7th September 2007 at 01:00
Ask children to create abstract portraits and you could get a better understanding of their artistic and mathematical skills. Lucy Blackburn tells you how

Having got my Year 1 children to explore their own bodies and faces in science (for the unit Ourselves), I then applied this to an art lesson, getting them to create Picasso-style portraits.

We looked at Picasso originals on the internet. Understandably, the children thought they were hilarious. I was quick to demonstrate and encourage artistic appreciation of these famous masterpieces.

The children discussed their favourite portraits, the colours and shapes used. Next, at the tables, the children began their own Picasso-style portraits.

I helped some children to draw an outline of a face first. Although some artists need to create mess and mayhem to create a masterpiece, we don't always have the time or resources to deal with that, so some teachers may prefer to use gummed squares for the children to lick and stick instead of glue.

You could also have some coloured pencilschalkcrayons (or whatever the children have not yet used in the unit) to colour between shapes and for slower stickers to finish with.

That week we had focused on shape in numeracy and so the children were using and applying their knowledge of shape in their art work. It is a good opportunity to assess their knowledge of shape names and to perhaps introduce tessellation to those children who need to be extended. Children with English as an additional language can benefit from saying the colours and shapes in a fun, interactive way and any special needs children may make visual patterns from the shapes and colours to make their portrait.

As this is an open activity that does not rely heavily on fine motor skills, all children can access it and be proud of their work. Children can also write a caption to hang next to their portrait in the art gallery

Lucy Blackburn teaches art at Holy Family Catholic Primary, Wortley, Leeds

What you need

Gummed squares, in a variety of shapes and colours, glue, pencils, cartridge paper, coloured pencils, chalk, crayons.


To learn about differences and similarities in the work of artists.

To investigate the possibilities of a range of materials and processes.

To ask and answer questions about the starting points for their work.

To develop their ideas to represent observations, ideas and feelings.

To design and make a portrait.

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