Personalising learning – self-portraits

I love the book Being Creative by Chaz Pugliese. It’s full of great activities and ideas for personalising learning. It’s also a great book for new teachers to have around as it will encourage you to experiment.

I first used Being Creative a few years back when I was teaching lots of short courses. I had to do plenty of ‘Getting to know you’ lessons and I got a bit fed up with using the same old activities. I came across ‘Self-portraits’ (Being Creative, page 62 in my copy), and have used it ever since. It’s a fantastic way for finding out about your learners and to get them sharing their interests and achievements with each other.

Here’s an outline of the activity. I mainly use it with teen classes:

Ask students to draw a table in their books with three different columns (my ones below are a bit different to Pugliese’s)

portrait

(actually I make this 4 columns, including ‘two fun facts about me’)

Next, students write two of their own ideas in each column.

portrait1

Now it gets fun! Instruct students to draw a symbol to represent each idea. Model this well.

Explain to students that they are going to use their symbols to make a self-portrait. They need to put the symbols together to make a face (eyes, nose, ears, etc). Again, model doing this with your own symbols.

Stick the portraits around the room once they are complete. Have students ask each other questions about their portraits to find out about each other.

Here are some great examples of self-portraits from one of my recent classes.

portrait2

Activities in Being Creative are only described in brief. This activity really engages learners, but it needs a bit of tweaking to encourage learners to use more English. As I’ve mentioned before with teen classes, process language helps here…

portrait4

Encouraging students to use follow up questions is also worthwhile, so you don’t end up with short conversations…

A: You’re eyes are footballs… so you like football?

B: Yeah…

A: … What team do you support?

B: Arsenal

Etc.

Make sure you monitor while the students are drawing so you can make a note of words you might need to pre-teach.

Plus, telling learners they will report back on what they found out should give them a purpose for listening.

Anyway, I can’t take the credit for the activity itself (thanks Chaz) but let me know if you try it out and how it goes!

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