My Self-Portrait

Invite students to create and share artwork that expresses their unique identity.
Ages 8-14 / 60
min Activity
Perspective Taking
Social Studies


  • ‍Create a self-portrait that depicts different aspects of their identity
  • ‍Use the Observe-Think-Feel process to explore each other’s artwork and perspectives

Supporting Research

Researchers believe that a self-portrait captures more than a person’s appearance - it shows their “inner life” which includes their emotions, thoughts, and experiences, and expresses how they want to be perceived by others. Educators should encourage students to practice self-awareness as they decide which aspects of their identity to include in their self-portraits, and perspective taking to imagine what others wanted to express about themselves in their artwork. 

To learn more about these skills, and how they promote students’ healthy growth and the development of empathy, please check out our Empathy Framework.


  • ‍Art materials (e.g., pens, pencils, markers, crayons, and paint)

Activity Partners

Optional Resources

To use this activity as part of Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (May), explore artwork created by artists of the AAPI community, hosted by The New York Times and YES! Magazine. Encourage students to use the Observe-Think-Feel process (described below) to reflect on how each artist has expressed their unique identity, experiences, and culture through their self-portrait.


  1. Introduce the activity to students. You might say: “We’ll be working on self-portraits that focus on our identity. Our identity goes beyond our appearance - it’s what makes us “us”. It includes who we are, who others say we are, and who we hope to be. When we think about our identity, we might consider our ethnic or cultural background, values, personality, hobbies, interests, goals, and so much more. What are some important parts of your identity?”
  2. Ask students to write down characteristics that they want to include in their self-portrait. Then, help them brainstorm different ways that they might represent these characteristics, such as through the poses, facial expressions, colors, symbols, settings, text, and other details that they include in their artwork.

    For example, a student who plays the piano might incorporate musical notes in their self-portrait, or a student who cares about the environment might use leaves and other natural materials as part of their artwork.

    Encourage them to be creative in using any format of their choice, such as a painting, drawing, collage, photograph, or digital platform.
  3. After students finish their self-portraits, create a physical or digital “gallery walk” so they can share their artwork with each other. For example, consider using the Canva template below, which can be accessed through this link.

    As students view their classmates’ artwork, guide them to use the Observe-Think-Feel process by reflecting on the following questions:
    Observe: What details do they notice in the art? What words would they use to describe it?
    Think: What does the art make them think about? What do they think the artist was trying to express about themselves?
    Feel: How does the art make them feel? How might the artist feel about themselves and their identity?

    Encourage students to share comments about their classmates’ self-portraits, including any compliments on the artwork and questions for the artist.
  4. After the gallery walk, lead a group reflection by asking the following questions:
    • Describe the process of creating your self-portrait. How did you decide what to share about yourself? What did you want people to know about you from looking at your artwork?
    • What is something that surprised you about another person’s self-portrait? How did it help you understand them better?
    • Is there a difference in how we see ourselves compared to how others see us? Are there parts of someone’s identity that others might miss just by looking at them?

If students in both classes have individual devices (e.g., mobile phone, tablet, laptop, etc.)...

Use a platform such as Google Meet, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams which allows you to screen-share during a video call. 
One educator should set up the Kahoot! game and share the code with students in both classes by following this tutorial about using Kahoot! in a remote learning environment, and share their screen so everyone can follow along.

If students in either class don’t have individual devices...

Follow the same instructions above, with one educator starting the game and sharing their screen so both classes can follow along.  
Instead of students joining the game to answer the questions, they can hold up their fingers, call out their answer, or use a paper template to indicate their response.

If you prefer not using Kahoot!...

Use this document (Spanish version) to prompt students.