Banish the Phrase “I don’t know what to draw” with this Simple Trick

Regardless of how great your lesson is or how much choice you give your students, at some point in the school year you will hear the dreaded,
 

“I don’t know what to draw!”

 
Be prepared to help your students overcome this roadblock with a simple roll of the dice.
 
roll a cartoon image
 
You may have seen roll the dice activities like this or this, but my method is a little different. Instead of dictating exactly what shapes or lines students have to draw, this version gets kids thinking creatively about an entire scene.
 

Here’s what to do.

 

Step 1: Determine the number of requirements you want the drawings to have and create a reference sheet for students that lists them all.

For a cartooning lesson, your requirements might be that students have to include: a location, a time of day, an action, a partner in crime, a job, and something miscellaneous. You can find two sample lessons in this article.
 

Step 2: Come up with 6 suggestions for each requirement.

For the example above, under “Location” you could write:

1. In a BIG City
2. In the country
3. Underwater
4. On top of a mountain
5. At the zoo
6. On an airplane
 

Step 3: Have each student roll a die a total of 6 times, writing down which number they rolled each time.

A student’s notes would look something like this: Roll 1: 6, Roll 2: 3, Roll 3: 1, etc…
 

Step 4: Have students check the reference sheet, matching the numbers they rolled with the suggestions.

In the example above, the student that rolled a number 6 for the first roll would be drawing a cartoon that takes place on an airplane.
 

Here is the full Roll-the-Die Cartooning Lesson that I keep in my sub folder. Feel free to download and use it in your classroom! It would make a fun beginning-of-the-year project as well. 

 

Click for free download!
Click for free download!

 

This lesson is fun, easy to teach, and can be used with any age group. Using my pre-made reference sheet, the sub has students roll the dice and draw. Students might be drawing a teacher and a ninja running a marathon at night underwater through a flock of birds or they might be drawing a bank robber at the zoo in the morning taking photos with their grandmother while purple slime takes over. No matter what they roll, they have a blast trying to figure out how it will all work together.
 

The roll-the-die concept is simple and can be used over and over on many different projects.

 
My students have used it to be architects. The lesson requirements were type of structure, building material, location of structure and client.

They have used it to create shape collages with the requirements being type of animal, main shape, and action. Here is one of my student’s examples, a triangle dinosaur playing basketball.
 
roll the die creation
 
They have even used it to create surrealism drawings. You can check out and download that lesson below.
 

Click for free download!
Click for free download!

 
This is one of my favorite lesson tricks as it gets kids excited and drawing quickly but leaves them with a ton of room for creativity. Each project ends up being uniquely theirs.

While you have the dice out, consider doing a little cross-curricular learning with this project from This Reading Momma. Your students could roll the dice to write a sentence and then have to illustrate it. As you get ready to head back to school consider how this Teachers Pay Teachers link even uses dice for a fun “get to know you” activity.

No matter how you might use this technique, it is sure to get your kids thinking creatively during the year ahead.
 
 

How do you help your students add variety to their projects?

What are some ideas you have for using this technique in your room?

 
 
 

Jennifer Carlisle

Jen is a middle school art teacher from Norfolk, NE who loves exploring and teaching art through traditional and digital art mediums.

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  • K Hyman

    I love this idea. I have ping pong balls with suggested themes they can select for a started but this would making it more personal. I’ll be adopting this one for my room.

  • Beth Townsend

    Thanks, Jennifer, for this excellent and organized idea. I appreciate your sharing this with us!

  • Ingrid Crepas

    Thank you! I also would suggest dice containers like so:
    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-H5rQT_WG5iA/UuxteCjXlLI/AAAAAAAAHkY/3CNqEYjODTc/s1600/game3.png
    err.. I hope that works – basically, a magnetized spice container?