Introduction literacy. These areas include physical development, communication


There are various factors
that lead to effective learning and development for children, one of which is
mark making. Drawing or mark making has been acknowledged for its role in the
development of fine motor skills and as an important foundation for writing
skill development (Coates and Coates, 2006 as cited in Price, Jewitt and
Crescenzi, 2015 ; Goodnow, 1977 as cited in Price, Jewitt and Crescenzi, 2015).
Children’s early mark making develops in a world that is imbued with signs and
symbols including written print, logos and pictures and these are perceived as
an experience essential for nurturing the development of literacy skills such
as reading and writing. Mark making also contributes to the process of
developing symbolic representation of ideas (Moyles, 1989 as cited in Price,
Jewitt and Crescenzi, 2015). Understanding the symbolic potential of ‘marks’
enables children to use them as a means of conveying their thinking to others,
thus serving as a tool for communication and language (Ring, 2010 as cited in Price,
Jewitt and Crescenzi, 2015), for literacy (Boyle and Charles, 2010; Andrews and
Smith, 2011) and mathematics (Caruthers and Worthington, 1988). Researchers and
early year foundation stage (EYFS) practitioners tend to place great emphasis
on mark making as solely the first step towards writing, however, mark making
can have several positive effects on other areas of learning and development as
well as literacy. These areas include physical development, communication and
language, literacy and mathematics.

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The investigation of
drawing or mark making development has been dominated by the idea that children
develop through a series of distinct stages (Charman and Baron-Cohen, 1993). Luquet
(1927) proposed a stage theory of mark making where the first stage of drawing
is trace making or ‘scribbling’, this is a form of pure motor-play as children
practise their pencil grip and develop fine motor skills (as cited in Matthews,
2003). The second stage, fortuitous realism, is where children’s drawings are
marred with scribbles, but they attempt to portray visual likenesses within
their scribbles (Matthews, 2003). Next, intellectual realism is where
children’s drawings capture the basic structure of an object, however, the perspective
of which the child has drawn from is different from how the object is viewed in
real life (Matthews, 2003). Lastly, visual realism is the supposed goal of
children’s drawings, children begin to recognise the view point of an object
and project this in their drawings (Matthews, 2003). Essentially, Luquet (1927)
argued that children discover representation through their mark making and his
stage theory was taken up enthusiastically by Piaget and Inhelder (1956, 1971; Charman
and Baron-Cohen, 1993). Piaget and Inhelder (1956, 1971) claimed that children
draw what they know compared to what they see. Both Piaget and Luquet stage
theories believed that the study of children’s drawings could be used as a tool
to measure a child’s stage of cognitive development. However, the
Luquet/Piagetian model of mark making or drawing development has been
criticised for being unnecessarily rigid in its application of these stages
(Freeman, 1980 as cited in Charman and Baron-Cohen, 1993) and a range of other
factors have been shown to influence the level of drawings children produce
(Barrett and Bridson, 1983 as cited in Charman and Baron-Cohen, 1993; Bremmer
and Moore, 1984 as cited in Charman and Baron-Cohen, 1993).










1) Child A’s drawing                                                                                       Figure 2) Child B’s drawing


Historically, in the
United Kingdom (UK), mark making was taught as a vehicle for writing and
developing fine motor skills such as training hand eye co-ordination and pencil
grip (Garner, 2011). Therefore culturally, the UK perceives learning to write
as children having to use multiple physical and mental processes consecutively,
it is heavily reliant on well-developed fine motor skills. Fine motor skills
involve the use of the smaller muscles in the hand. Learning to hold a pencil
and making marks that ultimately lead to writing is a complex form of
development. Mark making initially starts off as a physical activity and
children will progress through stages in their mark making. At first a child
will grasp tools with their whole hand, moving their arm from the shoulder (Palmar
Supinate Grip) (NHS- Handwriting development, 2014). Over time, this will
develop and become more refined until a child can hold a pencil between their
thumb and their index finger (Tripod Grip) (NHS- Handwriting development, 2014).
The stage at which a child’s fine motor skills are at can affect their mark making
ability. For example, Child A (at the age of four) shows very early attempts of
mark making, often considered ‘random marks’ and arguably perceived by adults
as scribbling (Appendix 1). At this stage the child may be unable to
distinguish between their writing and their drawing, and their pencil grip will
typically be centred in the palm of a hand known as the Palmar Supinate grasp. Chronologically
this child is developmentally delayed as the Palmar Supinate grasp emerges
between the ages of one to one and a half, which explains why the drawing has
very little detail and represents elements of fortuitous realism (Luquet, 1927;
NHS- Handwriting development, 2014). This piece of work is contrasted with
Child B’s drawing using a Tripod Grip (at the age of four), which contains much
more detail in the drawing and colours are used for purpose where green is used
for the grass (Appendix 2). These drawings embody some of the stages as described
by Luquet (1927), where the first image represents elements of fortuitous
realism and elements of intellectual realism is depicted in the second image. Child
A’s drawing represents early stages of mark making and evidentially depicts
poor fine motor skills. Poor fine motor skills can have several implications
for a child’s life. Children who have poor fine motor skills may experience
frustration and poor self-esteem because they are unable to perform everyday
tasks such as drawing or cutting with scissors as competently as their peers (Owens,
2008). Additionally, many children who find fine motor tasks challenging will
avoid participating in these tasks due to fear of failure. Consequently, this produces
a negative cycle as these children will have fewer opportunities to practice
and improve their fine motor skills (Owens, 2008). However, as discussed mark
making can improve children’s fine motor skills, it is heavily linked to the
development of physical skills particularly in the early stages of mark making.
Therefore, practitioners need to ensure that there are areas for children to
experiment with mark making, using various tools and materials. Through
observations of primary school’s, it was identified that practitioners tended
to direct children in their mark making and restricted them to a limited selection
of materials for drawing. As a result, many children tended to progress to
other areas of the provision such as a maths table, and would rarely visit the
creative table. However, practitioners need to provide children with drawing
materials of all kinds and should be readily available and easily accessible
for children to stimulate their interest in mark making activities. For
example, practitioners can set up an area where children make marks using icing
sugar. This gives children an incentive to mark make, it is a more suitable way
of targeting poor fine motor skills and it is less daunting for children who
find holding a pencil difficult. As discussed, mark making forms a large role
in the development of fine motor skills, it can also affect other areas of a
child’s learning and development, therefore, practitioners need to ensure that
there are mark making and drawing options readily available for children to


