3rd Grade Open-Ended Portraits

March 30, 2024 No Comments

Although all of my students work with a variety of different subject matter, my art curriculum is organized to dig deep into a different genre in each grade level. For each of these genres, students view and discuss historical and/or contemporary artwork in a brief slide show and learn about a variety of techniques related to the genre in a video (or live) demonstration. Students are then encouraged to create an artwork in the specified genre in a way that interests them as unique, individual artists.

Here are the genres that I cover in grades 1-5:

  • 1st Grade – Animals
  • 2nd Grade – Abstract (Color and Shape)
  • 3rd Grade – Portraits
  • 4th Grade – Landscapes
  • 5th Grade – Popular Culture

In this post, I’m going to share a lesson on portraits that I did with my 3rd graders

Students started by viewing the “museum” slide below. They were asked to identify an artwork that stood out to them and talk about why it caught their eye and what they noticed. We also discuss the style and the mood of the different pieces.

Next, students watched an 8 minute video that I created demonstrating portrait techniques. portrait (

The video is purposefully made to be brief (I don’t finish my own portrait in it), giving them just enough information to create their own portraits.

My Portrait Technique Video Covers:

  • Basic proportions and feature placement
  • Capturing a likeness
  • Adding details
  • Creating a background
  • Mixing skin tones

Students then set out to create their own unique portraits. First, they had to decide who their portrait would be of and what medium they would use. Students were encouraged to observe their subject, either by looking on-line for a reference image or using a mirror for self-portraits. The results included students’ hero’s, favorite singers and self-portraits in a variety of different media and styles.

Other Resources:

Art Subject Matter Genre Posters by Art Bliss | TPT (

Art Genre Appreciation Information Cards & Writing Reflection Sheets – Portraits (

Bilingual Spanish, English Art Media, Styles & Genre Posters by Art Bliss (

Lisa Blanchette

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Welcome to my blog! I’ve been an art teacher for over 20 years and have worked with a variety of age levels. I am passionate about art, teaching and learning. I’m excited to share lessons, resources, tips and tricks that I currently use in my elementary choice-based art room. Read More