Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Self Portraits with 5th Grade

"Expressive Self-Portraits" is a project I like to visit with my 5th grade students in the Spring.  It's a nice projects to work with on the cart since the materials are light, and your students do a bit of self-reflection of themselves.

All you need for the project is:

-White paper ( size to your liking)
-Black Marker to Trace

My students are very self-consious about doing self-portraits, even thought we've been drawing them since kindergarten.  Students at this age are always afraid of being laughed at, yet at the 5th grade level, students have demonstrated throwing a very high amount of creativity into their work.  I'm amazed as to how well the 5th graders take in their projects and create some amazing works!

I start the students off by re-visiting the portrait; where parts of the face are placed, and especially the hair line.  I give the students the first day of art to draw their portraits, plus add drawn details to their backgrounds to make it more creative.  Since their classes with me are 40 minutes, I like to give them time to refine their drawings and add their details.  On day two, I go over color theory, and how colors can represent parts of their personality.  I write the colors on the board to help them with their decisions.  I also encourage them to use colors that could represent their favorite sports teams.

Here's the list of colors I list on the board with their meanings (although colors have many different meanings in other cultures, I stuck with the basic color psychology):

Yellow: Cheerful/Impatient
Orange: Cautionary/Outgoing
Red: Passion (reaching a goal), Anger
Pink: Compassion/Immature
Green: Growth/Greed
Blue: Sadness/Peacefulness
Purple: Creative/Immature
Brown: Lazy/Organized (I know...polar opposites!)
Gray: Neutral/Depressed
Black: Secretive

Besides going over colors, I also have students fold their paper into sections so they can color each section with a different part of their personality, like this:

Notice how the picture isn't colored realistically?  I didn't want the students to create their picture to look exactly like themselves, I wanted them to show their personality.  Each section is colored differently, and their face is also colored in.

I like how much students have been able to express their personalities in these drawings!  The tie it takes to complete can stretch depending on the details, but once finished, I'm amazed with how beautiful they look!


  1. Colours (that's how we spell it in Australia) have quite different meanings historically and culturally ...

  2. You are very correct on that one, colors do have different meanings around the world. I used a color psychology website, plus researched color meanings in the past while in college. I stuck with the color psychology instead of introducing the many different cultures to save on time with the elementary, but it would be fun and interesting to have a full unit on color meanings in different cultures!

  3. Extremely creative masterpieces! Its so important to develop children. I think that they should experience development in all the spheres of their lives. Thus, I want to engrain love to traveling in them. Here are some ideas concerning this:

    Euro Tour
    By the way, I followed you up with GFC, it'd be great if you follow me back.