Frida Kahlo and Expression Through Self-Portraits Lesson Plan
Students learn about the Mexican painter, then create self-portraits while considering the question, "What is important to you?"
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5
- Unit Plan:
The students will learn about Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. The students will brainstorm what is important to them, and then include these things in their own self-portrait.
- Learn how to make a self-portrait
- Learn about the life of Frida Kahlo
- Smart About Art: Frida Kahlo, the Artist Who Painted Herself by Margaret Frith
- Whiteboard or chart paper
- Whiteboard markers or markers for chart paper
- Print of The Frame by Frida Kahlo, along with several other self-portrait prints by Frida Kahlo
- Mirrors, one per student
- 9- by 12-inch white construction paper, one sheet per student
- Frida by Jonah Winter
- A ball of yarn
- Construction paper in various colors, slightly larger than 9- by 12-inches
Set Up and Prepare
- Source the examples of Frida Kahlo self-portraits. An inexpensive way to get terrific prints of artists' work is to buy calendars, especially out-of-date calendars that are often sold at big discounts.
- At the top of the whiteboard or chart paper, write: What Is Important to You?
- Underneath the question, make a large capital T to divide the chart in half.
- On one side of the T-chart, write "Frida Kahlo." On the other side write "Our Class."
Step 1: Read the book Smart About Art: Frida Kahlo: The Artist Who Painted Herself by Margaret Frith. Brainstorm different things that were important to Kahlo. Write down the responses on the T-chart under her name.
Step 2: Tell the class that Kahlo is known for her self-portraits. Ask the class what a self-portrait is. Bring out more prints of Kahlo's self-portraits to show the class.
Step 3: Give each student a mirror. Invite them to look at themselves in the mirror. The students may partner up with a buddy to tell each other what color his/her hair is, what color his/her eyes are, what the shape of his/her face and eyes are, etc.
Step 4: Invite them to start drawing themselves! (Head and shoulders only.) Use a pencil to model for the students how to make a big circle or oval on the white construction paper for the face. Draw eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. I give different examples on the board for how to draw the parts of a face. Draw a neck and then the shoulders going down to the bottom of the page.
Step 1: Read the book Frida by Jonah Winter. Discuss the story and add responses to the T-chart about what was important to Kahlo.
Step 2: Continue self-portraits with mirrors. Model for students and lightly outline all the pencil marks with a brown crayon. Invite students to add color to their self-portraits with crayon. They should add color to the skin, eyes, mouth, hair, and eyebrows.
Step 1: Revisit the stories about Kahlo, reviewing the things that were important to her. Now have the students think about what is important to them.
Step 2: Complete the T-chart with the Weave a Web activity.
Weave a Web Activity
- Divide the group in half. Send half of the students to classroom centers or to work on individual assigments.
- Instruct the remaining half of the students to sit in a circle.
- Pose the question, "What is important to you?" to one student.
- Write the student's answer on the "Our Class" side of the T-chart.
- Now instruct him or her to toss the ball of yarn to the person sitting opposite, without letting go of the yarn.
- Repeat steps 3-5 for each student.
- Once all of the students have shared and received a part of the yarn ball, it should look like a spider web. Invite each student to, one at a time, drop his or her string.
- Discuss what would happen if we didn't work as a group — the answer is that everything would fall apart.
Step 3: Switch groups and do the same Weave a Web activity with the students who were at centers.
Step 4: Continue self-portraits by having the students draw pictures of what is important to them on the outside area of their self-portraits.
Step 1: Have the students fill in all the white areas on their self-portraits. Invite them to add more color and detail to the pictures.
Step 2: Mount the kids' self-portraits onto construction paper that is larger than the portraits, thereby forming a frame.
Step 3: Have the students tell you what is important to them. Type up their responses and add the dictation to the bottom of the picture.
Step 4: Display the self-portraits so everyone can see the students' beautiful artwork.
Supporting All Learners
For my English-language learners: I pair them with an English-only model to work with and sit next to. If my English-language learner is having trouble responding to the question about what is important to them, I let them point to a picture or a real object.
For my more advanced learners: I add a writing component. Ask them to write about what is important to them.
- Read the book Diego by Jeanette Winter to learn about Diego Rivera and his artwork. Create a story based on Rivera's murals and paintings, for instance, The Flower Vendor.
- Paint a class mural.
- Create a Venn diagram about Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.
Invite the parents in to see the students' self-portraits. Suggest that families begin kindergarten scrapbooks for their children.
- Create a self-portrait at home.
- Name all the things that are important to them around the house.
- Name all the parts of the face.
Were the students able to work independently while drawing their self-portraits? Did the students have difficulty with the concept of a "self-portrait"?
- Can the students express what is important to them?
- Can the students draw and color themselves with their true attributes?
- Can the students tell one fact about Frida Kahlo?
- Can the students identify what a self-portrait is?