I always start the new school year by setting out invitations that will provoke thinking and learning about ourselves and our identities. Of course, this includes portraits! Creating portraits with a variety of mediums is one of my favourite concepts to teach. I’ve done it in every grade I’ve taught, but especially love it with small children. I’ve been waiting for Jude to begin to notice his features and be able to understand the concept of identity. Recently, Jude has begun to talk about his features that make him unique compared to others. “I have brown eyes. Like Mommy and Lulu! Not like Daddy.” So today, I set up a little invitation for him with a couple different sizes of mirrors and a black marker.
Kids love to stare at themselves in the mirror. Jude is constantly making faces in the mirror or telling stories to his reflection. Lulu has also started to be curious about her reflection in the mirror and the two of them can get pretty silly.
I knew Jude would be excited about staring at himself and grabbed for the mirror right away. He stared at himself for awhile. Smiling, scowling, and laughing into his reflection. I had to guide him a bit by inviting him to draw what he saw in the mirror on the paper. He frantically drew a circle over and over again. Then he made his eyes, mouth, and nose.
“There,” he said “all done!” He started to get down off the chair, but saw the rest of the markers and the different colours. He climbed back up and asked if I could pass him the markers. He looked at himself again in the mirror. I asked him if he would like to colour his picture. “Maybe your eyes?” “Sure!” He pulled his eyes down to really look closely. “They’re white! And black! And brown!” He quickly scribbled on the paper. Then he grabbed the pink. “What are you using the pink for?” “My ‘yips'”
After Jude had coloured his face, he stuck his tongue out to the mirror, grabbed the pink and added a tongue to his picture. He exclaimed he was all done. His first portrait looks like a scribble mess, and I adore it!
He was so proud of himself and really took the time to notice his features in the mirror. He then wanted to draw a portrait of his Uncle Kent. We labelled it to help Uncle Kent see his beard. (And yes, he drew a beer too!) Soon he was asking for me to draw. He was enthralled by the portraits I was making. Nana! Papa! Daddy! And even the dog! This was exciting. We had to go back and write down the names for everyone too.
After our little project ended, I noticed Jude talking to his little sister, telling her the colour of her eyes and hair. It was interesting to see him begin to notice these details that he hadn’t before. Our learning hasn’t stopped here. I will be continuing to place out open ended materials for Jude in order to focus his learning on his individual features. I’ll keep you posted as we go!