A Self Portrait: Art Lesson Plans for Kindergarten Through First Grade

A Self Portrait: Art Lesson Plans for Kindergarten Through First Grade

This is a short art lesson plan for little ones, encouraging them to celebrate the diversity that is them, while helping them to understand symmetry, portrait and self portrait art, some art history, and having a lovely keepsake at the end of the project for the parents.

Image via Wikipedia

Image via Wikipedia

Outcome:To practice and accomplish the correct placement of features onto a face.  To practice the fine art of observation-to see what you are looking at, not what you expect to be there.  To introduce symmetry in nature.  Art History-Show famous portraits and self portraits (I always do Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, da Vinci –Mona Lisa, and Whister’s Mother).  Talk about the difference between a portrait and a self portrait.

Materials: White paper, 8 ½ x 11, colored pencils being sure to provide many different skin tones and variations on hair and eye color, regular #2 pencils (preferably without erasers), one small mirror of reflective surface for each child, and 9×12 construction paper of various colors to mount the finished portraits on.  Various reproductions of portraits for the teacher to talk about and the children to examine.  For the teacher, a white board and dry erase markers, or a large piece of white paper on which to create a sample self portrait with markers.

Finished Product: A self portrait that can be displayed and cherished, and a better understanding of the type of art known as the ‘portrait’.


  1. Show examples of portraits and talk about why a portrait is different from a landscape and different from a still-life.  Talk about the various artists and show examples of self portraits and well as others, and talk about how photographs are portraits. 
  2. On a white board, or other large piece of paper create a self portrait looking at a mirror.  Have the children look at a neighbor and note the shape of the head is not a circle, the eyes are more like footballs, everyone has pinkish lips (not just girls), and there are many different skin tones and eye colors.  Show the children the placement of the features on the head, including ears and eyebrows.
  3. Pass out pencils, white paper, and mirrors to each child.  Write names on the back of papers and then flip over.
  4. Encourage the children to look at the mirrors before drawing and begin with the oval of the face, making it large on the paper.  Walk around and help where needed, asking the children to work with mistakes rather than correcting with erasers.  Mistakes are how we learn and in art they are beautiful!
  5. Talk about where the nose goes on the middle of the face next, having the children touch their nose and talk about the shapes and that we all have nostrils.
  6. Repeat for each feature, checking for understanding and helping where needed.  Encourage them to look often at their mirror, noting colors and shapes as they go.
  7. Pass out colored pencils for details.  Note how one color is close to someone’s skin by holding the pencil up to it.  Do this a couple of times.
  8. When children are finished (may take more than one session) have them mount on colored paper and display in their own portrait gallery before sending home. 

Other lesson plans:


Getting Kids in Touch with Texture: Activities for the Young

Lesson Plans for Kindergarten: Art Clay Incense Burners



Liked it
cutedrishti8, posted this comment on Sep 2nd, 2009

Nice one to share..Great work..

raman13, posted this comment on Sep 2nd, 2009

Nicely Written

Best Regards

athena goodlight, posted this comment on Sep 2nd, 2009

Nice idea. We haven’t done this before. Thanks for sharing this lesson. :)

Joe Dorish, posted this comment on Sep 2nd, 2009

Sounds good Annie, my sister teaches art but on the college level.

Daisy Peasblossom, posted this comment on Sep 2nd, 2009

I’ve done similar exercises with my students. It is always fun to see what they come up with.

Purnomosidhi, posted this comment on Sep 2nd, 2009

Interesting Art Lesson Plan! Your writing contributes idea for education :-)

giftarist, posted this comment on Sep 3rd, 2009

Very interesting

Yovita Siswati, posted this comment on Sep 3rd, 2009

Thanks for sharing your idea. My daugher and I would like the activity.

Tlchimes, posted this comment on Sep 8th, 2009

I’m a homeschooling mother and this is a great lesson that I can actually use with all of my children adapting it slightly to each grade (10th, 4, K, and preschool)

Get job, I can’t wait to see some of your other works.

Erin Miller, posted this comment on Nov 25th, 2011


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