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The Role of Drawing in Children’s Writing1


Silvia M. Gasparian Colello
Fac. Educação USP


1. When drawing becomes relevant

"May I draw, Miss?"

When carrying out research with a group of approximately150 children aged 7 to 12 at Escola de Aplicação of the University of São Paulo (Colello, 1977), I was surprised at the frequency of such seemingly strange request whenever the students were asked to do written work. I set four activities for each of the five groups studied, ranging from the first to the fifth grade of primary school2. The first task required the students to produce a free text to introduce themselves in the way they wished (self-portrayal text). The second challenged them to produce a passage derived from a character or hypothetical situation (fantasy text). The third stimulated the pupils to show what they knew about animals, a theme which is regarded as of collective interest (informative text). Finally, they were supposed to take notes in order to reproduce a text read out in class (retelling text)3.

During the initial stage of the above mentioned study (the collecting of the 623 texts), their eagerness to draw seemed something simply dispensable since the aim was to analyse their development in the production of different pieces of writing. However, the fact that half the pieces produced contained drawings, doodles and illustrations, whose frequency and characteristics varied according to age and type of task, rose a new interest in the field of investigation.

Why do children insist on drawing when requested to write? What needs justify the association of images with writing? What is the role of drawing in the production of texts and how does it develop throughout the learning process? What internal and external influences affect the different kinds of illustrations?

We had to get rid of established beliefs like "children draw because they like it" or "drawings are only aesthetic resources in the production of written tasks", or, still, "once the autonomy of the different types of reproduction is sorted out and understood, drawings and written texts are two completely independent resources for children" in order to make it possible to deepen the understanding of the relationship among images, doodles and written production that permeate the production of children's work.

Rather than studying in full all aspects of the theme, this article aims at promoting exploratory analyses of the developing tendencies in the relationship of drawing and writing, springing from three basic types: “drawings on their own”, “drawings connected with writing” and “parallel drawings”.

2. Drawings on their own

The few examples of “drawings on their own”4 are visual compositions which deliberately disobey the request for written work, usually under the shape of apparently intriguing productions: if drawings are a possible alternative for the illiterate to register a fact, how can we explain the occurrence of such productions after the mastery of the written system? Under what circumstances do children who are able to read and write choose drawing as the only way to express their ideas?

Considering the bulk of the work produced, the fifteen pieces of “drawings on their own” were present only in the “retelling texts”, a significant factor to explain their reason and meaning.

Compared to spontaneous texts, freer to deal with the theme (like in the three other requests), the activity of registering defines itself as a closed proposal to reproduce someone else's idea, being limited by the reading time or the memory of the text read out. Its production requires a complex competence to deal with several abilities and skills such as first listening to and understanding a text; secondly, coping with the impact of the pre-conceived ideas which have been assimilated to a bigger or smaller extent (curiosities, fantasies, doubts and personal interests)5; thirdly, selecting ideas relevant to the text (starting from an implicit criteria)6 and, finally, registering the information heard in the most faithful and quickest way possible. Since children are not consciously aware of these demands but feel them with different degrees of competence, it was not by chance that this type of task was considered the most demanding of the four types of writing requested. So, it seems reasonable to associate the exclusivity of the drawing to the degrees of difficulty of the task. But from the child's point of view what does resorting to drawing mean when it is difficult to write?

The classical Russian hypothesis proposes that, when facing a more complex task, the search for simpler kinds of recording means a going back in the development already achieved.

Considered a predecessor of writing, Vygotsky (1988) regards drawing as a recording means which, due to its abstract and conventional aspects, gives birth to the recording of speech in a long evolutionary process. When the basic phase of mixing image and object is overcome, drawing becomes the real written language with the appearance of the ideographicrepresentation. Later, when the image becomes mingled with speech, drawings become able to abstract meaning in symbolic corresponding units, originating the representation of the sound, typical of so many written systems.

When considering drawing a preliminary stage in the mastering of written language, the author does not explain, however, its later development or the meaning of non-iconic traces equally connected with speech and present during the phase that precedes learning to read and write.

In studies about the pre-historic phase of writing, Luria (1988) registered occurrences in which children's doodles worked as reflexes of speech lengthening themselves with it or trying to reproduce its rhythm. Far from being understood as a developing principle inherent to writing, such manifestations are considered by the author to be connected with the different types of iconic representation, that is, types of notation depending on the drawing. For him, the genesis of writing, in the shape of doodles, develops necessarily with the appearance of pictographic writing and from that to symbolic writing, when the child becomes able to establish arbitrary codes or create different doodles of what he/ she wants to portray (somehow related to the idea) as a means to remember the information afterwards.

