Symbolism and the Self-Portrait Silhouette Collage – 5th Grade

Symbolism and the Self-Portrait Silhouette Collage 5th Grade

This lesson will introduce students to the art concepts of symbolism, collage and silhouette. The students will study the works of such collage artists as Romare Bearden and Richard Hamilton in an attempt to understand that imagery can be used to communicate a thought or idea. They will be creating a collage, using images that communicate important things in their lives, within the positive space of a silhouette of their profile. If time allows, the students can also create a collage background, incorporating the positive cutout of their profile, which communicates how their physical surroundings influence who they are (see teacher examples in the gallery).



NAEA.VA.5-8.1 CONTENT STANDARD: Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes
NAEA.VA.5-8.4 CONTENT STANDARD: Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures.

Common Core

SL.5.4. Report on a topic or text or present an opinion, sequencing ideas logically and using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.

Illinois Visual Arts Standards

IL.25.A Standard: Understand the sensory elements, organizational principles and expressive qualities of the arts.

IL.26.A Standard: Understand processes, traditional tools and modern technologies used in the arts.

Colorado Visual Arts Standard

Standard: 1. Observe and Learn to Comprehend

– Concepts to Master – 2. Visual arts communicate the human experience.

Standard: 2. Envision and Critique to Reflect

– Concepts to Master – 2. Specific methods of planning support the development of intended meaning.

Standard: 3. Invent and Discover to Create

– Concepts to Master – 1. Use artistic media and expression to communicate personal and objective points of view.

Standard: 4. Relate and Connect to Transfer

– Concepts to Master – 1. Artists, viewers, and patrons assign intended meaning to works of art.


Students will know (knowledge):

  1. The students will know that symbolism is the practice of representing something with a visual image
  2. The students will know that a collage or assemblage is a technique of art that incorporates individual pieces of found imagery to great a single larger whole.

Students will be able to (define by audience, behavior, conditions):

    1. The students will be able to use imagery to communicate an idea, thought or feeling.
    2. The students will be able to create a silhouette collage.
    3. The students will be able to present their collage and explain the imagery they used and why.

Essential Question:

How can an image be used to communicate an idea, thought or feeling?


•  This lesson begins with the students playing a modified game of ‘Pictionary’. The students are given a sheet of paper that they will fold to create eight equal sections. The teacher will then randomly choose eight cards from the ‘Pictionary’ game and the students will have a minute to draw and image that communicates each word or phrase. The goal of the hook is to get the students to start thinking about how they can associate an image to a word or phrase.


• A whole-class, teacher led, art criticism/discussion featuring the collage artists: Romare Bearden and Richard Hamilton.

• Creation of silhouette profiles. The students will work in pairs. They will take turns tracing each others silhouette shadow in front of an overhead projector. The students will then cut out their silhouette (it’s important that they do this in ONE cut so that the result is two whole images- a positive (their silhouette) and a negative (the background sheet of paper with their silhouette cut out).

• Discussion about what things are important in the life of a fifth-grader.

• Creating a list of ten things that are important to or influence each student.

• Creating a mind map diagram in order to establish the type of imagery the students will use in their collage. The goal of the mind map is to push the students in the imagery they choose. The will learn that there are many levels to symbolism and that, often times, professional artists choose ambiguous or vague images to depict a thought, feeling or concept.

• Researching and collecting images.

• Planning and creating the collage.

• Final Collage Presentations.


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