Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Positive Self Portraits

Positivity is important! I firmly believe that a positive attitude will serve you well in life, and that includes being positive about YOU! I don't know if it's from teaching in a low-income area or if things are just changing in our culture, but I notice even young students with negative attitudes and negative self-image. I had wanted to let my 3rd graders try out printmaking so I figured a positive image self portrait would be a good assignment. 
To get students thinking about positive character traits, I went to a Sesame Street music video I had saved on Pinterest. The video is called "What I am" and is performed by and the monsters. 
Sesame Street has some great videos that I like to use, like this one about the primary colors.
Before the students drew, we talked about filling the space and a bit about facial proportions. I didn't want to go overboard with facial proportions... I want students to look, but I don't see why we have to go for photorealism here. Sometimes their self portrait schema shows more personality than a "correctly" drawn portrait. In most classes, the students finished drawing their portraits by the end of the first day. In the second class period, I gave a printmaking demo. When the students were done transferring their self portraits to the polyfoam plates, they inked and printed. They practiced once on cheap white paper before choosing a piece of construction paper with a color that fit their personality.
Cookie sheets are my new favorite inking trays for school. I had ordered some big blue trays a couple years ago, but didn't realize they had a diamond pattern. The texture is not ideal for inking. I put one tray in the middle of each table and the students take turns with the brayers. I'm hoping to buy some more brayers next year but even with two per table (5-6 students) the wait time isn't that long.
On the third day when the prints were dry, the students used sharpie and/or construction paper crayons to add positive words that describe them and some doodles if they wanted to. When I sat down to make an example, I was having a hard time making a list of words to describe myself. I thought some of the students might have trouble too. To solve the problem, I gave each student a sheet of paper on which they wrote their name. The students left their name papers in their spot and the students walked around the room to write positive descriptors about their classmates. I encouraged them not to write "cool", for example, if someone else had already written it. I was impressed with my students when we did this. Even the students that don't really seem to fit in had nice things written about them. Of course we had the basics like cool, smart, funny, etc., but I also saw "good reader", "creative", "flexible" and some others that required a bit more thought.
 I ended up missing several Friday 3rd grade classes for check ups, so those students used crayon for their self portraits instead of printmaking. I didn't expect my sub to manage ink! I actually prefer the look of the portraits with more color but I'm glad the other classes got to try a new medium.
I think the funniest words I saw written on self portraits were "weird" and "dangerous". Those were written by the students on their self portraits! 


  1. Those are so sweet! I love that video!

  2. I love the idea of having them write the positive comments about their peers - it would take a bit of setting up to ensure that all the comments were positive, and that there was an even distribution, but what an self-esteem building exercise, especially for those who may not have the best self-image in the first place! A GREAT project :)Elizabeth