I have a tough group of 3rd graders this year. Not to say that mine are more tough than anyone. Simply, they’re tough. The class rosters, as we later learned, put some kids together that basically fuel each others fire. And before long, we (colleagues) collectively agreed that some of their attitudes possibly stem from the fact that many of them focus on negativity that they experience at home and around peers.
In hopes to bring a little life into their focus, I decided to scrap one of my upcoming lessons for a new approach. I combined goal setting with self portraits. I was inspired by an idea I saw on the Art Teachers group (Facebook) but now I go to find the link and I can’t. Sorry about that.
First, before any art, we had a heart to heart (look at that poetry). We talked about what it means to be a scholar (as we call our students at my school) and many of the things discussed were very positive. So, we came up with a list of adjectives (one of their literacy standards) that describe someone who might be a leader or a scholar. We also concluded that it doesn’t mean that all of those adjectives should describe you but it wouldn’t hurt to have a lot of them.
From there, we did a self-reflection about our own skills. Students first read through the adjectives and circled all of the ones that they felt applied to them. Next, students chose three of the words they didn’t circle and listed barriers for why they couldn’t. Finally, they chose one of the three they just reflected on and made a three-step plan to help them add that to their circled adjectives list.
Fearless, brave, creative, hard working, calm, friendly – the choices they made were varied and powerful. One-on-one conversation with them helped me see where some of their choices came from. Calm, because a student admitted he reacts with anger and needs to take more time to process the problem first. Hardworking, because a student felt as though they don’t try as hard as they know they could. Friendly, because the student doesn’t feel like they try to make friends but know they could. For third grade, this was a powerful and quiet moment for them to reflect on who they wanted to be in the future.
For the worksheet we used, see Self Reflection.
After setting our goals, students drew a simple self portrait with permanent marker. An artist to connect this to might be Modigliani. Instead of only drawing a self portrait, they used bubble letters to write their “goal adjective” at the top of their portrait – emphasizing that it would be them that would meet their goal as long as they stayed focused.
To bring the portraits to life, we revisited color theory and the warm/cool colors. They had been introduced to these before but it never hurts to revisit. We talked about feelings associated with these color families and unanimously agreed that our focus was ourselves and goal setting was powerful – thus, the portraits and word would be warm colors and the background would be cool colors.
As far as skill, students practiced blending their watercolors but had a previous lesson that prepped them for their use of watercolors. Check out these great in-progress shots of this lesson.
And here is a mind map my students helped create to show the “what”, “how”, and “why” of our unit.