Opposed to this posture, Tolchinsky (1995) and Ferreiro (2001) point out that, both from the historical and ontogenetic point of view, the difference between writing and drawing (process, classification and use) is very precocious. This means that, whenever using drawings to write, children are not mixing both types of record or going back in the evolutionary sequence of phases, but simply making use of a diversity of formal resources to represent something. To a bigger or smaller degree, such resources are known by children and in different ways satisfy their needs for representation.

In our culture, the individual lives, since a very young age, with an immense diversity of types of recording and with the multifunctional aspects of graphic resources. Many times, the information received overcomes the strictly alphabetic shapes and deciphering it is part of an ampler process of literacy connected with culture and its social practices. The understanding of such possibilities offered by the relationship among systems7 is, undoubtedly, a learning process that takes place when considering the differentiated components which are integrated in the different communication objectives. The notational skill in its complexity evolves in the context of this diversity, parallel to the building of knowledge and many times despite the school. Obsessed by the idea of learning to read and write quickly and the correctness of spelling and grammar, many educators act based on a hierarchy of values socially established, favouring the static learning of written language instead of the richness and amplitude of the possibilities expressed by the intelligent combination of resources and systems (including writing itself).

In the specific case of drawing, independent of the social value (or school value) connected with it, one has to defend the legitimacy of the use of illustrations (exclusively or not) as a means of representation and an alternative in the developing process. Firstly, because like any other resource, drawing favours the apprehension of the idea, working like an important mechanism in ordering, classifying and memorising. Secondly because, as a possible means of communication, it allows a separation between the message and its author, giving the final product an autonomy as valid as any other system of communication (although not necessarily suited to the criteria of objectivity, clarity and speed common to our society). Finally, because, even when accompanied by writing, drawing can be a mediator between the ego and the real world, able to establish itself as a “problem space” in the relationship among shapes and meanings, or in the search for the suitability of ends and means.

It is thus that, in the context of social practices and due to the multiple functions of language, the individual can experience the diversity of the noting means, the different ways of interpreting the same thing in defined boundaries of reference and symbolic expression.

When not understood as a going back process, the use of drawing as an alternative to communication or recording can become a legitimate and enrichingexperience in the understanding of the linguistic complexity and the means of representation, demanding, therefore, a revision in teaching practices. The ill-feeling implicit in the relationship between teachers and students - those that “even in the first grade insist on drawing” - opens space to less narrowing pedagogic practices, capable of recognising, in each case, students' potential.

The observation of productions of “drawings on their own” shows that, besides initiatives only inspired by the theme of the original text (with possible aesthetic, expressive and even artistic qualities, but without functional value since they do not contribute much to the recording of ideas), many of these pieces essentially iconic can be effectively considered as 'writing', according to the distinction made by Luria: “A child can draw well but not interact with her/his drawings as an auxiliary device. This distinguishes writing from drawing and establishes a limit to the full development of the capacity of reading and writing pictorially, in the strictest sense of the word.” (1988, page 176)

Such distinction redefines the status of productions in most of the cases of “drawing on its own”: far from being primary alternatives, poor from the communicative point of view or needing in abstraction, they are, in fact, “drawings to say”, in different degrees of efficiency and with communicative value. This qualitative variation only indicates the psychogeneticdevelopment in the considerable distance between knowing to write (or “write with images”) and adapting the use of writing to different contexts and tasks. Here are some examples:

Example 1: done as “retelling text” by an eight-year-old boy, from the second grade. He is already apt to read and write.

Example 2: done as “retelling text” by an eight-year-old girl from the second grade. She is apt to read and write. The pictures were numbered afterwards to make the analysis easier. The written names are not her production.

Example 3: done as “retelling text” by a seven-year-old girl from the first grade. She cannot write.

In the first example the writer used his drawing skills as a strategy to record the original text even though in an incomplete way. When handing his work in he made it a point to call attention to the fact that “his astronaut was getting out of the rocket with his left foot”, emphasising two aspects: the information given in the original text and the functional aspect of his work. In fact, the drawing includes elements from the original text without taking into account the contradiction of showing simultaneously the first step and the plaque signed by the astronauts already placed on the lunar surface. This suggests that the functional aim of the recording overcomes the expressive or artistic dimension, which characterises the production as pictorial writing.

