Drawing Self Portraits and Building Positive Self Talk



I am not an artist working on improving my artistic skills (see what I did there… I replaced that negative self talk with something a bit more positive!).  Although I am getting better, I can’t deny the fact that I can barely draw a dog to save my life.  Once, I was trying to draw a dog on an anchor chart and when I was done, a very honest 8 year old commented, “That looks like a dog-chicken!”


Needless to say, I was thrilled when I found this gem of a video! I was actually looking for videos that would help me teach my students, but I found something even better… an art teacher to teach my students! Ha! I could not resist using this YouTube video as my ‘substitute art teacher’ for a solid 6 minutes and 29 seconds!:

The video is targeted towards kindergarten kids but I think this aspect makes it perfect for students of any grade! When it comes to directions, children and adults alike benefit from slow, step-by-step instructions (I know I do!). Also, many of my students are ESL learners, so this video was just perfect for them too!

The great thing about using a video to teach art is that you can pause, rewind or re-play the lesson   for  students who need extra time or just need to   re-visit a step. I loved this aspect of using video to teach my portrait lesson!

To help her draw her portrait, the artist uses a mirror. I don’t have 20 mirrors in my class… BUT our school has an iPad cart… so, my kiddos put it in selfie mode and used this to attend to the details of their faces. I thought this was a brilliant idea (if I do say so myself)! Students also practiced taking portrait style photographs of each other which was a fun way to add a quick mini lesson on photography.  They had the option of using their photograph or “selfie mode” to help them as they worked on their portraits.

Here is an example of how they turned out!



I read the book, “The Way I Act”, by Steve Metzger.

{Note: The posters seen in this picture can be found HERE}

This book is PERFECT for inspiring students to build positive self talk and it was a great tool for sparking dialogue amongst my students. Bonus: The image on the cover was a good reminder of what a portrait entails – a close up shot, from the shoulders down!.

As I read each page, I turned to my class and asked them to reflect upon a time when they demonstrated each character trait mentioned in the book. By asking them to reflect, and share memories that highlighted their character, I was getting them to build evidence to support their beliefs about themselves. This exercise strengthens and shapes positive self talk. Saying words like “I am ….” is powerful, especially when supported by events in one’s life because it helps to strengthen the belief.  Tony Robbins – you know, the energetic author and motivational speaker – encourages this exercise in his books.

My students were displaying all sorts of positive self-talk as they shared their stories. Let me tell you, it is heart warming to hear young children reflect upon moments when they were courageous, or accomplishments that made them proud! My heart melted several times during this sharing period!

As I read the story, I also introduced synonyms for each character trait by referring to my character posters. {You can get a free poster HERE!}.  Along with the posters, I use raffles to positively reinforce my students for demonstrating specific character traits. Praising children in this way helps to build positive self talk because these words of affirmation (saying things like, “Wow! You are so responsible!”) influences how a child will perceive him/herself.

I love all the positive words my students used to describe themselves!  Just look at how perfect these turned out:

Not only do I love how these turned out… the best part is… I’m over hearing my students use this vocabulary in their conversations with each other.

For example, the other day one of my students said to me, (after quietly observing me getting frustrated with annoying tech issues I was having):

“Mrs. Pinkerton, remember?! PERSEVERE!!!!“.

This made my day, not only because she used this fabulous ‘spiced up’ word but because if she was telling me to persevere, she is likely to use such vocabulary when faced with a challenge of her own. This is what self-talk is all about!

Of course the beauty of having an 8 yr old tell you to persevere is just perfect all on its own!