Student Task

Identity Self-Portraits

Do Something
Grade Level


Students create visual self-portraits that contain symbols representing the student’s identity, beliefs, values or areas of interest related to diversity, anti-bias or social justice.

Estimated time

One week


Identity self-portraits give students an opportunity for self-understanding by encouraging them to reflect on different facets of their identities. By identifying symbols to include, students think more deeply about their values, interests and beliefs. By displaying them, they give others insight into students’ multi-layered identities.


Get Ready

  1. Introduce the concept of identity portraits. Model the creation of an identity portrait for students, perhaps with another teacher known to the class.
  2. Facilitate a discussion about a character or figure from the central text and how their identity and actions represent social justice themes. As a class, brainstorm symbols that represent the identity and themes under discussion (e.g., scales of justice, Star of David, etc.).
  3. If possible, provide students with access to mirrors so they can see themselves as they sketch.
  4. Adapt the sample rubric into a visual checklist for students. Refer to the rubric to define expectations and components of an identity self-portrait before students begin working.

Get Set

  1. Verbally introduce students to the preparatory steps included in the Do Something Planning Guide. Instruct them in the process of mapping the steps necessary to prepare for their identity self-portrait.
  2. Allow students time to create identity self-portraits in the medium of their choice (collage, watercolor, colored pencil, etc.). Each portrait should include symbols in the background representing their identity, diversity, anti-bias, social justice, values or beliefs. For example, a student whose family is from Puerto Rico might include a Puerto Rican flag in her portrait, or a student who values peace and nonviolence could add a peace sign in his portrait background.


  1. Organize a gallery walk for students to admire the portraits and leave feedback, comments or connections on sticky notes.
  2. If students feel comfortable, consider displaying the portraits outside of the classroom so other members of the school community can observe student’s work. For younger students who write mainly in invented spelling, post correctly spelled versions of the writing so others can read student’s ideas.


Facilitate a conversation or assign a journal assignment about how students’ identity self-portraits reflected central text themes. Some suggested reflection questions include:

  • What did you learn about yourself through the process?
  • How is your self-portrait similar to and different from your classmates’ self-portraits?
  • How do the themes in the central text connect to how you represent your identity?

English language learners

Identity self-portraits provide students with a creative way to demonstrate understanding through a task that is not purely language-based. This task focuses on spatial/artistic and intra-personal learning modalities.

Connection to anti-bias education

The process of creating self-portraits teaches students to think deeply about identities, values, interests and beliefs, all central to the goals of anti-bias education. Students gain a better understanding of the diversity within their class and reflect on their own identities.

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