We have a fabulous ongoing project at Stars English School this year which is called MY SELF PORTRAIT. This project has many objectives but the most important one for me personally, when thinking about our students is self-observation.
When a child is able to observe herself this means a bold and intimate declaration of self identity. Like make-believe play, narratives, and other meaning-making activities, producing art is a way children make sense of their worlds.
When we look at a self portrait what we are really seeing is how a child sees herself, and this in itself has a story to tell.
When working with art, and in this case their self portraits, children move from the concept of their real face (their concrete self) to a work of art that symbolizes the real thing (their iconic representation). This process creates a foundation for children to reach higher levels of symbolization in the future—for example, when the word nose (the abstract) represents a real nose. Art presents children with an important experiential bridge, helping them move from the concrete to the abstract world of words.
Laying out various art materials for this project on a table and allowing children to take time, explore and play with them is an essential part of the process. Examining the materials ahead of time heightens their curiosity and creates interest, prompts dialogue with peers, and allows them time to think about what pieces they might use to create their own self-portraits.
It’s beautiful to see children observing themselves using mirrors and photographs, followed by creating self-portraits. Throughout process children can explore facial expressions and artistically depict concepts such as “a brain that is happy,” “sad hands are closed,” and “eyes are shaped like a puddle” (Malaguzzi & Musatti 1996, 50–51).
This project will last throughout the year. Each beginning of the month our students at the Immersion Project and English Time groups at Stars English School will create a different self portrait, each time making use of different materials and being presented with various techniques and leaning how to put various fine motor skills to use. At the end of the year each child will have 11 works of art which they will have produced to admire. It’s very, very exciting, don’t you agree?
Last but not least, in fact a very active and real part of this process but which comes as a consequence and not necessarily the final objective is the use of the English language, which is repeated and very naturally exposed thus creating a meaningful link to the experience as a whole and a real connection between language and meaning.
Hope you enjoyed this post and really hope you can apply the idea to your classes 🙂