Purpose: Make inferences about character/subject from an image. Work with a group to translate those choices into a physical depiction.
Materials/Playing Space: Portrait reproductions (one for each group), Costume items (hats, scarves, flowers, etc.) if desired, but not necessary for the activity.
Description: Divide class into groups or 3 or 4. Give each group a portrait. Ask groups to look at their assigned portraits carefully and determine some of the qualities of the person depicted. Have them choose 3 adjectives (descriptive words) that best fit this person. (For instance, adjectives for a portrait of Alexander the Great might include fearless, aggressive, and arrogant.) Direct the groups to create a new portrait with their bodies that exemplifies the three adjectives they chose. For each new portrait, one person will be the model and the other students will be the artists. The artists will decide how the model must look and pose (body placement and facial expression). Groups may use costume items to help communicate the adjectives they have chosen. Once they have determined the model’s appearance, each group will share their creation and explain their choices to the rest of the class.
Possible Variations: Have the new portrait come to life. Interview the new portrait after it has come to life. When the groups share their portraits, have the rest of the class guess what adjectives they were working with.
Notes/Sidecoaching: “When choosing adjectives, look closely at details in the portrait.”
“Artists, use care when placing the model. Treat them with respect.”
Debrief: How would you describe the person in this new portrait? What do the costume or gestural details tell you? In what other situations are judgments made based on images?
Integration Ideas: Descriptive language, visual literacy, character development, historical/literary figures