the handout with the reproductions
of the portraits. This facilitated
analysis and discussion as they
decided which written description
corresponded to each picture.
What is the purpose of a portrait?
How did this particular artist represent the individual in this portrait?
What does the style, the choice of
colors, the use of light, etc., convey about this painting? What is
your reaction? These were some
of the questions that the students
discussed about the portraits. Then
I told them my plan to go to the
school’s art studio for our hands-on
project: painting a self-portrait in
the style of one of the artists that
we had studied.
I asked students to write a one-page composition (in Spanish)
explaining which artist they were
going to investigate and how they
were going to paint their self-portrait. I also asked them to bring a
photograph they could use for inspiration. Our art teacher, as usual,
was glad to give the students some
tips about the use of watercolors,
crayons, and other media.
By combining what we had
learned in class with the personal
nature of self-portraits, student
learning became individualized and
relevant to their experience.
Once their portraits were finished,
the class tried to identify the nineteen self-portraits featured in our
class exhibit. Since I had tried to
have the students work away from
each other, it was the first time they
saw their classmates’ work. Working in small groups, they wrote
down who they thought the artist was, which painter each artist
used as inspiration, and why they
thought that this was so.
Needless to say, this brought
about some lively disagreements,
insightful conversation, and that
classroom laughter which brings a
group together while making learning more engaging. In the end, as
Erica pointed out, “this activity was
fun and refreshing, bringing the
material to life, as if I was living
my artist’s life for a few hours.”
Jose M. Palos is a Spanish teacher and the
curriculum and assessment leader at the
Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora, Illinois.
Students make connections
between visual arts and other disciplines.