drawings Inform Tecahers’ Practices? A Study of Singaporean Pre-school Teachers’ “Reading” of 5-6 year olds’ Drawings. Doctor of Education, Thesis. Durham University, School of Education.
Chan, R.K.C (2014) forthcoming book on “How to interpret young children’s drawings from a development perspective.