Thanks to my colleague, Jean-Marie Galing, for contributing these important insights!
Which of these images reveals the thinking of a second grade student about their neighborhood?
Let’s not lose the meaning in wonderful narrative drawings by expecting students to use compositional techniques that they are not yet ready for. Western art places value on depicting space in three dimensions, and we want students to understand how to use perspective. But we need to consider what students can understand at different ages, and introduce perspective techniques in baby steps.
Early elementary students can organize objects along a ground line. By first grade we can add a horizon line and talk about near/far and big/little. Second graders can place near things at the bottom of the page and far things higher up, and attempt to show objects overlapping. Third graders can learn about and apply the use of foreground, middle ground, and background. Upper elementary students may play with atmospheric perspective using light and darker colors, and by fifth or sixth grade they like to experiment with linear perspective. At the secondary level, they start to pull it all together to support what they want to say.
So my perspective on “perspective” is to teach it a little at a time, and don’t let the execution of a technique suck the joy out of personal expression.