The Power of Pictures
One of my favorite ways to kick off any writing workshop is not by actually …writing. Let me qualify that: I love to start off by first teaching students how to create high-quality illustrations, which in turn helps them fall in love with the idea of creating their own pieces of writing! Generating detailed illustrations and complex settings immediately lifts the quality of work produced in a writing workshop.
When we get young illustrators and ask them to illustrate a picture, they almost always grab a blue crayon, scribble a few lines up top, add a yellow circle in the corner, and a few more scribbles of green at the bottom before declaring “I’m done! Now what?”
Enter The Magic Line!
The Magic Line
You may be asking yourself “what in the world is a magic line?” Well, friend, it is a total illustration game changer. The Magic Line is how I teach students to create interesting and detailed settings for their illustrations. The Magic Line is the literal line you draw that divides the floor or ground from the rest of the background. For example, if you are drawing a picture of a playground, the Magic Line would have the sky above it and grass below it. Check out this YouTube video to watch me explain it and demonstrate it!
I teach students to use a pencil and make a line across the paper, then add in details to make the scene come to life. Now you may be saying “But…I can’t draw…how can I teach my students to draw?!” Easy! You can use The Magic Line Museum!
The Magic Line Museum
The Magic Line Museum is a freebie (yes, FREE!) download I have created that includes a series of illustrations. Grab The Magic Line Museum here! These full color examples show young (and, okay, sometimes old-ish!) illustrators how to create detailed settings and characters to help elevate their writing. You can display The Magic Line Museum on a bulletin board, a magnetic white board, an anchor chart, a trifold project board, or even put it in page protectors in a binder for students to flip to when they need inspiration.
I use The Magic Line Museum to help guide our lessons on illustration. We start off by completing what I like to call “Magic Line Challenges” as a whole group. You can refer back to my YouTube video here for specifics about these challenges (go to about 3:08 minutes in), but basically, we think of a scene and work on creating it together. We do the outline step by step as a whole group, and then I release students back to their seats to add color and finishing touches to really make it their own. I am always amazed at how quickly students go from making potato Alpert-like people floating in white space to detailed people set in these amazing scenes! Speaking of Alpert, be sure to check out my book and the FREE response activity which goes hand in hand with The Magic Line Museum lessons!!
The Why Behind the Line
The purpose of using The Magic Line Museum and completing Magic Line Challenges is simple. It helps lift the level and quality of our books when we move to that next step in the process. When a child is taking this much time to create a picture they are PROUD of, they won’t be so quick to abandon the writing piece. They will be SO excited to add words to their illustrations and create their very own works of art. If you are looking for more ways to help elevate your students’ illustrations, check out my Writing Workshop Illustration Mastery unit.