August 29, 2015

Self-Portraits for Kids

Self-Portrait by Grade 5 student
Back to school is right around the corner, and one of the first things I like to do with my students is
have them create self-portraits. 

But instead of just giving them paint and paper and telling them to go ahead and paint themselves, I use this activity as a fun opportunity to get to know my students better and have them think about who they are as people and how they want the rest of the world to see them.

Before I even tell the class that they'll be making their own self-portraits, I start by showing them a number of different self-portraits by famous artists like Van Gogh and Raphael. The students are then asked to analyze the choices that each artist made in their paintings. 

After discussing these self-portraits as a class and learning about the artists and their painting styles, students are asked to think about their own character traits and personalities and decide how they are going to represent themselves in their own self-portrait. I have my students fill out an "All About Me" graphic organizer and a sketching sheet as a way to organize their thoughts. This also allows me to incorporate some writing into the art project.

When the graphic organizers and sketching sheets are filled out, students then begin the process of creating their own self-portraits. My preferred materials for the self-portrait are cheap canvases from the dollar store and pastels or paint, but buying canvases can get expensive when you have a large class so using regular white paper is completely fine, too.

Once the self-portraits are complete, students write a half-page blurb about themselves and about why they chose to represent themselves the way they did in their pictures. I have students fill out a template that is then cut out and hung up on the wall underneath each student’s self-portrait.

Below is a not-so-great photo of some of the self-portraits my students created last year. I'll try to take some better quality photos this year!

I know that teaching about artists and art history is not an area that all teachers are comfortable with, so I've created a Self-Portraits Mini-Unit that includes lesson plans and teacher scripts that will allow teachers to confidently teach their students about famous artists and their self-portraits with no prior knowledge of art history required. Copies of six famous self-portraits, graphic organizers, sketching sheets, and a writing template are also included. 

I hope everyone has a great first week back at school, and if you end up making self-portraits with your class send me some photos and let me know how it goes!

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