Thursday, May 16, 2013

and now the lesson that was TOO HOT for SCHOOLARTS!

Not really, but kind of.  
I wrote up my lesson on Monster Portraits and submitted it to SchoolArts.  Their dedicated and wonderful editor simply told me they'd probably get some letters about it. (Okay, it could be seen as morbid!  I get it.) So, it was not accepted.  Not a big deal, since some of my other projects may be gracing SchoolArts fine pages again soon.

Here it is, for the first time in print:  MONSTER PORTRAITS (or the Zombie Apocalypse)!  Inspired originally by this post.

Getting fourth graders excited to draw another self-portrait was a daunting task.  I have students draw a portrait each year to see their progression, and because it is a great skill to keep practicing.  The week we drew self-portraits in sketchbooks was full of groans.  I knew I had to make this project more meaningful for my students, or would just be a waste of time.

Fourth grade recently finished a unit on 19th century architecture, and I thought tying in the portraits to 19th century photography might be fun.  I searched the Internet for examples of the 200-year-old sepia portraits.  Each one was creepier then the next.  Stoic, pale faces filled my screen.  This wasn’t going to entice my students one bit, it might scare them.

I had found a way to make their self-portraits meaningful – Monster portraits.  My students were always telling me about the scary movies they watched or zombie video game they played.  I introduced this lesson by showing the sepia-toned photographs.  I discussed the old-fashioned photography techniques and how this tied in with our architecture unit.  Students came to the conclusion on their own that the portraits looked scary.  I then gave each child two-pieces of small watercolor paper.

Together we drew two portraits.  We mapped out both faces for perfect proportion.  Students used mirrors to finish off their heads, neck and shoulders.  They did groan and moan but I kept telling them the next part would be really fun!

Using the element of surprise I explained that one portrait would remain a true self-portrait, while the other would become a monster portrait.  We brainstormed what monsters still look like humans.  Zombies, vampires, werewolves, and devils were the most popular.

Students then had the task of morphing one of their portraits into a monster.  We looked at photos of movie monsters and drawings done by others.  We looked at sunken cheeks and torn skin, fangs and ratted hair. 

Fourth graders used watercolor based markers to paint their portraits.  We outlined with brown markers and added other colors to highlight our portraits.  We used wet brushes to draw the color into the portrait and background so it resembled the 19th century hand colored photography.

By the way, my photos for SchoolArts were too big for me to upload onto my school computer(?) so I took these with my phone.  I hope it gives you an idea of what the kids came up with! 

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