and language












 Figure 3 Child
C’s drawing


time written systems have operated alongside spoken systems of communication. Therefore,
it can be argued that mark making has positive influences within other areas of
the EYFS framework such as communication and language. Communication and
language within the EYFS framework is one of the three prime areas of learning
and as a prime area of learning, it lays the foundation for children’s success
in all other areas of learning and of life (Optimus Education, 2012). The role
of mark making in children’s communication and language is frequently ignored
and significantly under-researched. However, drawing is one of the many languages which children
use to ‘talk’ about their world, both to themselves and to others (Dyson, 1993,
Gallas, 1994, Kress, 1997, Pahl, 1999, Lindqvist, 2001). There are various roles
that drawing plays in facilitating the teaching and learning process, as well
as the language development of a child (Anim, 2012). Drawing helps children to
understand symbols, signs and representations which later become crucial in
their encounter with signs and symbols in home and school (Matthews, 2003 as
cited in Anim, 2012). Therefore, children use signs and symbols as the basis of
their language development. Which suggests that mark making is an
activity that allows children to symbolise what they know and feel. For example, Child C’s (who is an child with EAL) drawing
was produced in an area of continuous provision (the creative table), where they
decided that they are going to draw some fairies and some butterflies (Appendix
3). Whilst drawing, it appears the child naturally commented on what they were
drawing. After drawing a few butterflies, the child says “I am going to draw a
fairy, this is the wings, this is the sparkly dress and this is her magic
hands”. This shows that when carefully planned with purpose, mark
making can be used as an effective tool to develop children’s communication and
language skills. More specifically, drawing serves as an excellent stimulus to
develop children’s language skills and stimulate their imagination. Child C could
identify the facial features of the ‘fairy’ as well as talking about the
colours in the picture. This supports the notion that drawing is an activity that
allow children to symbolise what they know and feel (Matthews, 2003 as cited in
Anim, 2012; de la Roche, 1996 as cited in Anim, 2012). However, many
practitioners tend to misunderstand the role of drawing for communication. Even
within EYFS classrooms, where the opportunity to draw is often freely
available, there is usually an adult focus upon ‘mark making leading to
writing’ rather than communication and creativity. As a result, children can
often be deterred from using mark making as a creative outlet. Mark making is
also a useful took for EAL (English as an additional language) children or children
with speech delay or limited vocabulary. This is because drawing does not
solely rely on verbal communication and is therefore a useful tool for
practitioners to engage children who face these difficulties. This in turn can
allow practitioners to use drawing as a tool to enhance these children’s
communication and language skills with the appropriate questions and comments. This
can help children to explain what they have drawn to an adult by exchanging
dialogue thus leading to effective learning and development.












