Visual Dramaturgy/Collective Drawing

Number of Players

Paper, writing utensils

What Is It and Why Use It?

Visual Dramaturgy invites students to reflect on setting, characters, theme, and events in a story. This strategy gives students an opportunity to practice recall, and to create and “read” signs or semiotic systems of meaning-making through a collaborative, visual art process.


Set a very large piece of blank paper on table or floor, so that all students have a comfortable workspace on the border of the paper. Place a large collection of crayons or markers on the paper so that every participant will have a selection of colors to use. Read or tell a story without any accompanying images. Round One: Invite students to silently draw images of the characters, places, events, and feelings that they remember most from the story on the paper, without using any words. Play instrumental music as they silently work for 5-7 minutes.  Encourage students to get as many different images on the paper as they can. When the time ends (or interest fades), stop working and take a silent “gallery walk” around the paper to see all the images created. Round Two: Invite students to pick a colleague’s image and add to it, without using any words. Explain that students should not work on their own images or make an entirely new image; also, they can add to as many pieces, made by others, as they want. Work for 3-5 minutes. Then, stop working and take another silent “gallery walk” around the paper. Round Three: Invite students to fill in the remaining empty space on the page. The goal is to connect the drawings without adding anything directly to images that have already been created. Words may be used in the final round if desired. Work for 2-3 minutes and then take a final silent “gallery walk” around the paper.

  • How did it feel to work collectively on a drawing? What images do we see from the story?
  • What story do these images tell together? What parts of the story appear the most? Why?
  • What image/idea resonates with you the most? Tell us why/turn to a partner and share why.
Possible Side-Coaching
  • Round One: Make big images, we are trying to fill the paper!
  • Round Two: What important details do you remember from the story? Make sure everything you remember is here. What can you add to someone else’s image to give more detail and context.
  • Round Three: Think about how color, shape, and line communicates a feeling. What feeling sits between these images?
Possible Variations/Applications
  • SOCIAL STUDIES: Have students explore a moment in history, a time period, or a geographic region based on a reading from a textbook or primary documents or their own prior knowledge.
  • SCIENCE: Have students explore an environment, ecosystem or a topic like energy resources.
Source Citations

Robert Lapage, Jonothan Neelands and Tony Goode