Saturday, January 13, 2018

4th Grade Self-Portraits: Positively Me

NOTE: After nearly six years (SIX YEARS?!) of being absent from the blogosphere (is it even still called that??), I logged back into The Elemental Art Room with the intention of starting the blog back up. When I did, I saw a (3) next to the word "Drafts" on my design panel and, curious as to what I'd left hanging around in limbo, I clicked to see what was there. Low and behold, there sat this post, patiently waiting, that I wrote sometime in the spring of 2012 while I was still living and teaching in Fort Lauderdale. I'm actually really happy to have found these images. What fun!


I'll be honest, this project was born of near desperation. Fourth grade can be such a transitional year personally for children, as they begin to become more independent and are expected to take more responsibility for their learning and behavior. This can result in an identity crisis that frustrates and baffles students at this age. Who are they? Who do their teachers and parents expect them to be? What do they expect of themselves? How can meet these expectations without giving up their newly-discovered independence? Keeping all of this fourth grade turmoil in mind, I wanted a self-portrait project that would help my young artists decide who they are and who they want to be. This project also taught students about symmetry, balance, and proportion and allowed me to integrate a tiny bit of language arts as we focused on positive character trait adjectives. 
Here's what we did:

Prior to class:
  1. I took head-shots of each student, printed them out, then used the paper cutter to cut them down the middle.
  2. I decided that this project would use only colored pencils. My fourth graders need practice taking their time and not just slapping color on. They also needed practice taking care of our materials. I figured keeping the medium simple would help with this, and it did. They made great strides in clean-up procedures and became more responsible with care of materials since there was only one medium and no mess to worry about.
Class 1:
  • Students cut away the background with scissors, leaving only their head and shoulders. They pasted this to a piece of drawing paper, making sure to line up the bottom of the picture with the bottom of their paper and leave room to one side for drawing the other half of their face/shoulders. (I know this seems like a given, but really had to keep an eye on this. Kids love gluing things to the middle of their paper.) 
  • I then discussed symmetry with them and showed them how to use their pencil to measure features and distances from the center of their faces to various points such as corners of eyes, jaw line, ears, etc. Students with rulers used them if they chose, but I explained that they won't always have a ruler on hand, so being able to use the tools at hand is a useful skill.
  • Students then began drawing the other half of their face in pencil in order to complete their image. I encouraged them to draw lightly (as always) so that erasing didn't leave unwanted scars and marks on the paper.
Class 2:
Students completed their drawing if needed and began using colored pencils to add color. We discovered that our drawings often looked like cartoon versions of ourselves, which was a lot of fun for these fourth graders.

Class 3:
Students began adding their positive character traits to the background of their drawing. I gave them a lot of freedom with this while making sure to talk about effective design, contrast, and use of color, lines, and shapes to make their words stand out. They could write "I am..." statements, or they could write the traits only.

Class 4:
Students completed their drawings.

I'm really please with how well so many of these turned out. I may do it at the start of the next school year, because this focus on the positive was really good for some of these kids. Rather than constantly hearing how they need to do this or that differently, they had a chance to really think about what they're doing well. I learned a lot about the students, too, during this process. Here are more of our results (parent permission has been given for the images shown here):

I talked about closure, and some students, like this one, let their text appear to continue behind their self-portrait.

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