Figure 4 Child D’s drawing


As previously mentioned,
mark making is often regarded as the first step towards writing and therefore
has clear links with the development of literacy. The specific area of literacy
is expressed in the EYFS framework through reading and writing and there are
several age-related statements in which a child should be expected to be at
with respect to their chronological age. However, before a child can read or
write, they begin to mark make. Children learn to express themselves through
their drawings, and as the first step of mark making is scribbling, or the trace
making stage as proposed by Luquet (1927), many often regard this as children
learning and practising their fine motor skills. Though this is true, many
children do not scribble indiscriminately, as their drawings are
developmentally the first step towards handwriting, a skill needed to
effectively write. For children in EYFS, at the age of three or four, typical
children should have gained a measure of fine motor skills and begin to imagine
and create through mark making and drawings. These drawings will eventually
allow children to recognise that their marks can represent tangible objects and
hold meaning for example a ‘S’ represents the ‘sss’ sound. Therefore,
understanding that lines form letters and letters form words and words have
meaning demonstrates that children’s mark making s extremely significant for
the effective development of literacy. This is evidenced by Child D’s drawing,
initially to an adult their drawing may seem inconsistent and incoherent,
however, as their fine motor skills develop along with other aspects of their
learning and development, their drawings become more purposeful (Appendix 4).
It is also important to note that children will often scribe letters that are
familiar to them such as letters from their name or label their work with CVC
words they know. This type of labelling seems to be explicit and allow children
to practise their literacy skills through drawing, implicitly which can be seen
in Child D’s drawing (Appendix 4). However, the only form mark making in modern
primary schools is usually where children practise their letter formations or
where they are asked to write CVC words. Through observations of primary
school’s it seems to be evident that mark making is only and explicitly related
to literacy, the provision is often limited and the adult interaction with
children who are drawing is often over-directed and focused on what was
meaningful to adults. As a result, unfortunately there was no means for
creative outlet for children as no provision had been set in place for them to
freely draw. Teachers need to gain a better understanding that drawing is a
tool for learning. Where the provision has made drawing accessible in the
environment every day, it developed children’s opportunities for developing an
enthusiasm for and love of drawing and learning (Broadhead, Howard and Wood,
2010). Therefore, mark making should be valued in terms of its educational
impact on children’s development and drawing should be given prominence in all
EYFS learning experiences as it helps in the holistic development of children
and it embraces all areas of child development.


















     Figure 5 Child D’s drawing                                                        Figure
6 Area of enhanced provision



Another area in which
mark making affects learning and development is mathematics. As previously
mentioned, understanding the symbolic potential of marks enables children to
understand that their marks can not only represent letters but shapes and
numbers too, thus serving as a tool for mathematical understanding. Much of the
research focusing on children’s drawings and the link to mathematics has been
based on children’s mathematical graphics a term which was coined by Carruthers
and Worthington (2003) (as cited in Foundation Years, 2009). Children’s mathematical
graphics is used to describe children’s own marks and representations they use
to explore and communicate their mathematical thinking. It has been argued that
children’s learning and development of early mathematical thinking can be
evidenced in their written language of mathematics. These graphics include
scribbles, drawings, writing and numbers (Carruthers and Worthington, 2003). Some
of these graphics can be evidenced in Child E’s drawing which illustrates the
continuous process of mathematical graphics, making visible the sophistication
of children’s creative approaches to problem solving, reasoning and numeracy
(Appendix 5). More specifically, this child’s drawing represents their
mathematical thinking as they counted and reasoned, they have drawn three cars
on the road, and two in the garage, they have also put the garage number as 45
and the house number as 77. Whilst observing Child E’s drawing, it is evident
that they counted how many cars they are drawing, they have drawn lines with
gaps for them for the roads and they have carefully thought of the shapes for
the wheels where each car has two wheels. In addition to this, the child also
gave themselves “nineteen checks” because they  “did it right”. Though this child is not
explicitly counting objects made for counting or objects used to recognise
shape, they have shown that they have a secure knowledge of these areas, and
for practitioners this demonstrates that mark making builds an understanding of
how children can use their marks, symbols and drawings to represent their
thinking (Carruthers and Worthington, 2003). Another example which shows that
children possess mathematical literacy is in the role play area (Appendix 6). The
fireplace was set out as an area of enhanced provision for writing
opportunities, it was initially set up as an area for children to practise
sentence writing based on a popular children’s story. However, it was unintentionally
used an area for children to freely mark make, children have scribed numerals,
some numerals are put in sequence, others are random, and one child even wrote
the number ‘ten’ (Appendix 6). This further supports the notion of children’s
mathematical graphics, in which mark making can suffice and aid the
understanding of mathematical concepts including numeral, number and shape.
Practitioners need to ensure that not all areas should be confined to one area,
this was often the case when observing practise in primary schools. The
observation identified that children should be allowed to draw on their own
initiative and at their own pace as this helps to enhance intellectual and
creative abilities in children. It was evident that some practitioners were didactic
in terms of the instructions they gave to children regarding drawing, as well as
restricting children to limited areas of the provision where the maths area was
separated from the creative area hence there was limited opportunities for
children to produce mathematical graphics. This indicates that children should
be able to transfer their learning from one area to and children should be able
to make their own choices (Lownfeld and Brittain, 197 as cited in Anim, 2012).