SELF-PORTRAITS: Integrating Arts and the Language Arts

Author: Dr. Trina Melloy, PS 89 Queens

Lesson Preview This unit is composed of several modules: an Arts Module and a language arts module. The unit culminates in a portfolio of writing and art projects, including sketching, drawing, and painting.


The Arts
Responding to and analyzing works of art
Understanding the cultural dimensions and
Contributions of the arts
Producing a creative art composition

Language Arts

E1c: The student reads and comprehends informational
material to develop understanding and expertise and produces written work that extends ideas and makesconnections to related topics


E2: The student produces a narrative account in the form of an autobiographical and expository composition

Grades Upper Elementary and Intermediate School Levels

Subject Art, Language Arts

Activities 1. The Arts and Reading

Rembrandt Revisited- A review of Rembrandt’s life and major works.

Have students discuss selected paintings such as The Night Watch and Aristotle with the Bust of Homer. Have them also focus on self-portraits comparing earlier works by Rembrandt with later ones. Have them discuss the idea that the self-portrait can be considered a "memoir without words". Encourage students to draw their own self-portraits while looking into a mirror using charcoal Follow this up with additional self-portraits using drawing materials such as tempera, acrylic paints, and pastels.


Aristotle with the Bust of Homer




Have students paint their face. First, describe its basic shape; describe your eyes, their self-portrait using descriptive works. Point out that Rembrandt’s self-portraits were not just drawings of himself, but of emotions expressed by his face, such as surprise, joy, and worry. In fact, some people think that the word self-portrait wasn’t even used during the time of Rembrandt but came into use later.



Write three paragraphs describing your nose, ears, etc. Next, describe how you show your emotions with your face, and lastly, describe how you think your face will look when you reach various ages.

For another lesson, students were asked to go to texts such as "O.Henry’s Short Stories," "By the Shores of Silver Lake," and "Sarah, Plain and Tall" and copy three or four examples of facial descriptions used by the authors. Students read these to their classmates.



A pretest to assess student knowledge of Rembrandt’s life and works administered early in the year before the start of the unit.

Sample Questions:

a) When and where was Rembrandt born?
b) What sources did he use for the subjects of his works?
c) What other media besides paint did Rembrandt use

 A Student Attitudinal Inventory

Sample Questions:

a) Do you like to draw? Why or why not?
b) Do you like to draw your own face?
c) How do you feel about painting faces?
d) Is painting a face easier or harder than painting a landscape for you? Give your reasons.

Lesson Plan Index