Using drawing to support bridging as part of Let’s Think

Written by Kate Davis

The return of all children to school after lockdown was never going to be easy. As practitioners, we worried that our children would have fallen behind academically. However, how could we begin to ‘fill their learning gaps’ when they might not even feel safe in school anymore?

The challenges we faced in September were not only that teaching had changed, from seating plans to the use of equipment, but also that our varying experiences of living through the pandemic had changed us too. With children having spent much less time talking face-to-face with peers, for some even talking to a partner post-lockdown was a challenge. In order to re-establish Let’s Think, I had to consider the more practical elements of tables and chairs as well as the children’s emotional responses to group work.

Despite this, Let’s Think has been pivotal in re-igniting communication skills and self-esteem. The children have begun supporting each other emotionally and academically again and talking has opened the door for more difficult conversations. For example, a discussion about the uniforms the soldiers wear in ‘The Conquerors’ led to a child revealing how strange he felt not wearing a mask in school. One child quickly reassured the others, explaining how we were ‘a bubble’ and that was ‘like a family’.

Following Let’s Think, I often use bridging to help the children to develop their ideas further. Bridging can make what they have thought about relevant by giving it a real application and it can activate and embed learning. Furthermore, effective and meaningful bridging can be approached through creative activities, such as drawing.

Last year, I carried out research for my MA dissertation in which the children in my Year 4 class drew and wrote in response to the Aaron Becker Trilogy Let’s Think in English lessons. I wanted to explore whether you could increase confidence, motivation, engagement and enjoyment by turning the focus towards the creative and compositional elements of the writing process and whether an approach that sought to foster creativity, such as integrating drawing, may encourage ‘reluctant’ and underperforming writers. I concluded that it may be valuable for children to use both drawing and writing as a circular, interconnected process which can happen in either direction, insofar as the act of drawing may support writing but it can also create and refine ideas:

Similar to Let’s Think, drawing is inclusive and using drawing in the writing process seemed to increase:

  • Creativity and subsequently engagement 
  • Enjoyment and motivation
  • Confidence about themselves as writers.



One possible reason for this may be that both Let’s Think and drawing encourage children to concentrate on the compositional aspects of writing. When we ask children to write, we require them to focus on ‘mechanics’, such as spelling and handwriting. If a child is pre-occupied with mechanics, especially if they find these elements difficult, a negative consequence may be that they perceive they are not a ‘good’ writer, as they do not value the capabilities they do possess, such as their ability to generate ideas. Therefore, using drawing as a tool feels particularly important at the moment, with some children returning to school with fragile self-esteem.


In the research, the drawings produced by the children seemed to fall into two categories: process drawing, whereby the steps taken to create the image are more important than the outcome, and product drawing, when the final picture is more significant than the practice of making it.

Children use both process and product drawing for different reasons. Product drawing encourages a focus on details and could enhance self-esteem. Process drawings help the generation and organisation of ideas and allow these to be re-told and adapted.  Process drawing tends to be used by children more creatively, spontaneously and confidently than product drawing. It also supports more elements of the writing process.



To promote process drawing, it may help to understand the first four key factors outlined in this diagram (in pink): the use of a rubber, time taken, details added and effort involved. By decreasing these, the child would hopefully value the outcome less and adapt images more readily, thus shifting to using drawing as a process.



The diagram below summaries the main influences on writers’ self-perceptions that I observed and that the children identified. Central to the process are the child’s feelings of motivation, engagement, confidence and enjoyment, which could all affect reluctant writing behaviour and drawing self-esteem, or the child’s self-perceptions. As a writer, the child’s positive feelings may be enhanced when given choice and drawing could improve creativity, thus improving engagement. Autonomy can impact positively on the four key feelings. Furthermore, through working together, these feelings are also developed by peer approval and support.

Now, more than ever, we need to look after our children’s mental health and encourage them to value the capabilities they possess. Let’s Think and drawing are both tools which both seek to enhance the feelings at the centre of this diagram. By using them in the classroom more often, we can hopefully provide our children with the positive learning experiences they need to support them as they negotiate our ‘new normal’.