You Are More Than What You See
This innovative 8th grade art project helped students look at themselves in a very different way.
Written in Collaboration with Jordana Rochkind, Middle School Art Teacher
When Mrs. Rochkind’s announced to her 8th grade art students that they were to create self- portraits, the initial feedback from her students was - ‘oh no!’. "They were concerned about their ability to draw faces and features," stated Mrs. Rochkind. But the 8th graders were in for a surprise. These self-portraits were going to be featureless! Mrs. Rochkind explained the task to her students who were curious to know more - “Create a self-portrait incorporating color psychology and text to represent who you are.”
The portrait was to include the general outline of the student’s head, with the option to include one feature if they wished (most didn’t). The students then made a list of words they felt reflected who they were and thought about color psychology before choosing colors they felt best represented them, such as happy yellows and energetic oranges, passionate reds for leadership and motivation, peaceful pinks, harmonic greens, and soothing blues.
The project also incorporated text. “The students were excited and surprised at the idea of incorporating text into the artwork,” stated Mrs. Rochkind. “I had them consider how the type of font, the size, and placement of the words were meaningful as well as considering the size of the text to emphasize or de-emphasize the words.”
“Kids, particularly in middle school, can become self-conscious when asked to do a self-portrait. This project allowed the students to paint a portrait of themselves that said more about them than their physical attributes.” - Jordana Rochkind, Middle School Art Teacher
How did the students respond to this project? “The students really got into it,” stated Mrs. Rochkind. “Kids, particularly in middle school, can become self-conscious when asked to do a self-portrait. This project allowed the students to paint a portrait of themselves that said more about them than their physical attributes.” Mrs. Rochkind also likes to make the projects relevant to her students and loves to give them creative choices. “It is important that the art they create is relevant to them. The students really enjoyed the featureless self-portrait project because it was about them and gave them the opportunity to express themselves in a different way - through color as well as words.”
Once the students complete their projects, they have two opportunities to reflect on their work. One is a self-critique using a Rubric with a set of criteria such as effort, craftsmanship (not skill), etc. The second is a group reflection where the class looks at each project and discusses what makes it unique, how it makes them feel, and how they think it is successful. “I don’t grade the students on skills, but on craftsmanship instead,” stated Mrs. Rochkind. “Craftsmanship looks at the time and care they put into their creations, not their technical skills. I want the students to know that anyone can be successful at art”.
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