The second example resembles the first in many aspects. Compared to the first, the main difference is the multiplication of the number of pictures, the sophistication of the quality and the sequencing that follows the events of the original text. The surprising record of ideas and fragments of the original text guarantee the functional value of pictographic writing, that is, the possibility of recovering most of what was originally read out, obeying the following correspondence:

Picture 1: "First step on the moon" (which corresponds to the representation of the idea)

Picture 2: "The second astronaut to step on the moon which explains the drawing of the two  feet " (representation of the idea)

Picture 3: "Neil Armstrong and Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin, the second to step on the moon stuck  an American metallic flag there" (textual correspondence)

Picture 4: "When stepping on the lunar surface, Edwin Aldrin felt like peeing. And so he did ... inside the spacesuit " (textual correspondence)

Picture 5: "They collected (....) samples of stones and dust"(textual correspondence)

Picture 6: "The food was hydratedwith a hot water pistol" (textual correspondence)

Picture 7: 'The spaceship landed back ... in the Pacific ocean" (textual correspondence)

Picture 8: "Neil Armstrong was interviewed by the Brazilian presenter, Hebe Camargo"

(textual correspondence)

The third example is a controversial production that shows something between a reasonable competence to do a linguistic textual representation and the functional accomplishment of the aims proposed. In order to understand and analyse the resources used, one depends on the oral explanation given by the child: "After getting into the spaceship (pictorial representation) the astronaut went over the clouds (represented by the arrow and lines) and straight to the moon (represented by the arrow pointing towards the moon). These marks here (lines below the drawing) are the people that watched (represented by the arrows). They are shaped like hearts because, when the astronaut went to the moon, he left those he loved down here." 

Even though it is not a very precise representation of the original text (and therefore a very poor reconstitution of the details), the example studied shows to be doubly unique when compared to the other two examples. From the textual point of view, its achievement in the psychogenetic scale of representation of ideas lies on the fact that it presents information in a subjective way (the existence of a relationship of love and observation between the astronaut and other people).

From a linguistic point of view the piece integrates ideographic and symbolic writing since the child conciliates the possibility of portraying objects through figurative images (the astronaut in the spaceship) by making use of symbolic resources (arrows and arbitrary lines when representing the spectators). Curiously enough, the use of symbolic traces as a resource to represent (considered by the Russian psychologists as the most developed phase and the closest to the discovery of writing) was done by a pupil who, unlike the others, could neither read nor write.

To sum up, the qualitative variation in the set of “drawings on their own” shows the phases in the psychogenetic evolution in which the child gradually learns to use drawings (also) as a resource of language in the shape of gradually more abstract and efficient productions. Although the use of pictures as a means of communication is a frequent practice in our society (becoming an accepted model in children's productions), it does not survive the school pressure to give priority to writing, which explains why children rarely make use of this resource. With the overwhelming importance of the written system, the text becomes the indisputable centre of the school universe. From a prejudiced point of view, “the drawing that talks” is only a transitional stage in the expected learning evolution, used more due to the obstinate productions of the students than for the pedagogical initiative to stimulate the enrichment of children's repertoire.

3. Drawings connected with writing

If, in the “drawings on their own”, the picture stands for speaking, how can one reconstitute the function of the image when writing comes into scene? How do both systems of representation co-exist in children's productions?

In the “drawings connected with writing”, the picture has the role of giving support to the text both during its production process and during the composition of the final product answering different demands during the evolutionary process. On one hand, there are the children's necessities (or alternatives) dictated by different degrees of competence; on the other hand, the inevitable impact of values and practices established inside and outside school.

3.1 Drawings connected with the process of producing writing

As far as the process of writing is concerned, drawing is, at first, the means to “awake” the theme, to deal with time and the challenges of production by constantly moving from words to pictures and vice versa. This is how Calkins presents this relationship:

Chris, aged 5, opened his book at a blank page and picked his pencil up. I asked him, 'What are you going to write about?' The boy stared at me as if he was surprised at the stupidity of my question. 'How should I know ? I haven't started yet!’

