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Woven Self Portraits

I decided that instead of weaving plain colored construction paper with my 2nd graders, I wanted to make it a bit more meaningful to them and get them out of their comfort zone a bit.  I asked them to hold their 12″ x 18″ white drawing paper vertically and draw a picture of themselves (using their hand as a guide around which to draw the oval for the head, so they don’t draw it too small), remembering all the rules we learned previously about drawing the human face and body, and using a skin-color crayon to do all the preliminary outlines in the event that they make a mistake.  If this happens, the mistake will usually be covered up when they color in their skin later.  They were instructed to look closely at what they were wearing, how their hair was that day, etc, and document these details in their picture.  Then I asked them to draw images and symbols around them in the picture, as if they were thinking about their favorite things, to include favorite foods, toys, cartoons, hobbies, sports, etc.  This was “the only time,” I told them, that they were allowed to have objects just floating around them.  This gave me a better idea about what was important to them.

After the finished the first drawing, they were to use a piece of the same paper, held horizontally, to draw a landscape of their favorite place.  I told them that this place could be in “their country,” or might be at the beach, the park, a playground, their yard, at their grandparent’s or friend’s house, etc.  They were educated about foreground, middle ground, and background before they drew.

After completing both drawings, on the 2nd class I had them sit on the carpet for instruction.  I told them we would be doing something “super crazy” with our drawings, and not to get upset because they would turn out really great, but to be open to new ideas.  I then showed them how I folded the self portrait paper in half “like a book” or “hamburger style,” and that it was very important that the fold was at the bottom, “by your tummy” and the open part was at the top.  I then used some strips I’d cut from posterboard as a guide to draw lines.  I used a wide strip to make a “no-go zone” at the top of the self portrait, lining it up with the top edge and drawing a line horizontally across it.  Then I used smaller, thinner strips to draw vertical lines from the fold at the bottom to the line for the “no-go zone,” then cut along the vertical lines up to the top horizontal line.  For the landscape, I folded and marked it the same way, omitting the “no-go zone” and remembering to number each strip (1-8) before cutting them apart.  As I did this, there were gasps from all the students, and some cries of “I don’t want to cut up my pictures!” I find this completely ridiculous, personally, as I see them chuck artwork they’ve spent weeks on into the trash like it’s nothing on their way out the door.  It kills me a little inside to see them do that.

I then begin to weave the landscape strips into the self portrait drawing, discussing the over-under technique and that each row must be the opposite of the one before it.  By the time they see me start weaving, most of them have gotten over their initial shock at my process and have gotten excited about it.  I tell them that the end result will look very different than their original drawings and that parts of some items will be covered up, but the final weaving will show others things that are most important to them.

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I’m Rachel, a second year elementary art teacher at a school in Alexandria, Virginia, which is within the Fairfax County Public School system.  I am the only full-time art teacher at my school, and the other art teacher is here only one day per week, on a cart, to teach the kindergarteners.  While it’s a decent set-up for us both (I am limited to only 5 preps, and she doesn’t have to do any grading) I have gotten pretty lonely in terms of bouncing ideas off other art teachers.  The art-on-a-cart teacher and I have very different lunch breaks and planning times, so even when she’s here we don’t get to discuss much.  As such, I thought I might reach out to others in a similar situation to see if we could make an online elementary art teacher’s community.  This is my attempt at doing so.

I have uploaded a few sub lessons I recently mined from the internet for use during some inservices I had to attend, and hope to add more as I have time to write them up, or find/ create more.  I also plan to post new lessons I’ve created on this blog to get feedback from others and for your use!

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