I spend a fair amount of time drawing from life with my students. Starting very early we talk and practice finding common shapes, lines, and letters to help us draw objects.
Being in a new school, I'm spending a little more time than I usually would with the upper grades finding a common language and skill set for basic drawing techniques.
With leaves being so plentiful and the trees putting on a spectacular show the third graders did some quick blind contour warm up drawings before moving on to a longer, more involved final drawing. The kids enjoyed the old school art lesson and it was a quiet, relaxing class.
A great trick is to laminate a bunch of leaves and then you can re-use them and not worry about them deteriating over a drawing period.
Third graders enjoyed warming up with a Blind Contour activity. I had the students place their paper, pencil, and drawing hand in a large paper bag to prevent peeking. I also find this keeps kids drawing for longer periods of time. Students really enjoyed working on these and I do believe that this makes even the youngest students observe longer and more carefully.
Third graders moved on the week after to trees. We observed trees outside, noticing that they are thicker on the bottom and thinner at the top. We discussed that the branches made shapes that looked like the letters V and Y. Students drew simple deciduous trees and added changing foilage with yellow and red paint that we applied with a sponge.