For a few seconds, Chris looked around and then started drawing. He drew the standard picture of a person. His father had taught him to draw people, so he followed the instructions carefully. In the middle of the drawing, Chris announced: 'He's going to be my brother. He's fighting,' and added a huge fist to the person, as if to stand for the fight. Then, he drew a second person, again with an enormous hand. 'We're fighting,' he added and started writing. Like many children, Chris rehearses for writing through drawing. This does not mean, however, that his drawings suit the proposals that we, adults, normally connect with the rehearsal. As he writes, Chris does not oppose one topic to the other, does not predict the audience's answer to his story. He does not even plan which direction the writing will take. Just as he does when playing in the school yard, he does not start with speculations about what he is going to do, but starts by placing one block on top of another until he announces, 'I'm building a tower.' Likewise, in the writing area, he does not start thinking about the finished product, but by drawing a conventional person; and, in the middle of the drawing, he announces: 'This is going to be my brother.'

Drawing plays an important role. The act of drawing and the illustration itself provide a supporting scheme inside which writing can be built (...).When he does not have the visual memory of a word, he pronounces it slowly: 'fight-ing.' He isolates the sound /f/, then asks: 'How do you write /f/?' If nobody answers, he checks the alphabet, considers a letter and writes it down on paper. Meanwhile, he forgets what he had planned to write. What a relief must it be for him to go back to drawing and colour his brother's fist! While he carefully colours the fighter's fist,Chris remembers what he had planned to write and, thus, goes back to writing. He does this movement, from drawing to writing and then again to drawing, between the relief and the stability of one world and the challenge of the other. (1989, pages 66-67)

The account above, compatible with the writing practices of Escola de Aplicação, expresses the relationship between drawing and writing, typical of the two first grades. It works, alternatively, to motivate work, define its courses and justify the pauses in the process of writing. It makes part of writing not only as an expressive resource, but also as a way of performing a task, which is the reason why Calkins, thinking about the didactic implications, tells educators to set tasks integrating drawing and texts.

The observations done show that, because of drawing, many aspects of content are selected, many written parts are considered enough (or not), suitable or inadequate. It is only after drawing a vampire, a dog or a pretty girl in a long dress that students think about what they are going to write. But this does not mean that the drawing is ready. Most children aged 6 to 8 start by drawing, resort to writing and eventually go back to drawing whenever a new element is added. Drawing is also a less stressing way of dealing with doubts or waiting until being helped by the teacher.

In the third and fourth grades children gradually resort less and less to drawing as a means to start and plan their written task although it does not disappear altogether. The picture is still connected with the text, but the game of moving from drawing to writing and vice-versa decreases during the elaboration of the task. Gradually drawing is pushed to the end of the text following an almost ritual procedure of bringing the task set to an end (see examples 5 and 9).

As from the fifth grade onwards, as the child gradually acquires autonomy in the procedures to follow, drawing and writing tend to become independent steps in the writing process, until drawing, seen as a purely extra resource (and quite often “childish”), can be finally dispensed with during the process of production.

3.2 Drawing connected with writing in the final stage of the composition

To use drawing as an integral mechanism - to a greater or lesser extent - during the process of producing writing means, at the same time, that one can predict the role of the picture in the text that is being produced. So, having in mind the final product, it is possible to identify different functions (not necessarily exclusive) attributed to the pictures that illustrate a written text. They can complement, establish the context or illustrate the text.

When they are used “to complement the text” (11% of the texts with drawings), pictures like “drawings on their own”, do carry meaning. They are produced by children from the first two grades who connect the use of writing to the communicative potential of the image, aiming at giving further information and amplifying the understanding of what has been written. The examples that follow illustrate such productions according to different degrees of competence and balance between the standards of representation:

Example 4: Produced as “retelling text” by a seven-year-old boy from the second grade. Like in example 2, the astronauts' names were copied from the board so they cannot be considered written production.8

Example 5: Produced by a ten-year-old boy from the fourth grade as a ‘fantasy text9'

Example 4 is an interesting combination of pictographic language (pictures of the scene on the moon, the president signing the plaque, the boot and the interview); symbolic language (magazine covers to give an idea of the impact of the fact in the media and the composition of the lunar menu) and written language (“Size 41”) which, altogether, manage to reproduce many ideas from the original text. Except for the explanation about the boot, the text works just like a “label”, which is outshone by the images which are self-explanatory but, in practical terms, poor to rebuild the text objectively.

