English Language Arts, Reading Literature
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Grade 12 ELA
  • Literature
  • Self-Portraits
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Choices of Potrayal

    Choices of Potrayal


    In this lesson, students will take the third in a series of three Cold Write assessments in the narrative genre. The Benchmark Assessment (Cold Write) is an unassisted and unrevised piece of writing with the purpose of providing a quick gauge of the student’s mastery of the characteristics of a given genre. Today’s Benchmark Assessment (Cold Write) measures and provides a benchmark of students’ mastery of narrative writing. Then, they’ll consider the choices artists make when deciding how to portray someone. They’ll also do web research to explore different types of self-portraits.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Think of ways to help students recall what they already know about writing a narrative piece.
    • Familiarize yourself with the writing prompt and the scoring guide.
    • If you have students on an IEP or other accommodations, check to see whether they receive extended time or need an alternative test setting. Work with the professional supporting SWDs to make sure student needs are met.
    • Prepare activities for students who finish early.

    Narrative Writing

    • The purpose of this Benchmark Assessment (Cold Write) is to assess what students have learned about narrative writing since you last tested them.
    • Have a conversation with students about what they already know about writing a narrative piece. Tell them that a narrative is often called a story. If students have trouble identifying what they already know about writing a narrative piece, gauge their recall by asking what stories they read last year or what stories they wrote.
    • In the next task, students will take the assessment. Be prepared to do the following:
      • ✓ Answer any questions that are not of a substantive nature, providing no additional guidance about the prompt.
      • ✓ Do a quick thumbs-up/thumbs-down check to ensure that students understand the prompt and are ready to begin writing. Remind students that they will have only 20 minutes to write.
      • ✓ Tell students to begin working. When the allotted time has elapsed, tell students to stop working.
      • ✓ If students finish before time is up, direct them to other activities.


    Since you began school, you have used your imagination to write many stories. These stories are called “narratives.” Today you will write a narrative so that your teacher can see how much you have learned since the beginning of the year about writing a good story.

    Think about what you know about narrative writing.

    • What should good narrative writing include?

    Discuss your thinking with the class.

    Benchmark (Cold Write): Narrative

    • Direct students to take the assessment. They will be responding to the following prompt:
    • Every ending in life also marks a beginning. Write about something or some event in your life that marked an important ending for you. Include detailed information about when and how this event occurred in your life and why it was significant. Include enough details so that readers can understand the importance of this event.
    • Students have had opportunities to do narrative writing throughout the year. Compare the information you gain from scoring this benchmark piece of writing with previous Cold Writes to see each student’s growth over time in the genre.
    • If students finish before time is up, direct them to other activities.

    Work Time

    Now you will write your narrative. Remember that a narrative is a story about events, both real and imaginary.

    You will have 20 minutes to write your narrative.

    • Write a brief narrative in response to the prompt.

    Visual Portraits

    • Have half the class examine the visual portrait of Alcott, and half the class examine the visual portrait of Clemens.
    • The purpose of this discussion is for students to consider how even the small details can provide insight into a person’s character.

    Work Time

    Look at the portrait that your teacher has assigned to you. Examine the details closely. Think about the subject’s physical appearance, attire, pose, hairstyle, facial expression, and any props that he or she carries.

    • What do you notice?
    • What can you infer from your observations?

    Open Notebook

    Then, discuss what you noticed while observing the visual portraits.

    • What can be learned from visual portraits?
    • What impact do seemingly minor details have on the audience’s impression of the subject?

    Written Portraits

    • Remind students to just read about the writer they were assigned in the previous task. The excerpt covers both writers.
    • The purpose of this activity is for students to see how learning about a person in more than one medium can give a much fuller picture of that person.
    • Suggest students complete a minimum of three entries in their Dialectical Journal. You can modify that number based on the needs of your students. SWD: Monitor that this group of students is engaging in the activity productively and successfully. If that is not the case, explain Dialectical Journals again, and/or assist SWDs in creating them.
    • Circulate as students and groups work, supporting students as needed.
    • During the discussion, try to hear examples about both writers.

    Work Time

    Read the excerpt written about the subject of the visual portrait you observed (Louisa May Alcott or Samuel Clemens).

    • Complete a Dialectical Journal entry with examples of how the written work enhances your understanding of this person.

    Then with the whole class, discuss how the written work helped you understand Louisa May Alcott and Samuel Clemens better. Share a few specific examples with your classmates.

    You Have a Choice
    You can choose whether to read the excerpt and complete the Dialectical Journal entry individually, with a partner, or in a small group. Let your teacher know what you choose.

    Multimedia Self-Portraits

    • Help students think as expansively as possible about media they might use for their self-portraits: photography, slideshows, video, soundtracks, timelines, poetry, etc. Remind them that to provide more information about people, events, and places, they will be able to include many artifacts such as images, videos, audio, maps, and links.
    • SWD: Students with disabilities, especially those with weak visual-spatial skills and/or poor fine motor control, may require adaptive tools for some media.


    How do you think working in multimedia might make your own self-portrait stronger?

    • With your classmates, brainstorm a list of possible media that you might use for your self-portrait.

    Open Notebook

    Alternative Self-Portraits

    • Encourage students to find as many different forms of self-portraits as they can. The more examples they see, the more creative they will be with their own work.
    • ELL: Before sending them off with the homework, check that students fully understand what is expected of them.


    There are many ways to portray oneself to an audience other than the traditional, static picture. For homework, find some “alternative” examples of ways people have chosen to present themselves in various media.

    Find at least three examples of alternative self-portraits that you would like to write about.

    Use the Alternative Self-Portraits form to take notes on the self-portraits you choose.

    Then, write at least three paragraphs in response to the following questions. You do not need to answer all of the questions, but use them as a starting point for your thinking.

    • What are the effects of the media the person used to create his or her self-portrait?
    • How can a person present changes over time?
    • How can a person present different facets of his or her personality?
    • How can a person reach different audiences?

    Open Notebook