Creating Self Portraits

March 17, 2015 in Teaching by Anna

Creating a self portrait is not your typical selfie!

When I taught in the traditional classroom, creating self portraits was something I had students do whether they were four or nine. In fact, I’d have them draw one on the first day of school and one toward the end of the year and to see the change over time was always so interesting.

At least once during the year, likely toward the beginning, I would center a lesson around self portraits.

In younger classes, there would be more than one.

Creating a self portrait teaches students to be aware of themselves. Where is her head in relation to her body? Where are her feet in relation to her legs?

It also teaches children spatial awareness. Where should he begin…with his feet or with his head? Where on the paper should his head be placed? How far down should his arms go? How can his whole body fit on a single piece of paper?

Creating Self Portraits from Learn Like A Mom! Self portraits help children learn spatial awareness and self awareness. This is a simple lesson plan for young children. #ece #selfportraits #selfawareness #spatialawareness #finemotorskills #learnlikeamom

A Lesson on Creating Self Portraits

Whether you are in a classroom, or teaching a child at home, here is a simple lesson on creating self portraits geared toward young children, anywhere from age 2 through age 6. Keep in mind that their final product will show various levels of writing development, depending on what stage of writing they are in. (Basically, a two-year-old’s drawing should look very different than that of a five-year-old.)

The teacher will need to model how to draw a self portrait.

Gather the children around an easel or board and clip a paper to it.

Narrate the process as you walk through the steps.

“I am going to draw a picture of myself. I am going to start with my head.”

Use your hands to show your actual head on yourself so students are aware of what you talking about. The visuals also help English Language Learners (if you’re teaching in an English speaking classroom.) and build vocabulary for all students.

“What shape is my head?”

“I think it is like an oval or a circle. Let’s see…where should I place my head on this paper? Should it go down here? (Point to the bottom half of the paper.) Should it go over here? (Point to the side.) Or should it go up here? (Pointing toward the top.)”

Then talk about how close to the top of the page your head should be placed. Do you want to leave room for a hat or hair?

Draw the head shape.

“What do I have on the side of my head?” (Ears…Point to your ears. Draw your ears.)

“What do I have on top of my head?” (Hair…Point to your hair.) “What color should I use?” (Draw your hair.)

“What is on the center of my face?” (Nose…Point to your nose. Draw a nose.)

“How many eyes do I have?” (Two) “Where would they go? One would go here and the other would go here.” (Draw the eyes.) “What color are my eyes? Did you know some people have blue eyes and some have brown? Others have green! Isn’t it neat to see all the differences that surround us? Now, what is right above my eyes? (Eyebrows) What are on my eyes?” (Eyelashes)

“What is below my nose?” (Mouth) “What sort of feeling should I show on my picture? Do I want to be sad (frown), happy (smile), or maybe excited (open your smile) or scared (widen your eyes and make an O with your mouth)? I think I want to be happy on my picture.” (Draw the mouth.)

“OK, I think I have most of the details for my head and face. Now, do I draw my stomach next? (No.) Should I draw my legs? (No.) What’s this? (Point to your neck.) That’s right…it’s my throat and neck! What comes after my neck? (Slide your hands down your neck and out to your shoulders.) My neck comes down from my head and then my shoulders come out.”

Taking time to point out what happens from the head down to the shoulders helps children visualize that the body has dimensions. We are not stick figures. As you draw the neck going out to the shoulders, do one line at a time and then point out on yourself the side of the neck that you just drew.

“What happens at my shoulders? What are these? (Draw attention to your arms.) Okay, I need to draw my arms. How far should I go down? Do my arms touch the floor? Should I go down to the bottom of my paper? (No.) OK, I’ll stop here.”

“What are these?” (Point to your armpits.)

Pointing out your armpits can lead into a discussion on how your arms are separate from the trunk of your body. Draw the arms with a space between them and the main portion of the body, stopping at the waist.

“What is on the ends of my arms?” (Hands)

“How many fingers does one hand have?” (Five)

“Let me see if I can draw my hands.” (Draw both hands.)

“Now, let’s look at my paper. It looks like we have gone half way down the sheet with half of our body. That’s good because we have left space for our legs and feet! Let’s draw those now!” (Continue side lines past hips and down outside part of legs.)

Stand up.

“What do you notice about my legs?” (Wait for replies)

“How many do I have?” (Two) “That’s right…I have two legs. I want to make sure that I draw two legs on my picture.” (Draw the inseam portion of the legs.)

“Now, what is at the bottom of my legs?” (Feet) “I think I’m going to draw them in shoes.” (Draw feet.)

“Wow! Look at that! We worked our way from my head all the way down to my feet, using our paper wisely! We started toward the top and then…”(Walk them through all of the steps as review.)

At this point it is an option to add a background. Do you want to be at the beach or standing in the grass? Where is the sun? Where would the grass go, etc.?

“Now it’s your turn to draw a self portrait! Remember where we started and go from there. Remember to think of your own body as you draw!”

Then students have independent practice making their self-portaits and the teacher can monitor and assist as needed.

Below you can see my example (See, you don’t have to be an artist!), Big Brother’s portrait (He grew tired of detail by the time he reached his hips.) and Little Brother’s portrait. This shows a great example of the writing stages that I mentioned.

Creating Self Portraits from Learn Like A Mom! Self portraits help children learn spatial awareness and self awareness. This is a simple lesson plan for young children. #ece #selfportraits #selfawareness #spatialawareness #finemotorskills #learnlikeamom

When’s the last time you drew a self portrait?