The “getting to know you” theme that many teachers engage in at the start of the school year is a natural place to introduce the idea of “self-portrait”. Sylvia, my co-teacher, and I created a display of a dozen self-portraits which show a range of artistic expression for our five year old students to peruse during the first few days of school. Frida Kahlo, Ansel Adams, Pablo Picasso, and Georgia O’keeffe were among those displayed.
After the children discussed their observations of the portraits and we recorded them on chart paper, we invited our students to create their own self-portraits. Once they were complete, we had them write a sentence starting with “I am…” and we posted their thoughts with their portraits. This period of self-reflection was wonderful.
Once this was finished, we thought it would be an excellent lesson to have the children study the faces on the professionally rendered portraits, and decide what the artists would say if they wrote “I am….” sentences. Each child really studied the portraits, looked into the eyes of the artists, and came up with some interesting responses.
I loved noting the time that each child spent, really studying and thinking about each portrait before writing his/her idea. Overall, it was a meaningful way to get to know each other better.
Here’s a classroom activity using Reg Bulter’s Man (early 1960s) from the online collection.
Lesson: Explore the value of location, view-point, and narration.
Activity: class drawing, reading, and writing
Process: Use all three images from the online collection
Draw image (10 min) whole or detail. Respond in writing to the following questions (5 min). What is the mood? What is the story?
Draw second image (10 min) whole or detail. Respond in writing to the following questions (5 min): What is the mood from this perspective? What is the story?
Draw third image (10 min) whole or detail. Respond in writing to the following questions (5 min): What is the mood from this perspective? What is the story?
Reflection and follow up: If you had only seen one of these images what would you know in terms of mood and story?
In what ways might we use our classwork today towards understanding the effect of location, view-point, and mood when we read literature? When viewing works online? When reading a news story?
Example: Although I generated the lesson for the students and their needs, I too benefit from ‘seeing perspective’ and participating with them. Here’s a clip from my journal covering two of the steps.
Place in the Classroom
The activity generated quite a bit of conversation in the classroom the following day. Students gained perspective on a range of skills and frameworks — from seeing perspective to the role of location in story telling.