Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Moral Tales: A Program on Making Choices for Grades 2-3

Activity 5: Life-size Affirmation Portraits

Part of Moral Tales

Activity time: 23 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Roll of plain paper large enough to draw, life-size, a child's head and torso, and scissors, or large sheets of poster board for each participant
  • Pencils, pens, and color markers, including multicultural skin tone markers
  • Newsprint, markers and tape

Preparation for Activity

  • Consider whether you would prefer to use Alternate Activity 2, Group Affirmation Book, a story integration activity that also involves affirmation of each child, but takes less time.
  • Post newsprint where you can write on it.
  • Cut sections of plain paper for all participants. Make each section wide enough to trace the child's head and torso and provide room for other children to write affirmations. Write the words, "Seeing (name of child) with Awe" across the top of each piece of plain paper or poster board.
  • Think about each child in the group and be ready with a few honest affirmations that you can add to each affirmation portrait. If this is difficult, try to reframe behaviors that seem negative as their positive counterparts: Stubbornness becomes persistence, loudness becomes passion.
  • Move tables and chairs out of the way so children can work on the floor. They will need floor space to trace one another's head and torso. When it is time for them to write on one another's self-portraits, arranging the self-portraits in a circle on the floor may help you make sure each child writes on each self-portrait.

Description of Activity

Say, in your own words:

When the children in the story thought that one of their classmates was a messiah, they began to see each other differently. That's because they started to see each other with awe.

Ask if children have an idea of what the word, "awe," means. Listen to responses. You may want to mention that the slang use of the word "awesome" captures the meaning well. Ask the children:

  • When you say something is "awesome," what does that mean?

Allow responses. Then say:

When you look at something or someone with awe, it means you are looking with respect and wonder, because you see that it is so amazing or special.

Unitarian Universalists believe that all people are amazing and special and should be looked at with awe. This is part of what our first Unitarian Universalist principle means when we say that we affirm that all people have inherent worth and dignity.

Today we're going to practice recognizing the worth and dignity of each person here and looking at each other with awe. We're going to notice and write things we like about each person here. The things we see when we look at each other with awe will be part of each person's affirmation portrait.

Lead a brief brainstorming to draw out some things the children can say and write about each other. Make it very clear that they can only say positive things about one another. Model affirmations by saying things like, "I've noticed that May often shares things with friends," "Sammy's friendly smile makes me feel happy," "Joy's really good at playing soccer," or "Terence draws very realistic dragons."

Explain that children will write on one another's affirmation portraits. Tell them they may write a whole sentence ("You are creative,") or just a word that describes the person ("creative"). Write some key words on the newsprint for children to copy. Ask if children want any particular words include on your list. Common words might be: friendly, creative, loyal, kind, helpful, gentle, or courageous. Encourage the kids to really think about each child when they choose what they will write on his/her portrait.

Distribute writing and drawing implements. Have participants trace one another's head and torso onto the large paper. Trace one child's shape to show the group how to position themselves on the paper.

Invite them to do this quickly and then create self-portraits on their traced bodies. Keep this part of the project brief, just enough time for children to draw in their faces, hair and any other distinguishing features. They should not color in the bodies, as they may need this space for affirmations.

Once all the self-portraits ready, give each child a pen or pencil. Ask the children to circulate the room, writing affirmations on every other child's portrait, including their own. Remind them that an affirmation must be positive, and it can be a sentence, a phrase, or a single word.

Not all children may be proficient writers. Make yourself and any other adult volunteers widely available during this exercise to write dictated affirmations for children who cannot write. In order to avoid embarrassing any children, make the option of dictation available to all the children. Another possibility is for children to draw affirmations; however, this is likely to require more time. As you write your own affirmations on self-portraits, speak them aloud. This will help the children, and, as needed, writing dictated affirmations.

To help children think of affirmations, use these questions:

  • What do you like about them?
  • What can you think of that they are good at or really likes to do?

Pay attention to whether any child's self-portrait is receiving fewer affirmations than the others. If this is happening, subtly direct children to that portrait or have an adult write a few extra affirmations. Help the children think of affirmations, but do not insist they write something if it will be insincere.

If the children did Activity 2, Welcoming Game – Find a Friend, help them remember things they learned about each other. This will be especially helpful for generating affirmations for newcomers or visiting children.

The goal of this activity is to give participants the opportunity to practice looking at others with awe. In the process of thinking about each other in a positive light, relationships will strengthen as understanding and respect develop. Moreover, each child will experience being affirmed by his or her peers and teachers. Invite children to take their self-portraits home with them. Or, you can display them in your meeting space.

Including All Participants

At this age, there is a wide range in writing proficiency. Invite all the children to dictate their thoughts to an adult or an older child to write. You may decide to allow the children to draw affirmations, but, this will take much more time.

Be aware of new children in the group. Help them come up with affirmations, but if they simply do not know the others, they can write compliments such as "I like your hairstyle," or friendly sentiments such as, "I'd like to get to know you better."