In this first-day-of-school lesson, students engage in a read-aloud of the picture book, The Pigeon HAS to Go to School! They also look at the expressive self-portraits of Frida Kahlo. Students then draw their own self-portraits that express how they are feeling about the first day of school. The head of their portrait is glued to a pre-cut pigeon body.
Inspired by The Pigeon HAS to Go to School!, these expressive self-portraits depict how students were feeling during the first day of school.
The lesson ends with students sharing their portraits and completing the prompt: My name is ___ and I am feeling ___ about the first day of school.
This lesson teaches students about how expressions they make can reveal to others what theyʼre feeling. Students will learn that their classmates might have similar feelings or entirely different ones, and thatʼs okay. Giving students the opportunity to express their emotions helps them to feel a sense of belonging.
Start by asking students: How are you feeling about the first day of school? Can you make a face that expresses that feeling? Did you know that many artists like to express how they are feeling on various days in their lives by creating self-portraits?
Then tell students: Today we are going to listen to a story and learn about an expressive artist. After that, weʼll create our own self-portraits.
Reading and Reflecting
Before reading The Pigeon HAS to Go to School!, task students with paying attention to the faces Pigeon makes throughout the book and how those faces express different feelings. Read the book and guide students in a discussion. Ask: What did you notice about the faces Pigeon makes? How was Pigeon feeling about the first day of school? Then share a variety of self-portraits by Frida Kahlo. Ask students what they see, focusing on feelings and expression.
Give each student a handheld mirror. Encourage them to look in the mirror and make the same face they made when asked how they felt about the first day of school. Next, hand students a small sheet of paper with their name written on the back. Lead them in a step-by-step demonstration of how to draw a face. Students follow along and keep in mind how they are feeling about the first day of school. Students complete their portraits and add color with crayons or markers. Assist students individually as needed while they finish their portraits.
To complete the pigeon part of the portrait, students glue their drawing on the top of a pre-cut pigeon body. Have students share their pigeon portraits and complete the following prompt: My name is ___ and I am feeling ___ about the first day of school. After each introduction, the teacher can respond, “Welcome ___. I am so glad you are here.”
A wonderful way to conclude this lesson would be for the teacher to create a back-to-school display featuring the pigeon portraits.
Julia L. Hovanec is an associate professor of art education at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania.
Creating: Conceiving and developing new artistic ideas and work.
Art teachers guide students through activities that help them to learn about their peers and encourage self-expression. Young students create playful self-portraits that share how they are feeling about the first day of school, elementary students collaborate in a surrealism-inspired game of chance, middle-school students assemble name tags for every teacher in their school, and high-school students express their personal interests through colorful cell phone wallpaper artworks.