Replacing words with images, the author of the fifth example gives them very precise meanings - a proof that drawing can also be a resource for objective expression. Besides, the text shows the possibility of establishing a creative interaction among different kinds of language in a composition in which the use of pictures does not mean difficulty but free expression. Would schools be open to accept this kind of 'linguistic adventure'? In the “context drawings”, the main function of the pictures in about 36% of the texts that contained iconic resources, the picture is a means to situate the character or the context so that understanding of what was written can be ensured. Quite often, the richness of the image and the symbols used go beyond the objective understanding of the word, opening multiple perspectives for interpretation sometimes subtle and which even contradict the text. This is the case of the sixth example, a wedding scene in which the bride and bridegroom, supposedly “over the moon”, suggests different feelings. In pictorial language the bride, unlike the groom, is apparently happy because she is pregnant (pictorial language). It is his child (symbolised by the arrow pointing at the bridegroom).

Example 6: Produced as a “fantasy text” by a nine-year-old girl from the fourth grade10

In the “drawings connected with writing” illustration appears with a frequency of 48% (58% if we consider the mixed nature of the drawings). It is, therefore, the predominant type in children's productions. Closely linked to the text, the picture is used to help visualise the content given either by presenting basic elements (characters or aspects connected with the text) or by the exemplification of what the text suggests. Unlike the “complementary” drawings or the “contextualised” ones, “illustrative drawings” do not interfere with the meaning of the writing to a great extent, as can be seen in the following examples:

Example 7: Produced as an “informative text” by an eight-year-old girl from the third grade.11

Example 8: Produced as ”informative text” by an eight-year-old boy from the fifth grade.12

When comparing both “illustrations”, the ecstatic drawings and the ones out of a context of example 7 can be opposed to the dynamism of example 8 whose situation pictures an anti-ecological practice that the child is trying to point out. What makes this contrast particularly meaningful is the intriguing way in which it appears in the corpus of the research. In all activities and series the static drawing prevails in a large scale. There are two hypotheses which attempt to explain why the great majority of the students insists on the ecstatic drawing, deprived of movement and out of context.

For Calkins the ecstatic drawing produced by children is a means to “freeze” a moment or an object, taking it from the dynamism of the world in order to examine it more objectively and fix it to the rhythm of writing. “The world involves a flow of ideas and activities which is extremely quick and writing is so slow, so limited that the selection becomes a problem even for skilful writers. How true must this be for beginner writers. In their drawings, children take a piece of the world and freeze it for a moment; then with the drawing in front of them start to work at the words that go with them”. (1989, page 67)

According to the writer, such productions are typical of a more elementary stage of drawing. Later, when drawings of profile start to occur, people become able to replace frontal ecstatic pictures, whose movements are only implied, by drawn figures which incorporate movement and relate to one another.

Although the sample of the texts collected by the research is neither enough nor adequate13 to analyse this evolution, I would question such points of view since, in the body of the works analysed, there are many profile drawings or drawings done by older children (or both) that keep ecstatic. So, even though not discharging completely the variants suggested by the author, they seem to be still insufficient to explain the phenomenon.

In this aspect, Duborgel gives an important contribution overcoming the endogenous dimension given by the individual's needs. When defending the idea that the development of the drawing reflects the pressure of the pedagogical forces in the direction of a pre-set model, the writer explains the production of the still drawing as the result of a progressive abandon of subjective imaginary procedures to adopt realistic productions and transitive means of expression so present in traditional school illustrations.

The student is invited to do drawings which are usually referential describing something experienced, in a clear denotative way (...). From the illustrative drawing of an event, double of a word, a fact or a situation, one moves on to a series of drawings organised in a sequence which, because there is no text, are, above all, 'texts in images'. The linear graphic narrative becomes the first imitation of the future texts to be read and written. The space of drawing is not a specific plastic space offered to the child to be tried out in this dimension; it is not either the place or the material for an imaginary spatial flight. It is presented according to the framework of the writing space in which it makes a quick stop and which it is bound to change into. The experience of the plastic image, once inaugurated by the child, has a tendency to accept this type of control. (1992, pages 140-141)

To the author, drawing is not used for the sake of fantasy but as a preparatory phase and to help children master another more valued kind of language: writing. The way it is usually used, drawing is just like words and only reinforces their meaning in other communicative channels. Such attitude is part of a very strict taming process of the imagination, in which the picture is only valid because of its objective and rational preciseness (sketches, explanatory or photographic illustrations) which outshines the aesthetic and artistic value. The difficulty to sort out the development of drawing from the effects suffered by school pressure makes one believe that children abandon the imaginative phase due to their psychological maturity, thus masking any pedagogical responsibility for the boycott on creativity. In practice, the situation of school is rather paradoxical. At the same time it proposes to develop human potential, it limits, conducts andguidesthe development based on pre-set principles which follow a colonisation model of the intelligence and of the means of expression.

