Implementation of ‘Selfies of the Past’ (SOI-IT-91)

I have implemented the scenario by Mark Busuttil, Selfies of the Past, with my 5th-grade pupils. It was incredibly exciting to discover how they saw both the others and themselves.

Introduction to the topic

In the first lesson (ca. 40 mins) I introduced the topic showing a presentation about “selfies” of the past. The pupils watched some Europeana resources as in the original scenario and other pictures I chose (for example a miniature of Queen Elizabeth I or a black and white picture of Charles Dickens, or one of Vincent Van Gogh’s self-portraits).

They were very curious to know more about portraits and self – portraits and their techniques (engravings, paintings, photos…). Then I elicited the purposes of portraits in the past and nowadays with two questions. Pupils used Mentimeter to answer questions as a home assignment. They were thrilled to show their parents how to use the site, they told me.

Portraits: what purposes?

In the second lesson (ca. 30 mins), we discussed the results of the brainstorming on Mentimeter. Most children thought that the main purposes of portraits in the past were conveying power and creating memories. Moreover, they believed portraits were especially used by influential and powerful people such as kings or queens, rather than common people. We briefly discussed the feelings that people wanted to convey in the past using gestures, postures or objects as well as the different styles of artists or illustrators.

Photographer for a day

Then I asked them to imagine how they would portrait some of their schoolmates by taking pictures. In groups of three, they had to plan their portraits considering postures and lights. Then they took turns in taking pictures using IPads. They had great fun. They acted really “professionally” asking their schoolmates to assume certain postures or to move under the right light.

In the last lesson (ca. 40 mins) they finally drew their own portraits using IPads as mirrors. It was really interesting and funny for them and somehow embarrassing. They created a class art gallery called ‘How others see me/how I see myself’ (Come mi vedono gli altri/come mi vedo io) that will be shown to other pupils of 5th-grade classes in order to invite them to participate in the same activity.

At the end of the project, I handed them an exit slip so they could self assess their knowledge and appreciation of the tasks.

Final considerations

This learning scenario was really inspiring and it suited well the topic of personal discovery as well as the 21st Skills: Creativity, Communication and Critical thinking.

The children were really inspired and motivated by the visions of portraits of the past and, of course, of the present moment. It was engaging to discuss the use of analogical tools such as pencils, pastels or felt – tip pens and digital tools such as tablets and mobile phones to portrait people. As a matter of fact, students emphasised that a photo was much faster and “simpler” than a drawing or painting but less complex and deep. They were also so curious to learn more about the lives of people in the paintings (Vincent Van Gogh, Charles Dickens or other famous people) that they asked me to write their biographies.

Did you find this story of implementation interesting? Why don’t you read about the related learning scenario:

Selfies of the Past by Mark Busuttil

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The featured image used to illustrate this article belongs to the public domain.

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