1st Grade - Self Portrait Books

Part of the curriculum in my district is to have the students do a self-portrait each year.  I love the idea of this, but struggle with making the self portraits different enough each year to make them interesting while having the portraits resemble the students.

For first grade I really wanted them to focus on the details of their faces – the shape of their eyes, nose, lips – where their hair falls on their head.  Does their hair touch their eyebrows, or cover their ears, is it really short, long, curly… etc.

This student was proud of how they did their teeth!
To really emphasis that our learning target was to add lots of details to their self portraits I introduced the lesson by drawing three pictures on the board:  1) A really fast drawing with circle eyes, a “L” for a nose, and one curved smile line for my lips.  2) A more detailed picture but WAY too small.  3) An oval head, with oval eyes, glasses, eyebrows, more nose like nose, lips…..  I labeled these with the corresponding number.  I asked the students to show me be holding up 1, 2, or 3 fingers which picture they felt had the best quality.  After a few moments I ask them to put their hands down and then ask them which one has the most detail.  Again, I ask them to put their hands down and ask them one last question, “Which one looks the most like Ms. Novak”.  The majority of students pick number 3 for all three questions.  I then ask the students to tell me what they think about that – they picked the same picture for quality, details, and that it looked most like me.  Students connect that their picture should have lots of details to look the most like them and to have the best quality.
I show the students that the paper I have chosen is much smaller than normal, because most first graders struggle to draw large pictures with detail.  I explain that it is folded in half because one side is for their normal portrait and the other half is for a silly face portrait.  (The kids get really excited about their silly face pictures).  We discuss quickly that just because it is a silly face doesn’t mean that their quality can be silly – it has to have just as much quality! 

Last thing before I pass out materials I also talk with them briefly about why and how to use their mirrors.  I show them how to set it up and how to use it to look at their eyes, nose, mouth, hair and other parts of their face.  The students give me examples of what NOT to do – shine light in other peoples faces, spy on people around them, break them, draw on them….

I have my helping table pass out materials and students get started.  This introduction sounds long but really only takes about 10 minutes at MAX. 

As students work I walk around asking questions and encouraging.  Once students finish their portraits they add backgrounds to their people – giving them a place to be: outside, inside, at the zoo, in the ocean, on the beach, out in space, or whatever else their brains come up with.  When the students are done drawing with pencil they take a sharpie and outline their creations.

Next class the students count out 5 pieces of paper, that have been pre-paper punched and pick out one piece of string (about 2 feet).  The students then have to thread the string through the first paper hole and then the second.  Once the papers are threaded the students use a square knot to tie it all together.  I show the students how to do a square knot – most students can do a square knot since most of them can do the first part of tying their shoes.  I demonstrate how to ask someone to put their finger on the first part of square knot, like perhaps parents do when wrapping presents – this normally helps those students who have not mastered tying their shoes. 
Sewing their books can be very frustrating for some students – so we review that it’s okay to be frustrated, but not to give up.  I encourage the students to help each other, but not to do it for anyone.

Once the books are sewn together the students may color their self portraits and/or start drawing in the inside!

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