Bearing in mind that, when children start school, they draw in a way very similar to the stereotypical model described by Duborgel, I believe that only the pedagogical action itself is not enough to explain the objective, static and rational tendency observed. It seems quite plausible that the illustrations in children's books, their first school books and the priority given to writing in the school environment can, in fact, have an influence on the way an individual understands the role of illustration. But that is not all. Rather than being pedagogical, this is a social pressure since kindergarten. Thus, unlike the course of art and the production of the great plastic artists of our time, children's drawings seem to have social value (and, therefore, reinforcement and guidance) for the preciseness with which they represent reality.

Objectivity is, since very early, cultivated and drawing could not ignore this tendency. This seems to be the common point between Calkins and Duborgel: independently of the reasons given for each of them (internal or external reasons) the majority of the children seem to see drawing as an extra element in the transparency and clarification of the idea. The predominance of the objective idea, static and free, seems to support the tendency (observed in the original study) of the descriptive writing whose authors, in accordance with the given reality, rarely reach the daring aspects of essay writing. Throughout the development, the image becomes, like writing - rather a way to say something than to transform it.

4. Parallel drawing

Besides being used as an alternative that “replaces” or “supports” writing, drawing in some cases (more specifically 35%) can occur independently from the text and the message carried out. They are “parallel drawings” with a main aesthetic or structural function in the final composition of the works although one cannot disregard its elaboration as an auxiliary resource in the process of writing (as described in item 3.1). Despite this, the questions remain: why do children choose this kind of image? What does it mean in the final stage of the task or what childish need does it correspond to? The following example is very meaningful as it contains the most typical features observed.

Example 9: Produced as an “informative text” by an eight-year-old girl from the second grade14.

When filling in the blank spaces with colours and hearts, the student shows three complementary worries from the aesthetic point of view: “adorn the work”, establish authorship and, finally, insert in the production a typical reference to the gender. Although the means to adorn, to personalise and to characterise typically masculine or feminine productions are also diluted in other practices (like having stickers, crayons, different kinds of letters, colourful paper, drawings that frame the text, etc.) or still connected with the uses of drawing illustrated before, it is, however, in the case of “parallel drawing” that such needs, shapes, procedures, and criteria of execution become especially evident. A careful look at children's productions - especially at the independent traces of the text - reveals ideas that are as important for the writer as the representation of the content, messages that could be interpreted as: “this has been produced by a sweet careful girl” or “this is the proud production of a "corintiano" (supporter of a popular local football team).

From the structural point of view, the example also illustrates how image is connected with the common practice among children, but not always taken into account by school. A typical example is the obvious ritual of finalising the text, which has been shown. Another aspect that is worth mentioning is the use of drawing as a typical mechanism to fill up space, that is, a “wise” strategy to make the work visually denser, which usually pleases the teacher (Colello, 1998).

5. Trends and Prevailing tendencies

So far the qualitative analysis of the relationship between drawing and written production has shown various functions of the picture, some more dependent than others on the text, connected with the product or the writing process. The quantitative study of the same productions becomes relevant through the indication of the trends and prevailing aspects in the context of school progress.

The most evident conclusion of the quantitative analysis confirms a predictable hypothesis that, in consonance with the priority clearly assumed in the pedagogical projects, children tend to draw less and write more. Drawing, which, in the first grade, is present in 84.1% of the written tasks, falls respectively to 57.4%, 48.9% and 30.3% in the following four grades.

The principle of the devaluation of the picture also justifies the predominance of the illustrative drawing in all grades, reaching 58% in the productions with pictures, mainly in static shapes, which only reinforce the message already present in the text. In other words, in a context where writing reigns, the space for drawing is reduced as an alternative and legitimate resource to transmit the idea.

Even from a decreasing perspective, the production of illustrations does not resist the appeals of writing, which is the reason why its frequency undergoes a variation depending on the type of text produced, revealing, thus, factors and children's needs which motivate the drawing. Whenever thinking about the needs to draw, one can justify the use of drawing as an alternative for the difficulty in writing. The high occurrence of drawing in “retelling text” and “self-portrait”, respectively 70% and 100% in the first grade only reach 6% and 0% in the fifth grade.

If the figures connected with the tougher texts fall sharply (as students start to master writing and become aware of school priorities), other factors connected with “fantasy text” and “informative text”' can explain a less sharp decrease in drawing throughout school development.

