Students create a free-standing, self-portrait box sculpture that communicate ideas about their interests and personality using symbols and design elements.

Required Time

80 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 4 to Grade 8


Language Arts
Visual Arts


colour elements of design form sculpture


Crayola Coloured Pencils Crayola Glue Sticks Crayola Scissors White Cardstock Paper - 22 cm x 28 cm (8 ½" x 11") - 3 pieces per student Crayola Fine Line Markers - 12 Count

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SELF-PORTRAIT BOX SCULPTURE – Identity, Form, Colour - Step One

Step One

  1. Use the Small Box With A Lid worksheet. (Downloads - SmallBox.pdf)
  2. Follow the instructions to make 2 boxes with lids - one twice as big as the other.
    - Small box with a lid - 14 cm x 22 cm
    - Larger box with a lid - 22 cm x 28 cm 
  3. Mark an 'X' on the outer flaps as shown.
  4. You will NOT colour on the flaps marked with an 'X'.
SELF-PORTRAIT BOX SCULPTURE – Identity, Form, Colour - Step Two

Step Two

  1. The large box will be your shoulders to your waist.
  2. The small box will be your neck and head.
  3. Draw a design that includes your name and symbols of things that are important to you.
  4. Add shapes and repeated lines to break uo the space.
SELF-PORTRAIT BOX SCULPTURE – Identity, Form, Colour - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Use coloured pencils or markers to colour your design.
SELF-PORTRAIT BOX SCULPTURE – Identity, Form, Colour - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Glue the boxes together.
  2. Look at your selfie box with fresh eyes.
  3. What does it tell the viewer about you?
  4. What do you like best about your work? Why?

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • follow instructions to create 2 small boxes with lids;
  • use the boxes to create a three-dimensional, free-standing self-portrait;
  • use symbols and design elements to communicate ideas about their interests and personality;
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity;
  • support their ideas with evidence found in the works. 


Have students:

  • work in small groups;
  • organize their selfie boxes so that they look as if they are having a conversation;
  • write speech balloons for each person so that they make sense from any starting point;
  • attach the speech balloons to the sculptures;
  • present their work to the class.


  1. Prior to this lesson introduce the idea of symbolism and how certain shapes may have some universal meanings, for example:
    - Heart – love, togetherness, charity, compassion
    - Circle – eternity, it has no beginning or end, wholeness, perfection, heaven or sky
    - Rainbow – hope, peace, unity of all life, coming together of all people, bridge to heaven
    - Spiral – creation, growth, immortality, inner power
    - Star – gods and goddesses, hope, military rank and honour, goodness
    - Sun – masculine in some cultures (Asian), feminine in others (First Nations), power, divine, health
    - Beehive (Bees) - hard work, wisdom, obedience, working for pleasure
    - Butterfly – fire, joy, long life, transformation, summer
    - Palette – art, painter
    - Key – wealth, freedom, knowledge
    - Square – earth, stability, honesty, goodness
  2. Gather and make available books about symbolism and identity, for example, The Memory String, by Eve Bunting; The Other Side, by Jacqueline Woodson; Those Shoes, by Maribeth Boelts; The Boy & the Bindi, by Vivek Shraya, and Rajni Perera: Where Are You From?, by Yamile Saied Méndez, and Jaime Kim; The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family, by Ibtihaj Muhammad, and Hatem Aly; and The Name Jar, by Yangsook Choi.
  3. Download and display the Colour and Form posters available on this website.
  4. Download and print the Small Box With a Lid worksheet - enough for each student to have one. (Downloads - SmallBox.pdf)


  1. Conduct a read-aloud with a book such as the Name Jar, by Yangsook Choi focussing on what is important to Unhei's identity. 
  2. Ask students to write down 5 things that are important parts of their identity.
  3. Have students reflect on how they can show these ideas using symbols and colours.
  4. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Follow instructions to create 2 small boxes with lids - one twice as big as the other.
  2. Use the boxes to create a three-dimensional, free-standing self-portrait.
  3. Use symbols and design elements to communicate ideas about your interests and personality.
  4. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.
  5. Support your ideas with evidence found in the works. 

The Process

  1. Make sure everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students. For example,
    I know I am successful when I have:
    - followed instructions to accurately construct 2 boxes with lids
    - created a self-portrait box sculpture
    - communicated things about myself that are important to me
    - communicated my ideas using symbols and design elements
    - used contrasting colours to make details stand out
    - kept the artwork in good condition
  3. Discuss how the placement of objects can create areas of interest and emphasis that move the viewer's eye through the composition.
  4. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  5. Observe students as they work. 
  6. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Place students into small groups.
  2. Have them view each others' sculptures and to find 3 things they find interesting about one of them.
  3. During the discussion include references to:
    - composition - placement of elements to create movement
    - use of colour and symbol - how they add to the overall effectiveness of the work
    - contrast - how contrast is used to move the viewer's eye through the composition and make things stand out
    - feelings the work evokes
    - communication - what the self-portrait tells the viewer about the artist
  4. Display the sculptures in the classroom so students can view them as a body of work throughout the next few weeks.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss their self-portraits – speaks with a clear voice, looks at audience while speaking, points to areas in the self-portrait, provides accurate information, answers questions from the audience effectively.
  3. Observe students as they listen – looks at presenter, asks effective questions, supports ideas with evidence found in the artwork.
  4. Use a checklist to track progress. (Downloads – Self-PortraitBox_tracking.pdf)
  5. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Downloads – Self-PortraitBox_self-assessment.pdf)