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A look at self-portraits for students

Self-portraits can go a long way toward covering many subject areas and, at the same time, giving students a creative outlet. Self-portraits are ideal during the first few weeks of school because the work a student does now can be reassigned at the end of the year for comparison. Lessons along the way in shading, shape, technique and perspective will yield a far different result in the second drawing. Your students may be amazed when they compare two self-portraits done months apart!

Art
As an art assignment, you may choose to give the students free reign, allowing whatever setting and pose they prefer. A study in a particular art movement or technique, such as cubism or pointillism, might require students to follow certain guidelines in the way they draw. Imagine a whole wall of portraits made entirely of tiny dots, or cubist works with blocky noses and hair.

Language Arts
Assign a self-portrait to accompany a short autobiography. Self-portraits can really reflect the way students feel about themselves. The portraits can help build esteem by making the students more self-aware, and students will often discover new things about themselves. Accurate use of color and a smile on their face reflects a good self image. See our brainstorm on acrostics for poem ideas as well. Using adjectives to describe themselves in a poem is also a great complement when you're ready to display the works on a wall or bulletin board.

Math & Science
Take a walk outside and discuss symmetry in nature. What is symmetry? Why are things symmetrical? How are you and I symmetrical? Are both sides of your face exactly the same? These are all questions that will help get them thinking about the details in their portraits. Ask your students to consider how they would go about making a perfectly accurate portrait. As a math lesson, you might have students draw from a photograph, marking off a grid and copying one section at a time. Now, how would they recreate the drawing to cover a wall that's 9 feet high?

Social Studies
Create a magnificent hallway display by having students construct lifesize self-portraits of themselves as historical figures. Their faces will be the same, but dressed in the clothing of a Civil War soldier or Rosie the Riveter. Have them write a few paragraphs to describe the character they have become, perhaps from a first-person perspective.

T2T Contributor Comments:
Did you have the children look at their faces before making their portrait? If so, you could tell the parents that the children were learning to appreciate their own individuality and uniqueness.-Leeat92nd

You can tell a lot about a child's maturity by looking at their drawings. The more mature the child the more details. I also have mine write something about themselves at the bottom of their picture. When I have them do it again at the end of the year I glue them side by side on a large sheet of construction paper and write at the top "That was then...This is now". You can usually see growth with these. -WAYSTEVE

We just did these!!! First I would say that it helps them look at themselves in a different way. I always hit symmetry as a math and science lesson. How shapes are symmetrical and things in nature are symmetrical. And then there's the pure art for art's sake. My kids love to do portraits. Now that we have learned how to do portraits, we are going to do the Super, the Principal, teachers, board members...and hang them in the school board meeting room! Won't that be a hoot -Christe

Self portraits are great way to have the child look at themselves and think about the positive awareness. If a child colors themself with the right color of skin, eyes, hair, nose, and puts a smile on their face they normally have a good self image. ...Tell the parents that you are using it as a get to know you and self esteem builder. -Carrie

The value of a self portrait is that it provides students with a sense of self worth. They can see themselves in a new light when they drawn their own likeness. It also fosters art concepts such as details, drawing and/or painting. If the portraits are displayed as a group, they reinforce the diversity of our world. I hope some of this helps. -Kimberlee


PEANUT ALLERGIES CAN BE DEADLY

One of our readers asks: "I have never had a problem with peanut allergies with my students, but a friend just ran into it for the first time in a VBS. She used something with peanut butter for a prize, and had an irate mother. What do you do about this problem? Is this something we should think about before using ANYTHING with peanuts/ peanut oil, etc? Or is it the parent's obligation to notify us of any allergy?"

In most cases, a parent's obligation to notify the school of such an allergy really doesn't even come into play. The parents we read about while researching the subject were all very active in making sure that EVERYONE who MIGHT come into contact with their child knew of the allergy. A child with the allergy can break out in hives when exposed to peanuts or peanut products, and in the most extreme cases can suffocate and die as their airways collapse. In many schools peanut products are actually banned from the building, and in others they are banned from the classroom of the affected child. Peanut allergies are more common in children. If you are considering using any kind of peanut product in the same building where you teach, take the time to consider the repercussions it may have. Ask your students and their parents if there are any allergies you should be aware of. We also recommend letting the parents of all the students in your room know about the allergy so they may do their part in keeping peanut products out of the classroom.

For more information, check out these links:

Food Allergy Network

Peanut Allergy - Nothing to Sneeze At

Banning Mr. Peanut from America's Classrooms

There is even an
online forum for trading info on peanut allergies.