Obeying discreetly the tendency to draw less, the variation in the figures connected with drawing in the “fantasy text” goes from 100% in the first grade to 74.5% in the fifth. All in all 86% contain illustrations, a prevailing aspect that seems to accompany the motivation of the set task, also done by the illustration of a hypothetical character. Therefore one can conclude that children tend to draw in situations that appeal to their imagination making use of the illustrations to trigger the process of writing. Unfortunately, such works are not the most typical tasks required by the school.

This, however, does not mean that the child does not draw during the pedagogical practices regularly carried out at school. The “informative texts” - traditional school activity to show knowledge - were illustrated in 57% of the cases, showing a slight decreasing variation throughout the grades. The production of such drawings, however, seems to follow another need for expression: close to the illustrations presented by the school books, the pictures aim rather at an objective and static explanation of the content than at being an end in itself or a way of dealing with ideas.

6. Final Considerations

The exploratory study of the relationship between drawing and writing allows me first to feel sorry about the little interest shown by some educators to children's demands in the production of school work an to the values ad meanings pupils attribute to drawing. Unaware of the mechanisms that lead to learning and overcoming personal difficulties, indifferent to the social contribution in school learning, ignorant of the knowledge and children's practices not included in the content to be mastered and finally naive in relation to the inter-linked pedagogical and social values that subsidise the elaboration of the teaching project, schools still close themselves in teaching mediocre and narrowing proposals as opposed to children's real world and their infinite possibilities.

Secondly, it is important to question the course of pedagogical achievements and the ideas that dictate the teaching of writing.

In the set of texts studied, the predominance of illustrative, objective, ecstatic, single-meaningful drawings and the progressive decrease of illustrations suggest pedagogical practices which are fragmentary and prejudiced. Part of the process of taming the imagination so well described by Duborgel (1992) and Jean (1991), drawing seems to justify itself only as a preparatory phase for writing, assuming a role of a short-lived childish means rather than a legitimate transforming resource. The implications of this seem to be bigger when we ask ourselves: what do we teach when teaching writing? If school could conform itself with learning to write as an end in itself, that is, writing as an autonomous resource that could answer the needs of expression and communication, we would not miss much with the loss of drawings. But if what is at stake is the teaching of writing as a resource in the complex world of communication, on whose possibility of expression depends democracy and the conquest of individual freedom, the disregard of/for drawing (like oral performance, music, mimicry and body language in numberless types of expression) means an indisputable process of making language poorer. To introduce a child to the “universe of languages” means much more than reading and writing correctly. Paradoxically, and above all, when not in the context of an ample expressive repertoire, also writing can fail in that area concerned with our right as human beings, to represent concept and talk to the world where we live.

Bibliographical references

BETTELHEIM, B. & ZELAN, K. Psicanálise da Alfabetização – um estudo psicanalítico do ato de ler e aprender, Porto Alegre, Artes Médicas, 1992.

CALKINS, L. M. A Arte de Ensinar a Escrever – O desenvolvimento do Discurso Escrito, Porto Alegre, Artes Médicas, 1989.

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1 Study presented at II Seminário sobre Letramento e Alfabetização of the 13th COLE – Congresso de Leitura do Brasil, in Campinas (SP), July 2001. Translated by “English for You”.

2 Although the central theme of this study is not the aim of this article, I felt it necessary to describe the research briefly to help the reader focus the aspect here chosen (the relationship between drawing and writing) to enable people to understand the comments that follow, the examples presented and the context in which the drawings were produced.

3 Man on the Moon (base text as a lead-in to 'retelling text')

The first step on the moon was taken with a foot size 41. This was the size of astronaut Neil Armstrong's blue boot, then aged 38, the first man to step on the lunar surface on July 20th, 1969, at 11.56.31 p. m. (Brasilia time). He stepped/ gave his first step with his left foot.

When stepping on the moon, with his heart beating at a rate of 156 times a minute, Neil Armstrong said his famous phrase: 'This is a small step for a man but a gigantic jump for humanity/ human kind.' It is believed that 1.2 billion people watched this moment on TV all over the world.

Neil Armstrong and Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin, the second man to step on the moon, stuck an American metal flag there and placed a plaque signed by the astronauts and the American president, Richard Nixon, near the bottom of the lunar module. "Here did the first men from planet Earth set their foot on the moon for the first time. July 1969 a.D. . We have come in peace on behalf of all humanity/ human kind."

