Monday, August 11, 2014

Preschool Self-Portrait Project

One of my absolute favorite back to school activities to do with my kiddos is to have them create self portraits.  I think that encouraging them to take some time to look at themselves, and pay attention to what makes each of them unique, is a great way to help them recognize why they are each an important part of our community.



Children learn a number of things from creating their own portraits - They get to practice taking time to focus on an activity, and pay attention to detail.  They also begin to compare themselves with other students, and learn to recognize their own unique characteristics, as well as things that they have in common with each other (one of our social emotional standards).  When attempting to draw themselves, children have to experiment with spatial awareness to figure out where each of their features belongs on the paper.  They also have to be able to recognize colors and practice the grasp needed to draw their own features on a piece of paper.

The self-portraits that children create can also serve as assessment tools for teachers.  The ways in which children choose to represent their features speak to their developmental levels - the more realistic the child's portrait is, the more likely they are in touch with these features (able to label them, identify where they are, etc.).  Teachers are able to observe children's pre-writing skills, and assess any issues that may be present in this area (Does the child need practice with grasp, would he or she benefit from assistive writing technologies?).  This particular activity can also show teachers how well a student can listen to, and comprehend instructions.

When I ask my children to create self-portraits, I always make sure that there are plenty of mirrors available. It is important for children to be able to see what they look like in order to draw themselves accurately.  My favorite mirrors for the classroom are acrylic portrait mirrors (this one is available on Amazon).  They stand up on their own and are not easily knocked over.  They also don't break easily because they are not glass.


For a base I love to start with these face pads from Discount School Supply.  They make life easy because they are pre-cut, and they include a variety of skin tones, so all students can find one that matches closely.  I usually let my students choose what face they want to use, even if it is not particularly close to their actual skin tone.  It is their portrait, so it gets to look like they want it to.  


Some of the other materials that I like to have available include; markers, yarn in hair colors, foam shapes, and pencils.  If you are going to incorporate collage materials, it is also helpful to have a heavy duty glue, such as tacky glue, that will hold heavier materials.

The most important step of the entire project is making sure to display the portraits in the classroom.  It helps the children feel like they are valued members of the community because you want to display their self-portrait.  It is also fun to display these without labeling them with the the children's names (at least for the first few days), so that parents can attempt to figure out which self-portrait belongs to their child.  

These self-portraits are often something that students are immensely proud of.  This is often because it is the first project they have created at school.  I leave self-portraits on display for as long as possible, and when they are taken down, I always make sure to include them in each child's individual portfolio because they serve as an amazing snapshot for how the child saw him or herself at that moment in time.  






Make sure to check back tomorrow, I'll give you some ideas for extending this self-portrait activity into an insightful self-concept project!

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