Who would you be in an alternate universe? Would you be a superhero? A pop-star? An animal? What would you look like? What personality traits and features would you possess? These and many more questions served as inquiry in our unit taught in Tom Noel’s 4th and 5th grade class at the Lab School–Exploring the Alter Ego. Students began by looking at examples of famous alter egos from pop culture such as Superman and Clark Kent, Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus, and even Mrs. Doubtfire. They were even visited by Eileen’s alter ego, a pop star named Marley Mae Mepson (a character played by Hilary). And later on, Hilary’s alter ego, an Irish Stepdancing leprechaun (played by Eileen) visited the class. With each of these examples, we looked how the personalities of the real person compared to the alter ego. What the students discovered was that the personalities and interests of the alter ego tended to be the opposite of the real person. For example, if a person were shy in real life, their alter ego may be a pop star, who had no fears in front of an audience. With this, the students began to consider their own alter egos.
In the first lesson, Alter Ego Portrait, the students were asked to create a two-dimensional visual representation of their alter ego. We explored this through the use of caricature in drawing. In looking at celebrity caricatures we discussed how certain exaggerated features emphasized personality traits. For example, Justin Bieber’s lips were exaggerated to show his passion for singing, and Michael Phelps was shown with a mermaid tail to emphasize his swimming ability. Students were asked to consider their own personalities and find the opposite in their alter ego. They explored how certain exaggerated features such as large eyes or a small nose could emphasize certain characteristics in their caricature style acrylic paintings. Students began by developing sketches, then created 18×24” painted caricatures of their alter ego.
In the second lesson, Unmasking the Alter Ego, the students transformed their caricatures into three-dimensional forms. Still considering exaggeration in their work, students created masks of their alter ego. We discussed the transformational power of masks, and how they have been used throughout art history as well as today. Students were also asked to consider the impact of color on a piece, and how certain colors convey particular emotions. The students created armatures using stuffed paper bags and newspaper, then used papier-mâché with wheat paste to cover the surface. They painted the surfaces using expressive colors, and were also given an array of other media and collage materials such as yarn, pipe cleaners, felt, cotton balls, and paper to add to their piece for hair and accessories.
In the third lesson, Becoming the Alter Ego, the students made their alter egos come to life. Working collaboratively in small groups, they created a scene in which their alter egos interacted with one another. The students were asked to write a script that encompassed the personalities of their alter egos as described by their caricatures, and act out the scene using their masks. We also discussed storytelling through visual language. The groups were asked create a backdrop for their scene that explained the setting through visuals. The backdrops were created on large butcher paper using acrylic paint and collage. Students took turns recording each other’s scene in a video to be shared at the art show. Through this they also learned the importance of digital recording in 21st century art making.
Colorado Standards for Visual Arts
|Observe and Learn to Comprehend
|Envision and Critique to Reflect||
|Invent and Discover to Create
|Relate and Connect to Transfer||
Standards covered in each lesson are as follows:
|Lesson 1||Lesson 2||Lesson 3|
21st Century Skills:
Through creativity and exploration, visual art serves as a major proponent in 21st century learning. Some of the ways in which these skills were practiced in this unit are as follows:
Critical Thinking and Reasoning
- Students used critical thinking and reasoning in the invention of their alter egos. Using their sketchbook as a planning tool, students explored possibilities for their caricatures. With each sketch they reflected on their work and created new drafts they discovered the best way to communicate their ideas visually.
- Students had to think critically in order to discover the personalities of their alter egos. Each student had to think about their own personalities—the characteristics and traits they possessed—then transform these ideas into a character that is opposite.
- Collaboration was used in the third lesson, in which students worked in groups on a presentation and art piece. As a group, the students worked together to plan and paint a backdrop. In addition, they collaborated in writing a script to present their work to the rest of the class.
- Students practiced invention through the critical lens of change and transformation. With this overarching concept, the students invented their alter ego through transformation of the self. In the third lesson, they transformed into their alter egos, and invented collaborative stories to express the ideas behind their masks.
- The artwork produced showed great innovation and students stretched and explored the materials, making discoveries along the way that they used in the execution of the piece.
Wrapping up the Semester:
It was great to bring all the work from the semester together at the art show! Students were able to see the art pieces presented in a gallery manner, giving pride to their work and effort. The students in this class are truly talented individuals, and continue to surprise us with their ideas and innovation. Thank you for this opportunity to work with the Lab School!