When landing on the moon, Edwin Aldrin felt like peeing and so he did, inside the spacesuit, made tougher with 21 layers of material, there was a pocket to collect the liquid.

During the two hours and tem minutes that they spent in the Sea of Tranquility, the plateau chosen for landing, both astronauts installed a seismograph, a laser reflector, an aerial for communication, an aluminium-plated dashboard (to study solar radiation) and a TV camera. They collected 27 kilos of samples of stones and dust.

On Earth, the astronauts' backpack and the spacesuit weighed 86 kilos. But on the moon, the weight was fourteen kilos. That can be easily explained: on the moon, because of the force of gravity, everything is six times lighter than on Earth. Since the moon is smaller than the Earth, its force of gravity is also lower.So, the bodies are attracted with less strength by the lunar surface.

Apollo XI left Kennedy space centre in Cape Canaveral on July 16th at 9.32 a.m..

About 850 journalists from 55 countries recorded the event.

The menu on board Apollo XI was chicken salad with sweet apple sauce and prawn cocktails. The food was hydrated with a hot water pistol. The spaceship landed back a little before dawn, in the Pacific Ocean, near Hawaii, on July 24th - eight days, three hours and eighteen minutes after departure.

In 1970, Neil Armstrong was interviewed by the Brazilian TV presenter Hebe Camargo who asked him - in her off-hand style - 'Is there moonlight on the moon?" Very cute, isn't it ?

Five other manned missions to the moon were carried out successfully by the Americans. After the pioneers, another tem men stepped on the dusty lunar surface.

(Text adapted from the original "O homem na Lua” - ‘Man on the Moon' - In Duarte, 1995)

4 15 pieces, nine of which from the first grade and six from the second; in all 2.4% of the pieces collected (or 4.7% of the pieces with illustrations).

5 In many productions of the corpus of the research, children were so affected by the theme of the text read out that they changed the objective of the task of retelling the story, adding or modifying information provided, introducing queries and making personal comments. For a deeper study of the relationship between reading and the impact on the reader, see Bettelheim and Zelan, 1992.

6 The analysis of the productions has shown the well-defined psychogenetic development in the establishment of the criteria to select and register information, whose stages are determinant factors in the production of the recording: evolving from subjective values, a more objective consideration of the text is reached in a progressively deeperrelationship with the conscience of knowing and the possibilities of memory ('what I know and don't need to write down' and 'what can be easily forgotten').

7 I mean the articulation among different systems of communication (graphic, iconic, written, ...) to convey information such as road signs which associate figurative and symbolic images, letters, colours and doodles.

8Man on the moon... Astronauts’size 41... Nixon... Isto é: The Moon.... Veja: man on the Moon... Lunar Menu... Amstrong and Hebe” (“Isto é” and “Veja” are brazilian weekly magazines)

9  “Text: Fantasy

When I am on holiday, will I travel by (drawing of a car) or will I go to Egypt to visit the (drawing of pyramids) by (drawing of a plane). I'd really like to travel round the (drawing of the world) but if I am an ant how can I do it? I think I'll have to hide myself and even more, thank God I am a tiny (drawing of an ant) so I will be able to visit the whole world so when I come back from my holiday I'll (drawing of a cemitery) - END OF THE STORY”

10 “They are over the Moon”

11Birds and Chicks

Tampinha: The bird Tampinha has a big breast and it is fat.

Ostrich: The ostrich is a big bird and it cannot fly. Because the wing of the ostrich is very small in relation to its body.

Toucan: The 'toucan' has a big beak and is very beautiful.”

12I know that animals are becoming extinct. Men get their fur to make coats and to adorn their bodies. Many animals are tame. Like the cat, dog, etc ... Animals can be classified in species like the snake, the lizard, etc. Some animals developed poison to defend themselves from their predator, that is, man.

‘I'm going to cut this tree down to build a block of buildings’

This is the natural habitate, of some animals but man is destroying it.”

13 Not only because of the small quantity of texts and insufficient representative sample collected (only one group of each grade, only one school) but also because of the aims of the requests made.

14What I know about animals is that some animals 'is' born from an egg and some ‘is’ born in the mother's womb, some eat meat and others don't eat they eat leaves, some live (spelling mistake) in the ground others live in the waters and lions live in the ground and the fish live in the waters, the piranhas are like people but we have to be careful because they have sharp teeth and they attack people and I forgot to say there are animals that eat leaves, meat and fruit like monkeys and that is all so see you some other time, folks.”