Every year I do some sort of self-portrait lesson with at least one of my grade levels. This year, I mixed it up a bit by giving students more choices within the assignment. At the beginning of the unit, we started with practice sketches and the basics and breaking the face down into its simplest shapes – ovals, almond shapes, rectangles, circles…
Next, students worked on facial proportions. I used my folded paper method as a way to simplify where the parts of the face and human head should go.
Then, students were shown the variety of materials they had access to for this assignment. We had already covered the basic drawing materials such as pencil, color pencil, crayon, and markers in a previous unit. Students had access to those materials, plus oil pastel, chalk pastel, and watercolor paints. In a series of short demos, I showed the students basic techniques for each media.
Students then had time to explore and work with the materials, sharing their discoveries and tips on papers taped around the room. This practice time was crucial, so that students could make decisions on what materials to use and where to use them in their final self-portrait. Students felt more informed and more empowered with the ability to choose their own type and combination of materials. Students who abhor the feeling or sound of chalk pastels did not have to use them once they had tried the techniques. This way, students got the experience of all media, but were trusted to choose what would work best for their own artwork. The collaboration among the students was incredible to watch – they were showing each other intriguing techniques and discoveries, answering each other’s questions, and complimenting and asking questions of one another’s work.
See below for a sampling from the all very different 4th grade self-portraits: